The Sequester's Slow Bleed (The Note)

Lawrence Jackson/AP

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • SURVEYING THE SEQUESTER: For all the dire warnings, most Americans welcome a five percent cut in overall federal spending this year, notes ABC News Pollsters Gary Langer and Greg Holyk. The public by nearly 2-1, 61-33 percent, supports cutting the overall budget along the lines of the sequester that took effect last Friday. But by nearly an identical margin, Americans in this ABC News-Washington Post poll oppose an eight percent across-the-board cut in military spending. NOTE: These views come before the $85 billion in cuts this year have taken hold, leaving open the question of how the public will respond once the reductions hit home.
  • DIGGING DEEPER: The results of today's ABC News-Washington Post poll suggest that warnings about the nation's military readiness have resonated, while the public is more skeptical about the damage the sequester poses to federal programs more generally. Support for a five percent reduction in federal spending crosses party lines in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates; it includes 57 percent of Democrats, six in 10 independents and three-quarters of Republicans. Shaving eight percent off the military budget, on the other hand, is opposed by 73 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of independents, with Democrats split down the middle.
  • TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: With the federal government closed because of the storm, President Obama is spending a quiet day at the White House with no public events. ABC's Mary Bruce notes that the president was supposed to honor the University of Alabama Crimson Tide at the White House today, but the event has been rescheduled for a future date. This afternoon, Obama meets privately with Vice President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. The White House has also cancelled Press Secretary Jay Carney's usual press briefing "due to inclement weather."
  • JON KARL, MARTHA RADDATZ WIN CRONKITE AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE IN POLITICAL JOURNALISM: ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz will be recognized with Walter Cronkite Awards for Excellence in Television Political Journalism from the Norman Lear Center at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Karl will be recognized for his "refreshing and original" analysis of complex issues during the campaign season. Raddatz will receive a Special Commendation for Debate Moderation for conducting the debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan. The awards will be given during a ceremony on April 19 at The National Press Club in Washington D.C.


ABC's RICK KLEIN: Inside week one of the sequester, we went from workplace deaths and forest fires and airport chaos to … no more White House self-guided tours? The Obama administration has gone from very big to very small in sequester messaging, brushed back by the fact some early claims turned out to be less than truthful, and that, well, big things aren't happening yet. Moving to slow bleed after a cut-off-your-arms start would seem to make it harder to break through with dire predictions. But the impact may be closer to what the White House desires. Now, every congressional district in the country has to call constituents to deliver the news that spring break in the nation's capital won't be everything they hoped it would be. It's just a small reason to be frustrated by Washington, in a long, long list.

ABC's Z. BYRON WOLF: Ignore, for a moment, the daily D.C. dose of partisan sniping and logjam and consider the time since election day from a bit of distance. John Boehner allowed three important bills to pass the House with a support from a majority of Democrats, not Republicans. One of those raised taxes. Both sides agreed to across-the-board spending cuts. A bipartisan group of senators settled on principles - including a pathway to citizenship - and the sweet spot of their immigration proposal is to the left of even Jeb Bush, Republicans' town crier for Latino inclusion. The House majority and the President seem to have reached a quiet detente not to let the government shut down later this month. Problems remain, for sure. The sequester drama will only intensify and the spending cuts aren't the ones anyone might have chosen. There is no specific immigration bill for provocateurs to nitpick. Who knows if the president will actually sign the House CR or if the Senate will pass it. But there is an argument that even if it isn't clear each day, there is some small amount of movement in the nation's capital.

ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: Attendees at next week's annual conservative confab known as CPAC won't get to hear from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. (Neither were invited to attend). One person they will see: Donald Trump. His appearance has already stoked the ire of some conservative activists and commentators like Michelle Malkin who declared yesterday that "CPAC is dead." For a party that seems to be striving for an even bigger tent after their losses last year, it is a curious move by the American Conservative Union to exclude some big-name governors, but give a platform to Trump, who ACU Chairman Al Cardenas hailed as an "American patriot and success story with a massive following among small government conservatives." And don't forget, it's Trump's second coming at the conference. His appearance in 2011 was under very different circumstances. "If I run and if I win," he said in February of that year when he was still considering a presidential bid, "this country will be respected again. I can tell you that."

ABC's TOM SHINE: Here comes the snow, there goes Congress. The House Science Committee was supposed to learn all about dangerous asteroids, meteors and space junk falling out of the sky. But a more immediate danger from above - heavy, wet, white stuff - caused a postponement. The House was scheduled to vote to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year on Thursday, but scary TV weather maps awash in patches of vivid greens, reds, and purples convinced them to do it today so they could all flee town this afternoon. Alabama demolished Notre Dame on the football field a few weeks ago, but the White House decided yesterday that the Crimson Tide was no match for up to a foot of snow that could accumulate in the D.C. area, and postponed the visit. The President will honor them another day.


JOURNEYS WITH OBAMA: FROM VAN DRIVER TO NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN. Tommy Vietor started working for Barack Obama when he was still Senator Obama-well before he became a presidential candidate-and until Friday, the 32-year-old Vietor hadn't stopped. His first job for Obama was as the driver of a press van, and he rose up the ranks through the 2008 campaign, and then the White House press office, to become the National Security Council spokesman. Now leaving the White House to open a political communications firm with the president's departing speechwriter Jon Favreau, Vietor says it's been the privilege of a lifetime to work for the president. "It's been kind of a front seat at some historic events-killing bin Laden, ending the Iraq war, a whole bunch of things-so it's been extraordinary," Vietor told ABC's Jonathan Karl for the ABC News-Yahoo Power Players series, "Politics Confidential." WATCH:


COLLEGE PRESIDENTS, MICHAEL BLOOMBERG URGE VISA REFORM. The presidents of Cornell University, Arizona State University and Miami Dade College released an open letter to more than 1,200 of their fellow university and college presidents nationwide to announce a major push for visa reform for students in the so-called STEM fields - science, technology, engineering and math. The university presidents are working in conjunction with the Partnership for a New American Economy, a group co-chaired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other mayors and business leaders, which is advocating for comprehensive immigration reform. "For years we've been training the best and brightest foreign-born students in our leading universities - only to have our antiquated immigration laws send them packing after graduation," Bloomberg said in a statement. "I thank these college and university presidents for joining the growing list of higher education leaders who are urging Congress to fix our broken immigration system - and fix it this year." On April 19, the three presidents (David J. Skorton of Cornell, Michael M. Crow of Arizona State and Eduardo J. Padrón of Miami Dade) plan to host events on their campuses to highlight the benefits of immigration. Read their letter:


WHITE HOUSE TOURS CANCELLED DUE TO SEQUESTER CUTS. There are about to be a lot of unhappy tourists in the nation's capital. The White House is cancelling all public tours of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as a result of the sequester spending cuts, reports ABC's Mary Bruce. "Due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration, we regret to inform you that White House Tours will be canceled effective Saturday, March 9, 2013 until further notice," according to a cancellation notice that was sent to congressional offices. Tourists go through their local representatives to arrange visits to the White House, which means every member of Congress will feel the impact of these cuts as they explain the cancellation to their constituents. The cancellations come right at the start of the busy spring break tourist season. "We very much regret having to take this action, particularly during the popular Spring touring season," the notice from the White House Visitors Office said.

NOTE: Congressional aides were up in arms about the announcement from the White House now that they must begin the disappointing (and time-consuming) business of calling constituents to tell them their tours have been cancelled. When asked about the impact of the decision, one Republican Hill staffer offered this pointed observation: "This move by the White House is completely vindictive and unnecessary, meant to direct blame for the sequester away from the administration and instead, onto the underpaid and overworked staff assistants and tour coordinators on Capitol Hill who work to ensure their constituents enjoy their visits to Washington, D.C. They think they may be hurting Congressional Republicans. That is, after all, their stated purpose. But in reality, they are only making life more difficult for some of the worst paid folks on Capitol Hill who must now call disappointed constituents and notify them that their vacation plans are ruined."

MEANWHILE, SPEAKER BOEHNER WELCOMES GUESTS TO THE CAPITOL. While the White House might be cutting tours due to sequestration, House Speaker John Boehner is keeping the Capitol open to the public. ABC's John Parkinson got a hold of the Speaker's email to his constituents, which not only rips the White House for its decision to close its doors to the public, but also welcomes them to book a tour at the Capitol. "While I'm disappointed the White House has chosen to comply with sequestration by cutting public tours, I'm pleased to assure you that public tours of the United States Capitol will continue. Under the leadership of the House officers and their teams, who oversee daily operations in the Capitol in consultation with the Office of the Speaker, planning for the possibility of sequestration has been underway for some time. Consequently, alternative spending reductions have been implemented within the Capitol complex to ensure public tours and other regular activities can proceed as they normally would. I encourage you and your family to visit the U.S. Capitol during your trip to Washington, D.C."

'THE NINTENDO MEDAL'? NEW MILITARY AWARD FOR DRONE PILOTS DRAWS PROTEST. The Pentagon's newest military honor, symbolized by a two-inch bronze medallion, has sparked fierce debate over the nation's growing corps of drone pilots and cyberwarriors and how to commend their service, which happens far from an actual battlefield. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports that the Distinguished Warfare Medal, approved by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last month, is the military's first new combat-related medal in nearly 70 years. It is intended to recognize extraordinary contributions to combat operations by a service member from afar and will rank as the eighth highest individual award behind the Medal of Honor. But placement of the new medal in ahead of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, which are given for valor in the line of fire, has created significant stir. Critics have panned it as the "Chair-borne Medal," "the Nintendo Medal," "Distant Warfare Medal" and "the Purple Buttocks," alluding to fact that computer-based warriors do their work from a chair, among other names.

BRENNAN INCHES CLOSER TO CIA POST. John Brennan moved one step closer to being the next CIA director yesterday. ABC's Sunlen Miller notes that the Senate Intelligence Committee voted 12-3 to move Brennan's nomination out of the committee this afternoon. Brennan, the current chief counterterrorism adviser to President Obama, must now face a full Senate vote for his nomination to be confirmed for his new job as head of the CIA. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has indicated that he'd like the full Senate to vote on Brennan at some point this week. Prompting the move in the Senate Intelligence Committee, where the Brennan nomination had been held up for numerous days, was an agreement with the White House to provide the committee access to all Office of Legal Counsel opinions related to the targeted killing of Americans by drones.


@jonkarl: Okay @PressSec - it really is snowing now, but if Abe Lincoln had a @PressSec, he wouldn't have let that stop him from briefing

@nycjim: Will Jeb Bush run in 2016? Adviser says he has "big ideas and cares deeply about the future of the party."

@cnsnews: Read @cnsnews Editor-in-Chief, Terry Jeffrey: Boehner Plans to Permit and Fund Obama's Attack on #ReligiousFreedom

@ZekeJMiller: Happy to announce I'm joining the great @TIME @TIMEPolitics team in the Washington Bureau as a political reporter.

@matthewjdowd: Beautiful am to all. Awesome sunrise in Austin today. Hope the spirit of life fills you with awe and wonder, and gives you courage.