By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
READY FOR HILLARY RAKES IN OVER $1.7 MILLION. Today, super PAC Ready for Hillary, which is devoted to encouraging former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to jump into the 2016 presidential race, announced it raised more than $1.7 million in the first quarter of this year. According to a statement, "The group received more than 32,000 contributions during the period. More than 9,500 of the contributions were for the exact symbolic amount of $20.16, and the average contribution was $53. Ninety-eight percent of contributions were $100 or less. Ready for Hillary received financial contributions from all 50 states, DC, Puerto Rico, and U.S. territories, as well as financial support from Americans abroad and military service members across the world."
-ANALYSIS - ABC's RICK KLEIN: What's remarkable about "Ready for Hillary" isn't the $5.75 million and counting banked to benefit a non-candidate, chipped in by enough donors to fill any nomination-acceptance venue, indoor or outdoor. It's that the PAC, in the space of a year where Hillary Clinton herself wasn't exactly silent, established a place for itself in the crowded Clinton universe - a planet all its own. The establishment ties help, and helped establish early credibility. But now donors including Laurene Jobs - Steve Jobs' widow - show that this group with a still-nebulous long-term role is a legitimate venue to demonstrate support for a Clinton candidacy, among plenty of folks with other such options. We still don't know where this (or Clinton's potential candidacy, for that matter) is going. But it's not going away.
OBAMA RETURNS TO FT. HOOD: 'WE'VE BEEN HERE BEFORE'. For the second time, President Obama visited Ft. Hood to speak at a memorial service for shooting victims. And for the second time, Obama praised the victims yesterday as honorable soldiers and sought to console the community that lost them, ABC's CHRIS GOOD reports. "Part of what makes this so painful is that we've been here before," Obama said. "This tragedy tears at wounds still raw from five years ago. Once more soldiers who survived foreign war zones were struck down here at home, where they're supposed to be safe. We still do not yet know exactly why." Obama stood in the same place as on Nov. 10, 2009, when he addressed families and soldiers stationed on the base five days after Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan shot and killed 13 here. "This is a time of war. Yet these Americans did not die on a foreign field of battle," Obama told the soldiers gathered then, at the Army's III Corps headquarters. "They were killed here, on American soil, in the heart of this great state and the heart of this great American community. This is the fact that makes the tragedy even more painful, even more incomprehensible." VIDEO OF OBAMA IN FT. HOOD YESTERDAY AND IN 2009: http://abcn.ws/1kLUvOf
HAPPENING TODAY: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will visit the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Tex., today to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act. The president will deliver remarks at 12:50 pm ET.
SENATE GOP BLOCKS DEBATE ON EQUAL PAY BILL. Senate Republicans blocked an equal pay bill from moving forward in the Senate Wednesday, one day after President Obama took executive action to try to narrow the gender pay gap, according to ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ. The Senate failed to reach the 60 votes needed to move forward to debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Senate voted 53-44 on the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the measure. Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine who typically votes with Democrats, joined Republicans in blocking the measure. Republicans objected to moving forward with the bill because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would not allow the Senate to consider Republican amendments to the measure. "For weeks now, they've blocked the efforts Republicans have made to improve the picture. Senate Democrats want to control this debate from start to finish and basically do nothing to help with our efforts to expand opportunity and jobs for women and for men," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor. "They continue to block all the innovative ideas that Republicans have been offering to turn the tide." The legislation would have required all employers to prove differences in pay are not based on gender and would allow employees to discuss their wages. The measure also allowed employees to file lawsuits for punitive damage in cases of alleged sex discrimination. http://abcn.ws/1el0Q4T
ALEC BALDWIN TARGETS EX-ROMNEY AIDE IN TWITTER TANTRUM. Reports of Alec Baldwin's goodbye to public life have been greatly exaggerated, notes ABC's GREGORY J. KRIEG. The former "30 Rock" star, 56, began his Wednesday by engaging in a bitter Twitter fight with a former aide to Mitt Romney. Baldwin, responding to a perceived slight from the 2012 presidential candidate's former "body man," or personal assistant, Garrett Jackson, unleashed a string of angry replies, two of them with homophobic overtones. And then, just as quickly, he deleted it all. Jackson, though, had been manually retweeting Baldwin's comments, along with his own, which appear here in the order they were published. http://abcn.ws/1g7vBFv (Neither man would comment to ABC News). http://abcn.ws/1g7vBFv
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, IN WHEELCHAIR, GREETS OBAMA IN HOUSTON. When Air Force One touched down in Houston yesterday, there was a special visitor awaiting President Obama at the airport. Sitting in a wheelchair at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport, President George H.W. Bush greeted the president and First Lady Michelle Obama, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes. Bush was seen wearing patriotic red, white and blue socks, while the Obamas stood next to him speaking for several minutes. At times, the first lady held his hand, and President Obama touched Bush's shoulder. Bush patted the president's legs as they spoke. PHOTO: http://abcn.ws/1higU6I
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX
-CORY BOOKER, TIM SCOTT HOST FIRST BIPARTISAN FACEBOOK Q&A. Today at 1:45 p.m. ET, Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Tim Scott, R-S.C., will hold a live Facebook Q&A about the introduction of their bill, the LEAP Act. This is Facebook's first ever bipartisan Q&A, which will be held on the lawmakers' respective Facebook pages, www.facebook.com/corybooker and www.facebook.com/SenatorTimScott. For more on the LEAP Act: www.booker.senate.gov/leap/ or www.scott.senate.gov/OpportunityAgenda.
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
RWANDA REMEMBERED: SAMANTHA POWER RECONCILES PAST AND PRESENT ON GENOCIDE ANNIVERSARY. It was a problem from hell. That's how Samantha Power summed up the United States' failure to respond to Rwanda's 1994 genocide in her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide" - and in so doing, Power made a name for herself as a critic of U.S. foreign policy. Now the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the former critic-turned government insider is in Rwanda to mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide as the United States' official representative. "President Obama wanted us to come back and pay our respects and show that even if it's 20 years later, this genocide is something that stays with us," Power told "Power Players" during an interview with ABC's TERRY MORAN in Rwanda's capital of Kigali. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/1edcoXI
@HuffPostPol: Robert Reich shares a story from what was probably the most powerful classroom ever http://huff.to/1n4OopK
@GeraldFSeib: Democratic pressure on Obama to approve Keystone is on, Landrieu, Hagan, Warner, Pryor, Begich, etc.send letter. http://on.wsj.com/1gbQdjs
@alexanderbolton: Angus King, the independent senator from Maine, leaves open the possibility of joining the GOP caucus http://bit.ly/R5jkfk