A DC Thaw: Look Who's Talking
PHOTO: House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md arrive at the West Wing of the White House in Washington, March 7, 2013, for a private lunch with President Barack Obama.

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • STRONG FEBRUARY UNEMPLOYMENT REPORT: The U.S. economy added a better-than-expected 236,000 jobs in February as the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday, according to the ABC News Business Unit. ABC's Zunaira Zaki notes that today's report is much better than economist expectations of 160,000 new jobs. Jobs were added in construction, healthcare, retail, professional and business services while government continues to lose jobs.
  • THIS WEEK ON "THIS WEEK": Sunday on "This Week," the powerhouse roundtable debates President Obama's charm offensive, Sen. Rand Paul's filibuster fight, and all the week's politics, with Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who joined GOP senators dining with President Obama this week; DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.; ABC News' George Will; Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman; and Bloomberg News White House correspondent Julianna Goldman. Plus, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush goes one-on-one with George Stephanopoulos about the battle for immigration reform, and his own 2016 presidential prospects. And in this week's Sunday Spotlight, filmmaker R.J. Cutler discusses his latest documentary, "The World According to Dick Cheney." Tune in Sunday:
  • SHUSHANNAH WALSHE JOINS ABC'S DC BUREAU: Shushannah Walshe, a Digital Political Journalist for ABC News, is leaving her post in New York to join ABC's Washington bureau, where she will continue to cover politics for broadcast and In July 2011, Walshe joined ABC News Digital to cover campaign fundraising, early primary contests and caucuses. ABC News assigned her to cover Rick Santorum's primary campaign and later, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. Prior to joining ABC News, Walshe was a politics and on-air reporter for The Daily Beast, NY1 and Fox News Channel. Walshe is the co-author of "Sarah From Alaska: The Sudden Rise and Brutal Education of a New Conservative Candidate," a 2009 bestseller that chronicles Sarah Palin's political life and historic campaign.


ABC's RICK KLEIN: Breaking bread beats everything staying broken. President Obama's move to dine and even just talk to House and Senate Republicans (and Democrats, for that matter) is surprising out of a White House that never likes to admit it's changing course. But this actually is different: It's conceivable that, by the end of next week, Obama will have had more direct interaction with more rank-and-file lawmakers in his second term than he did in the entirety of his first term. The numbers here are key; the strategy isn't to pick off one Republican at a time, but to soften GOP ground enough that a grand bargain is possible, with a wide swath of Republicans at least staying at the table. Whatever the result, it's definitely better than staying hungry.

ABC's Z. BYRON WOLF: It doesn't really have anything to do with drones and he isn't an American citizen, but the secret extradition this year and public arraignment in federal court today of Saulaiman Abu Ghaith - Osama bin Laden's son-in-law - has the potential to reignite a simmering debate about what to do with suspected terrorists. Rand Paul's complaint with President Obama over drones is that they are an extra judicial form of justice. But President Obama had to bow to public opinion early in his first term and back off a promise to close Guantanamo Bay and utilize the American judicial system. Some Republicans who were defending Obama against Paul on drones must think that is where the administration should have sent Abu Ghaith.

ABC's DEVIN DWYER: The appearance of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law in a New York City courtroom today marks a significant achievement for President Obama. Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a top al Qaeda spokesman captured during a secret operation earlier this year, will be the highest-ranking figure from the terrorist network to be tried in a federal criminal court, according to U.S. officials. The arraignment comes after years of congressional roadblocks to Obama's plan to try alleged foreign terror suspects in U.S. courts and to shutter the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay. By law, the administration is forbidden from transferring Gitmo detainees to U.S. soil, forcing prosecutors to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other alleged 9/11 plotters before a military commission rather than in a New York City court. Several Republican lawmakers now say Abu Ghaith must be tried the same way. "We're putting the administration on notice," Sen. Lindsey Graham said Thursday. "We think that sneaking this guy into the country, clearly going around the intent of Congress when it comes to enemy combatants, will be challenged."

ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: Did Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus basically call Karl Rove a fool? We're certain he'd quibble with that assertion, but while in Iowa yesterday, he weighed in on the move by the Karl Rove-backed group, American Crossroads, to launch a new organization to weed out "problem" Republican primary candidates. One of the first targets of the new group, which is called the Conservative Victory Project, was said to be Iowa GOP Congressman Steve King, an ultraconservative who is considering a bid for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Tom Harkin. So what does RNC Chairman Reince Priebus think about it? "I don't believe the party should pick winners and losers in primaries and I think it's, historically, if you look at it, it's a bit of a fool's game because you can't actually predict some of the things that go on." According to Radio Iowa's O. Kay Henderson, Priebus also told reporters that when it comes to Republican losses last year, "I don't think our platform is the issue." He added, "I think a lot of times it's some of these biologically stupid things that people say, you know, that I believe caused a lot of the problems."


-"WHITE HOUSE REPORTER BALANCES WORKING AND BREASTFEEDING," by Yahoo News' Rachel Rose Hartman. "When I imagined my journalism career, I never pictured myself standing shirtless in a unisex bathroom in the White House. But that is precisely where I found myself in November, as a new mother of a nursing infant returning from maternity leave to cover the president. Hiding in a bathroom is a common condition for many breastfeeding moms seeking a private place to pump milk in their workplace. But it's a condition the White House has been trying to eliminate. Under President Barack Obama's new health care law, employers with more than 50 workers are required to provide a private lactation space other than a restroom for nursing mothers up to one year after giving birth. So then why was I stuck pumping in a bathroom at the very address where the lactation room requirement had originated?" Read Rachel's first-person story:

-"FROM 'MONEYBALL' TO MONEY BOMBS: WHAT SPORTS ANALYTICS CAN TEACH POLITICAL NERDS," an Op-Ed in the Atlantic by Rob Bluey who leads the digital-media team at the Heritage Foundation. "A swarm of political strategists will descend on Austin, Texas, this week for South by Southwest's Interactive Festival. It's one of the premier tech conferences of the year - the place where Twitter made its big splash in 2007. If the political class is going to embrace innovation, SXSW is a good place to start. As many of my peers prepare for the trip to Austin, I have a story to share from Boston, where I attended the seventh annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference last weekend. I heard about the event from a Sports Illustrated story about the Houston Rockets, a team whose data-driven general manager, Daryl Morey, earned his MBA at Sloan. What, if anything, could a sports analytics conference teach a political junkie?" Read Bluey's analysis:


-A LIGHTENING ROUND WITH FORMER PUERTO RICO GOVERNOR LUIS FORTUÑO. Luis Fortuño, former governor of Puerto Rico, is a rare breed-or so they say-in the current American political landscape: he's a Latino Republican. And, when it comes to immigration reform, Fortuño says the Republican Party needs to take the lead in fixing the country's immigration system. "Clearly the immigration system is broken, it's not working well," Fortuño told ABC's Rick Klein and Michael Falcone in the latest installment of "Top Line." "Of course we need to protect our border, on the one hand. On the other hand, we have to realize that there are 11 million people working and living among us. We need to make sure they can continue to work and live among us one way or another." Fortuño emphasizes that, in order for immigration reform legislation to appeal to the Latino community, it must provide a path for those illegal immigrants already living in the United States to remain here legally. But he stopped short of saying an explicit path to citizenship must be part of an immigration bill. "The most important aspect for our community regarding this immigration bill is allowing for those 10 to 11 million people who are here illegally to be able to work here, live here, contribute to our society, and have their children live the American dream," he said. WATCH :

- WILL A NEW POPE BE SELECTED BY PALM SUNDAY? GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS PREDICTS. Last Thursday Pope Benedict XVI became the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign. With his resignation now official, the Catholic Church is in a period known as the "sede vacante"- which means vacant seat - and the College of Cardinals has begun meeting in Rome to discuss the start of the conclave which will elect the new pope. One viewer asked ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "What are the chances they will have a new pope by Palm Sunday?" Watch his answer:


ERIC HOLDER GIVES RAND PAUL ONE WORD. Not everyone was so convinced by Rand Paul's near thirteen hour filibuster, notes ABC's Sunlen Miller. Two Republican colleagues - Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham - called his speech a "political stunt" and the Attorney General send a terse, one-line letter to the Kentucky senator. Paul built his argument Wednesday around a letter Monday in which Attorney General Eric Holder said the president has the power, however unlikely it would be used, to strike within the U.S. at an American terror suspect. No more nuance on Thursday after Paul's filibuster. Holder Responded to an additional question from Paul with a single word: "no." "It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: 'Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?'" wrote Holder. "The answer to that question is no."

SEQUESTER AT HOME: UNCERTAINTY IN DC SUBURB MEANS HIGHER TAXES. Residents of Virginia's most populous county should expect to see a bump in their property tax bill this year, thanks to economic uncertainty fostered by - you guessed it - Washington and the sequester, a county official said Thursday, ABC's Sarah Parnass reports. Fairfax County, a D.C. suburb ranked one of the top three richest counties in the country, depends on government contracts for much of its commercial revenue. As agencies are tightening their belts in some places and throwing their hands up on others trying to figure out how the $85 billion budget cuts will affect them, businesses lack the stability to expand, according to Braddock District Supervisor John Cook of Fairfax County. County officials have named sequestration one of the factors shaping their plans for the coming year.

ARKANSAS STATE SENATE PASSES ABORTION BAN. Arkansas State Sen. Jason Rapert succeeded in banning early-term abortions in his state on Wednesday, notes ABC's Chris Good. The Arkansas General Assembly enacted the nation's most restrictive abortion law on Wednesday, overriding Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe's veto and banning abortions when a woman has been pregnant for more than 12 weeks and an abdominal ultrasound shows the fetus has a heartbeat. Abortion-rights groups, including Planned Parenthood, quickly denounced the law. The Center for Reproductive Rights and the Arkansas ACLU plan to file a lawsuit, seeking to overturn it. But just a few hours after his bill passed, Rapert - the lead sponsor of the 12-week abortion ban - introduced another bill to defund Planned Parenthood.

OBAMA SIGNS VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN REAUTHORIZATION ACT. President Obama signed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act yesterday, expanding protections for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault, ABC's Mary Bruce reports. "This is a country where everybody should be able to pursue their own measure of happiness and live their lives free from fear, no matter who you are, no matter who you love. That's got to be our priority. That's what today is about," he said at a bill signing ceremony at the Interior Department. "This is your day. This is the day of the advocates, the day of the survivors. This is your victory," he said. "This victory shows that when the American people make their voices heard, Washington listens." The renewal of the 1994 legislation, championed by then Sen. Joe Biden, makes it easier to prosecute crimes against women, including domestic violence, sexual assault and trafficking. The bill also extends protections to gays and lesbians and women of Native American tribal lands who are attacked or abused by non-tribal residents.

MICHIGAN SENATOR CARL LEVIN WON'T SEEK ANOTHER TERM. Another one bites the dust. ABC's Sunlen Miller reports that Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, announced last night that he will not run for reelection in 2014. Levin, 78, said the decision for him was "extremely difficult" but he decided with his wife that he could do a better job as a senator without campaigning. "We decided that I can best serve my state and nation by concentrating in the next two years on the challenging issues before us that I am in a position to help address," Levin said, "in other words, by doing my job without the distraction of campaigning for reelection." Levin, the senior Senator from Michigan, was first elected into the Senate in 1978.


@MarthaRaddatz: " @Cirincione: I talked with @MarthaRaddatz about NKorea threat. Here's the @ABCWorldNews clip: …" Great insight Joe!

@PhilipRucker: Obama turns on the charm to try to end gridlock & cement legacy, @PostRoz & I report on today's A1:

@KateEHansen: GOP now rebranding their votes MT @aterkel: VAWA touted by Republicans who voted against it via @jbendery

@apalmerdc: Not your fathers Republican Party. Young GOPers look to broaden tent, create national movement

@bethreinhard: Rand Paul's fillibuster floated to McConnell adviser over friendly dinner of lasagna and Malbec w/ @ShaneGoldmacher

More ABC News