By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
- ‘ARMAGEDDON HAS NOT ARRIVED’: President Obama yesterday heralded more than 7 million sign-ups for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act — bringing to a close a politically bruising six-month enrollment period and a first major test for his signature legislative achievement, ABC’s DEVIN DWYER notes. The 7.1 million who have signed up, the president said in a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, “despite several lost weeks out of the gate because of problems with the website.” “Even more folks want to sign up,” he added. “7.1 million – that’s on top of the more than 3 million young adults who gained insurance under this law by staying on their family plan.” Obama noted that many of the “tall tales” opponents have told about the law have been “debunked.” “There are still no death panels,” Obama said to laughter. “Armageddon has not arrived.” Obama added, “The debate over repealing this law is over. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.” http://on.fb.me/1myMflQ
- ANALYSIS — ABC’s JEFF ZELENY: It’s a milestone moment for President Obama and all supporters of the health care law, but is it a major political turning point? Not likely, particularly right away, among the voters who typically turn out for a midterm election. The Republican base has been far more fired up against Obamacare than the Democrats have been in their support for the law. In his Rose Garden speech, the president declared again that talk of repealing the law should be shelved once and for all, but don’t expect Republicans to stop. It still plays well. But smart GOP candidates and strategists have always known the road to success in November is not by solely blasting Obamacare, but rather by tying the criticism into a broader sense of government overreach and economic unease. Still, this milestone is still a real one for the president, who now holds the burden of making his case — yet again — for his signature achievement.
VETERAN MIDEAST NEGOTIATORS ADVISE AGAINST RELEASING POLLARD. The Obama administration’s decision to put the release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard back on the Middle East negotiating table is not without precedent. President Bill Clinton – the third of five presidents under whom Pollard has been imprisoned – floated the commutation of his sentence as a bargaining chip during a round of negotiations in 1998, according to ABC’s ALI WEINBERG. But that offer was scuttled when his CIA director George Tenet threatened to resign if Pollard’s life sentence, handed down after he admitted to spying on the United States for the Israeli government, was reduced. Now that the Obama administration is dangling Pollard as an enticement for more negotiations, observers are drawing parallels to Clinton’s efforts to hammer out a Mideast peace deal at the Wye River, Md., summit in 1998, and some advisers who were at those negotiations are recommending that Obama not offer Pollard in any bargain. http://abcn.ws/1lAFpPz
–AARON DAVID MILLER, an expert who advised Democratic and Republican administrations for decades, noted that the Obama administration is floating Pollard as an effort to just keep Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the negotiating table – not to seal a deal on a long-term agreement. “Pollard will not buy the president or (Secretary of State John) Kerry the space and time necessary to see this process to fruition unless something fundamentally changes the minds of Abbas and Netanyahu, and Pollard’s release is not going to do that,” Miller said.
–DENNIS ROSS, Clinton’s chief negotiator who advised him to hold off on Pollard’s release – and who saw Tenet almost resign over it – told the New York Times yesterday that opposition within the U.S. intelligence community would still be negative, if perhaps “less vehement.” Miller noted that even as Clinton floated Pollard’s freedom, the United States was able to reach an agreement on territory exchanges — which was the administration’s goal in that round of talks — without taking action on the U.S.-born spy.
NOTED: KERRY INSISTS MIDEAST PEACE TALKS STILL ALIVE. As Middle East peace talks descended into crisis mode yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry sought to make clear that they are still ongoing — at least for now. “It is completely premature tonight to draw any kind of judgment, any kind of final judgment, about today’s events and where things are,” he told reporters at the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium. But he also warned that extending the negotiations will not happen if the Israelis and Palestinians don’t exhibit their desire to keep them going. “Facilitation is only as good as the willingness of leaders to make actions to put in front of them,” he said. http://abcn.ws/1pIplbM
DID HARRY REID CALL SCOTT BROWN A CARPETBAGGER? While former Sen. Scott Brown dined with a group of Republican senators on Capitol Hill yesterday, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had some words for the potential Senate hopeful that may be hard to stomach, according to ABC’s RYAN STRUYK. “The Constitution guarantees every state two Senators. The Constitution doesn’t guarantee every Senator two states,” Reid said, alluding to Brown’s switch from representing Massachusetts in the Senate to exploring a run in New Hampshire. Political jockeying for position is hardly new in national politics, but Reid seems to say that Brown’s move crossed a line. Unfortunately for Reid, Brown’s candidacy would put yet another state in play for the Republicans, making the Democrats’ chances of holding onto the Senate in the 2014 midterms even more of a challenge. “We’d love to have Scott back,” said Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “We’re happy that he’s running for the Senate. He’s an old friend of ours. And no one’s election victory was more a symbol of public objection to Obamacare like Scott Brown’s special election in January of 2010.” http://abcn.ws/1pFLoBL
RAND PAUL SAYS GOP MUST GET ‘BEYOND DEPORTATION’. Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., delivered the opening remarks yesterday at the launch of the Media Research Center’s first ever Spanish-language media watchdog, “MRC Latino,” ABC’s KATHERINE FAULDERS reports. Quoting Ronald Reagan’s “Hispanics are conservative they just don’t know it yet,” Senator Paul — a potential 2016 White House contender — said that if conservatives engage with Hispanics directly and address their concerns, they will come to realize their values are in fact conservative values. In an effort to pump life back into the Republican Party and broaden its voter base, Paul focused on immigration. “The bottom line is the Hispanic community is not going to hear us until we get beyond this issue,” he said. Paul argued the Republican Party must get beyond the issue of deportation in order to break through to the Hispanic voters and address other pressing issues facing the community. http://abcn.ws/1on8JLd
IN THE NOTE’S INBOX
–THE CONGRESSIONAL HISPANIC CAUCUS is doing its first ever Facebook Q&A today at 10:30 A.M. For more information: http://on.fb.me/1myMflQ Today’s event follows several other recent Facebook Q&As with Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker, Rep. Ed Perlmutter and many others. For past Q&A’s: https://www.facebook.com/GovtPolitics
–DCCC CHAIRMAN STEVE ISRAEL will speak at the National Press Club in Washington, DC today at 10 a.m. Israel will address the 2014 lay of the land and how the new Ryan Budget plays into the core issue of the midterms: Who is on the voters’ side?
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
‘BIG PAPI’ SNAPS OBAMA SELFIE OF THE OTHER SOX. They might not have been his preferred Sox, but President Obama yesterday welcomed the 2013 World Series Champions Boston Red Sox to the White House, ABC’s MICHAEL CONTE notes. “I don’t recognize all these clean-shaven guys,” Obama joked, as most of the team had shaved their iconic beards, although Jonny Gomes notably stood out in a stars-and-stripes blazer. (Gomes later told reporters Obama “approved” of his blazer. “He made sure to tell me he liked it,” he said. ”I’m just a pretty patriotic person.”) World Series MVP hitter David Ortiz, nicknamed “Big Papi,” took a “selfie” with Obama after his remarks. http://abcn.ws/1pIplbM
@politicalwire: Why Obama Fired No One Over Botched Roll Out http://politicalwire.com/archives/2014/04/02/why_obama_fired_no_one_over_botched_roll_out.html#.UzwFo4ahFxs.twitter …
@amandacarpenter: Heads up–Ted Cruz will be speaking at Liberty University today at 10amEST. Livestream will be HERE http://www.libertychannel.com
@robportman: I’m hosting a teletownhall tonight with thousands of Ohioans. What questions do you have?
@ByronYork: Conventional wisdom, at least in GOP, is Senate race in Louisiana will be about Obamacare… http://ow.ly/vkNLB