The Note: What's The Answer To The Sequester Question?

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By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • IS SEQUESTRATION HERE TO STAY? Lawmakers and the American public seem to agree on two things lately: First, sequestration was designed to be so unpleasant that it would never go into effect, and second, something needs to be done about the sequester. The question, ABC's SARAH PARNASS notes, is what. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., took a page from Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin recently when he put forth a plan that would erase the automatic, across-the-board budget cuts for another five months. "I think we should do something about sequestration," Reid said Tuesday. "We should do what was in one of the Ryan budgets - that is, use the Overseas Contingency Fund to delay the implementation of sequestration." That fund consists of money set aside for fighting the war in Afghanistan through 2021, though combat operations for the conflict are set to end in 2014.
  • BUT: With the war already winding down, some have criticized Reid's plan as a "gimmick," using "fake" savings to offset real costs. Marc Goldwein of the non-partisan Center for a Responsible Federal Budget compared paying for the wars to a student graduating from college. "It's not like you suddenly save $20,000 a year or $40,000 a year," Goldwein said. "It's just that college is only supposed to be 4 years or 2 years."
  • ON THE HILL: The Senate last night passed legislation that would allow the FAA to transfer existing funds in order to end the furloughs that are currently causing the flight delays across the nation, ABC's SUNLEN MILLER reports. The bill provides the Secretary of Transportation with the "flexibility to transfer certain funds ($253 million until October) to prevent reduced operations and staffing of the Federal Aviation Administration, and for other purposes." The legislation was sponsored by a bipartisan group of Senators, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Jay Rockefeller D-W.Va., and John Thune, R-SD., and passed by unanimous consent in the Senate this evening. The proposal does not use war savings, as originally proposed by Senate Majority Leader Reid this week. It now heads to the House of Representatives for a vote.
  • THIS WEEK ON 'THIS WEEK': The top members of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., speak exclusively to George Stephanopoulos on the latest in the Boston bombing investigation and developments in Syria, Sunday on "This Week." And the "This Week" powerhouse roundtable tackles all the week's politics, with ABC News' George Will, Matthew Dowd and Donna Brazile, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. See the "This Week" page for full guest listings. Tune in Sunday:
  • ON THE AGENDA: President Obama delivers remarks at the Planned Parenthood Gala in Washington, ABC's MARY BRUCE notes. Later today, he meets with King Abdullah of Jordan at the White House. Finally, the president meets with U.S. business leaders with a presence in Mexico and Central America in advance of his trip to the region next week.


ABC's RICK KLEIN: The sequester, that policy designed to be so terrible that it wouldn't be allowed to become law, is now more likely than ever never to go away. The move to undo the furloughs at the FAA, in fact, pretty much guarantees that the vast bulk of the other budget cuts won't be going anywhere. The reason? The only way to build pressure to find an alternative budget solution would be if enough distasteful things happen to the public. If Congress undoes one at a time, and just a few … well, that sounds like a typical Washington solution these days. Rather clearly, in passing and signing the sequester into law, Congress and the president overestimated themselves.

ABC's Z. BYRON WOLF: What lies at the end of the line on Jan. 1, 2014? A "train wreck" if you ask Sen. Max Baucus, a key author of Obamacare who helped dash progressive dreams of a more liberal overhaul and now thinks the implementation of what did pass isn't going so well. It has been a little more than three years since since Obamacare was signed into law and it is still 251 days until the majority of the law kicks in. After that, nobody really know what's going to happen. The one thing that everyone knows for sure is that the law is complicated. Republicans have assembled a seven-foot tower of paper to represent all of the regulations and rules that will go along with the law. Americans' still don't really understand or like the law. But they don't want to get rid of it. Republicans are split - repeal or replace? - and that led to Eric Cantor pulling his health reform bill before it could be defeated by his own party. But Democrats are more and more publicly nervous about what happens when the law finally takes effect and people have to buy insurance or pay a tax.


"FLIGHT OF THE GRAYBEARDS: THE NEXT SENATE WILL BE THE YOUNGEST IN DECADES," by Yahoo! News' Chris Wilson. "When Max Baucus announced on Tuesday that he will retire from the Senate in 2014, he queued up in the long line of veteran senators to leave the upper chamber since President Obama took office. The flight of the old-timers is neatly captured by a pair of simple statistics: When the 110th Congress convened on Jan. 3, 2007,the 100 senators had a combined 1,328 years of experience in the United States Senate. When the 113th Congress convened last January, that figure had fallen to 1,040. … The following interactive visualizes the total years of experience in the Senate and the House of Representatives for every year since the founding of the country." INTERACTIVE:


LAWMAKERS UPSET JUDGE ENDED TSARNAEV INTERROGATION. A federal magistrate judge has set off a firestorm of criticism for ending the interrogation of the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect before, lawmakers contend, law enforcement officials had concluded their initial interview, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON reports. On Monday morning, Magistrate Judge Marianne B. Bowler visited Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's hospital bedside to preside over his first court appearance, reading him his Miranda rights and informing him of his right to remain silent. That ended the suspect's cooperation in questioning that the Department of Justice's High-Value Interrogation Group had begun under a public safety exception to Miranda, when it can legally question a suspect without a lawyer present. Tsarnaev, a naturalized U.S. citizen, had only just begun answering questions in writing. "He stopped cooperating," Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence committee, said yesterday. "The FBI will tell you, they don't believe that they got the information, all the information that they would have liked about the public safety factor in the interrogation." Following a classified briefing Wednesday evening, Rogers, a former FBI special agent, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder seeking an explanation into Bowler's actions, which he suggested may have been "sua sponte" - of one's own will - and not fully coordinated with law enforcement officials conducting the interrogation.

BUSH'S LEGACY ON AFRICA WINS PRAISE, EVEN FROM FOES. The George W. Bush Presidential Library dedication brought together five living presidents who have been at odds about much of the 43rd president's foreign policy legacy, particularly the Iraq war. But, ABC's DANA HUGHES notes, they all agreed on, and offered effusive praise for, Bush's work on Africa. From the historic peace agreement between Sudan and South Sudan in 2005, to Bush's work on HIV/AIDS and malaria, all the presidents, regardless of party, thanked No. 43 for his involvement in African policies and issues. Jimmy Carter - who now runs the Carter Center, a non-profit organization whose mission is to fight for human rights, conflict resolution and global health in the world's most impoverished countries - laid out Bush's accomplishments, including increasing aid to the continent by more than 640% by the time he left office. "Mr. President, let me say that I'm filled with admiration for you and deep gratitude for you about the great contributions you've made to the most needy people on Earth," said Carter. At Thursday's ceremony, President Clinton said in his travels throughout Africa he had "personally seen the faces of some of the millions of people who are alive today" because of Bush's policies.

'COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATISM': BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER? With the George W. Bush Presidential Center opening this week, the former president and his team are moving back to the beginning in seeking to shape the legacy of their four years in office, writes ABC's RICK KLEIN. Meet George W. Bush, compassionate conservative. Again. Though it's easy to forget in a presidency that saw 9/11, two wars, Hurricane Katrina, and a financial crisis, "compassionate conservatism" was the philosophy Bush used to first define himself on the national stage. He defined it as insisting on "responsibility and results," coupled with an obligation to help "citizens in need." The Republican Party has all but abandoned that vision in the post-Bush years. Anyone running for office as a "compassionate conservative" now can count on a nationally funded primary challenge. The tea party movement's fierce insistence on cutting government spending has come to define the party of 2013. For many of them, Bush-era spending was prologue to the profligate Obama years, and a lesson in how not to govern as conservatives. But 2012 didn't end like conservatives hoped that it would. That makes for fortuitous timing for a team looking to reassess the legacy of the 43 rd president. In interviews and op-eds, aides to the former president have sought to redirect attention to lasting Bush accomplishments that don't get as much attention these days. They're touting the Medicare prescription drug program, the bipartisan No Child Left Behind education law, and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. These are achievements that were expensive, and some remain controversial, but they are now widely praised as having saved and improved lives.

OBAMA TELLS MOURNERS 'AMERICA NEEDS TOWNS LIKE WEST'. Taking on the role of consoler-in-chief for the second time in two weeks, President Obama yesterday sought to comfort mourners at a memorial service for the firefighters killed in last week's fertilizer-plant explosion in West, Texas, ABC's MARY BRUCE reports. "We are here to say you are not alone," the president said. "You are not forgotten. We may not all live here in Texas, but we're neighbors too. We're Americans too. And we stand with you and we do not forget." The April 17 blast killed at least 14 and injured hundreds, devastating the town of West. "This small town's family is bigger now. It extends beyond the boundaries of West. And in the days ahead, this love and support will be more important than ever because there will be moments of doubt and pain, the temptation to wonder how this community will ever fully recover," the president said as he stood before the flag-draped caskets of the 12 firefighters who died fighting the blaze. "But today I see in the people of West, in your eyes, that what makes West special isn't going to go away."

BUSH OPENS LIBRARY AS FORMER PRESIDENTS LOOK ON. George W. Bush's legacy has officially been enshrined in Dallas. At a warm bipartisan gathering of all five living U.S. presidents, foreign dignitaries, and former administration officials at Southern Methodist University on Thursday, the 43rd president welcomed the opening of his library and museum, the George W. Bush Presidential Center, ABC's CHRIS GOOD reports. In characteristic fashion, Bush cracked jokes and offered a heartfelt defense of his time in office, thanking the presidents who spoke before him and all the first ladies in attendance. "There was a time in my life when I wasn't likely to be found in a library, much less found one," Bush joked. The 43rd president thanked the nation and assessed how history will judge his presidency. Mentioning freedom from dictatorship among his accomplishments, Bush obliquely defended his decision to invade Iraq-a war that became deeply unpopular and shaped the widespread opposition he faced before leaving office.

OBAMA ON BUSH: "He doesn't put on any pretenses, he takes his job seriously, but he doesn't take himself too seriously. He is a good man," said President Obama, who spent much of his 2008 campaign attacking George W. Bush's decisions and policies. "We remember his commitment to reaching across the aisle to unlikely allies like [former Democratic senator] Ted Kennedy, because he believed we had to reform our schools … and that we had to reform our broken immigration system, and that this progress is only possible when we do it together," Obama said.

CLINTON ON BUSH: "I like President Bush," former President Bill Clinton said. "We do a lot of speeches together, and I like it when we have disagreements. He's disarmingly direct." Clinton also joked about Bush's hobby of oil painting: "Your mother showed me some of your landscapes and animal paintings, and I thought they were great," Clinton said. "I seriously considered calling and asking you to do a portrait of me."


KARL ROVE ON BUSH LEGACY: "HE GOT THE BIG THINGS RIGHT". Karl Rove, who has been described by former President George W. Bush as "the architect" of his 2000 and 2004 election victories, isn't backing down in his defense of the former president's legacy, saying "he got the big things right." "He kept us safe after 9/11, he moved to modernize our tools, provide the tools to fight terror, he called terror for what it was, he tackled the big issues of trying to reform Social Security, Medicare, immigration, education," Rove told ABC's JONATHAN KARL standing outside the new Bush library and museum. When asked if he has any regrets about the Iraq War, knowing now that Saddam Hussein did not actually possess weapons of mass destruction that were given as the main justification at the time, Rove said: "I do believe that the Iraq War was the right thing to do and the world is a safer place for having Saddam Hussein gone." WATCH:


" OBAMA NEEDS TO LET REPUBLICANS WIN IMMIGRATION BATTLE ," by the Cook Political Report's Amy Walter. "In the wake of the defeat of gun control legislation, lots of DC-insiders are speculating that immigration reform will meet the same fate. The president doesn't have the juice, they say, to muscle any sort of significant, complex legislation through Congress. That may or may not be true. But, what is clear is that if Obama wants a victory on immigration, he's got to step away from the bully pulpit instead of spending all of his time behind it. … While many liberal Democrats have taken to flogging red state Democrats like North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp and Montana's Max Baucus for voting against the background check legislation, the bill didn't lose because red state Democrats abandoned him. It lost because he couldn't get enough Republicans to support him. The president needed a Republican - one who had the trust and respect of conservative elements in the party, to help sell the bill. Despite the fact that he once headed the conservative Club for Growth, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey doesn't have the clout with his conference. More telling is the fact that the support of the 2008 nominee for president, John McCain, brought along zero Republicans. … The president may want a victory on immigration. But, it is Republicans who need it more. That is why this legislation can make it through the congressional thicket in a way the gun bill did not. And, it is also why it's best for the president and Democrats to do as much as possible to get out the way."


@politicoroger: How the press violates its sacred duty of despising the people it covers. My latest column:

@brandihoffine: For all the @jeremybird fans, this is a great read:

@marincogan: The best possible kicker to this story on the carjacking victim of the Tsarnaev brothers …

@BobCusack: Great story by @alexanderbolton on the Schumer-McCain relationship …

@Timodc: Got myself a new shirt made for the spirit of the weekend. This is the front. ->