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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Daily Political Wire

George Wenschhof

Pope Watch Underway in Earnest - As the papal conclave begins in Rome, wrapped in mystery and secrecy, there is no indication that the 115 cardinals will be deciding between just a couple of front-runners in choosing a successor to Pope Benedict XVI.
Milan's Cardinal Angelo Scola and Brazil's Cardinal Odilo Scherer are names that keep cropping up on the lists of papabili, but NBC News Vatican analyst George Weigel says no fewer than 20 men could get votes when balloting starts Tuesday in the Sistine Chapel.

They come from the traditional bastions of Italy, from growth areas like sub-Saharan Africa, even from the United States. Only time — and a puff of white smoke — will reveal which one will emerge as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. has a look at the top twenty under consideration, here.


House Republican Budget Proposal Redux - Here, we go again; Republicans on Tuesday debuted their full 2014 budget, an ambitious proposal that would seek to balance the budget within a decade, but which is also almost certain to never become law.
The new GOP budget calls for repealing President Barack Obama's signature health care reform law, and sweeping changes to Medicare for anyone under the age of 54. The budget's goal would be to eliminate all but two income tax brackets, one at 10 percent and the other at 25 percent. has the details of the budget proposal here.


Mikulski Releases Senate Budget Proposal - Caught between a diffident president and hostile House speaker, Senate Democrats took a page from Irish politics Monday night — and swung back at both.

That’s the true bottom line to a stopgap spending bill filed by the Appropriations Committee leadership late in the evening — a 587-page measure designed to avert any shutdown March 27 and map a six-month path forward for agencies in the wake of sequestration.

Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski is the driving force. The Maryland Democrat hammered out Monday’s bill together with her ranking Republican, Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, who signed off Monday evening after resolving a last dispute related to transfer authority for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

The bill itself, an amendment in the nature of a substitute for the House CR, bears the names of both senators.

The question now is whether this partnership can light a spark across the Capitol, and prompt House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) to be more assertive with his own leadership. has more here.


Feinstein Continues Push For Assault Weapons Ban - Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the lead sponsor of a federal assault weapons ban, says President Obama needs to take a more active role in pushing legislation to prohibit military-style weapons.

Feinstein says she wants Obama to match the effort former President Clinton made two decades ago to round up votes for the measure on Capitol Hill. has more here.


Background Checks Pass Senate Committee - (CNN) The Senate Judiciary committee voted 10-8 Tuesday to approve a bill calling for universal gun background checks. The proposal now goes to the full Senate.


Senator Hagan Hires Elliott as Campaign Manager - Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) has hired Preston Elliott, the campaign manager who helped Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) hold his seat this November, to run her own re-election bid in 2014.

“I am so pleased to have Preston on board as my campaign manager,” said Hagan in a statement Tuesday. “Preston is the right person to lead a campaign focused on the issues I’ve made a priority - jobs, reducing our deficit, and protecting our students, seniors and servicemembers. He has a proven track record of success, and with his help and the help of North Carolinians of all walks of life, I expect to cross the finish line with a victory in November 2014."

Elliott also worked on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's successful 2010 campaign. has more here.


Mooney May Run for W. Virgina House Seat - is reporting former Maryland state senator is seriously considering a run for the House representing a district in W. Virginia.

Former Maryland GOP Chairman Alex Mooney confirmed to CQ Roll Call on Tuesday that he has moved to West Virginia but cautioned “no final decisions have been made” on a future run for office.

“Now I am working on a book about door to door campaigning and politics, which will take at least a couple months,” Mooney said in an email, chalking up his delayed response to overseas travel.

On Monday, multiple sources said Mooney had conversations this weekend about running for the open 2nd District seat in West Virginia. Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito is leaving that seat to run for Senate in 2014.

Mooney has about $37,000 leftover in his campaign account from an abandoned bid for Maryland’s 6th district last year, according to a Federal Election Commission spokeswoman. Mooney could transfer those reserves to a race in West Virginia.

Mooney was a controversial figure in Maryland Republican politics until he stepped down as his party’s chairman earlier this year. 


C.I.A. Increases Presence in Iraq - The CIA has increased its presence in Iraq, providing assistance to the country's Counterterrorism Service, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday evening:

In a series of secret decisions from 2011 to late 2012, the White House directed the CIA to provide support to Iraq's Counterterrorism Service, or CTS, a force that reports directly to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, officials said.

The CIA has since ramped up its work with the CTS—taking control of a mission long run by the U.S. military, according to administration and defense officials. For years, U.S. special-operations forces worked with CTS against al Qaeda in Iraq. But the military's role has dwindled since U.S. troops pulled out of the country at the end of 2011.


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