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First Read’s Morning Clips

OBAMA AGENDA: Bye, bye chained CPI?

“President Barack Obama's 2015 budget will abandon overtures to Republicans and call for a large expansion in spending on education and job training, in a push certain to ratchet up tensions in the already-fractured capital ahead of November's elections,” the Wall Street Journal writes. “The proposal—which will serve more as a political treatise than a fiscal blueprint—won't include a call to slow the growth of Social Security spending by changing how the program accounts for inflation, White House officials said Thursday.”

That doesn’t mean chained CPI is COMPLETELY off the table. The White House said yesterday it’s still on the table for House Speaker John Boehner any time he wants to re-start grand bargain negotiations. “This option, this offer from the President remains on the table,” the White House’s Josh Earnest said yesterday.

The New York Times, picking up on that point, writes that the White House left chained CPI out because officials believe “Republicans in Congress have shown no willingness to meet the president’s offer on social programs by closing loopholes for corporations and wealthy Americans, the proposed budget for the 2015 fiscal year will not assume a path to an agreement that no longer appears to exist.”

Boehner’s office took it as Obama walking away from anything. “This reaffirms what has become all too apparent: The president has no interest in doing anything, even modest, to address our looming debt crisis,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said.

But this was also about 2014. Cutting Social Security is never popular, and Democrats didn’t want to be tied to that. NPR: “You could almost hear the sigh of relief from Democrats when the White House announced that the president was dropping from his 2015 budget his proposal to use the chained CPI method for measuring inflation.”

Combine the fizzled debt-ceiling battle and now Obama’s budget and AP writes that debt and deficits have become “an afterthought — a dying ember in Washington's political and policy landscape.” Why? “The nation's annual deficit, the amount the government spends beyond what it receives in revenue, has been cut by nearly two-thirds from its 2009 high, thanks to a combination of tax increases, an improving economy and mandatory across-the-board cuts in programs from defense to transportation to education. And lawmakers, fatigued by their budget battles, have called a truce and abandoned the brinkmanship that led to unnerving default threats and a partial government shutdown.”

John McCain contends that Obama “is the most naïve president in history” for how, he says, Russia’s Putin “played us.” Flashback: "I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul." – George W. Bush, June 2001. Bush later claimed Putin “changed” (in part because he made fun of Barney.)

AP takes a look at the White House political operation, led by David Simas: “the resurrected office now serves as the clearinghouse for a torrent of election-year requests, data and advice flowing in and out of the West Wing. The office will also advise Obama on how he can be most helpful to Democrats, screening appeals for fundraisers and campaign visits and coordinating his endorsements.”

Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama again. And again China’s not happy about it.

AP: “Ukraine's president gave in to pressure from European diplomats and offered concessions Friday to defuse a crisis that has divided his country and left scores dead. Shots rang out near the protest camp and a skeptical opposition massed in central Kiev, divided over what to do next.”

CONGRESS: Boehner is dead-serious against raising the minimum wage

As the minimum wage is being considered on Capitol Hill, The Hill brings back this 1996 quote from John Boehner when he was head of the House Republican Conference: “I’ll commit suicide before I vote on a clean minimum-wage bill.”

“Former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds pleaded guilty on Friday to violating Zimbabwe's immigration laws,” AP writes. “He was sentenced by the Magistrate's Court in Harare to five days' imprisonment or a fine of $100. The court ordered that once he has paid the fine or served the prison sentence that he be deported from Zimbabwe. He is still facing separate charges of possessing pornography, to which he has pleaded innocent. He will appear in court again Friday afternoon on those charges.”

Former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) says God wrote the U.S. Constitution.

Steve King (R-IA) won’t apologize for his inflammatory comments about immigrants having cantaloupes for calves because of smuggling. "I'm not going to apologize,” he tells the Spencer Daily Reporter, per Roll Call, flatly. “What I've said is objectively true, and any time that Republicans have criticized me, it's not because of what I said, it's because they disagree with my agenda." And it’s on video.

OFF TO THE RACES: Sure bet?

John McCain bets Hillary Clinton would be president if the election were today.

CALIFORNIA: A proposed ballot initiative would split California into six states. The measure was approved to get signatures. It needs 808,000 by June. But USA Today notes, “Even if it were to be approved by voters, Congress would have to endorse the idea of creating six new states — and adding 10 senators to the chamber's political mix (as with all states, California currently has two). Congress, under the U.S. Constitution, must approve the creation or division of any states.”

GEORGIA: Nearly 43% of Republicans say they are undecided in the GOP Senate primary, according to a Hicks Evaluation Group/Apache Political Communications poll. Ex-Reebok CEO David Perdue, however, leads the pack with 13%, followed by Jack Kingston and Paul Broun tied at 11%, Phil Gingrey and Karen Handel 10%.

PROGRAMMING NOTES.

*** Friday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: NBC’s Chuck Todd interviews Governor Mike Pence (R-IN), Governor Pat Quinn (D-IL) and Governor Jay Inslee (D-WA). Then Chuck will talk with NextGen Climate Action’s Tom Steyer followed by his Friday Takeaway.

*** Friday’s “Jansing & Co.” line-up: Guest host Alex Witt interviews MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter, MSNBC’s Joy Reid, Chris Jansing from Sochi with Tara Lipinski, Center for American Progress VP Daniella Gibbs Leger, Sr. Advisor to Boehner David Winston, Lexington Herald-Leader political reporter Sam Youngman.

*** Friday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews “HRC” authors Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, Democratic strategist Doug Hattaway, USA Today’s Susan Page, the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus, Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America Founder Paul Rieckhoff and NBC’s Richard Engel and Anne Thompson.

*** Friday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: MSNBC’s Craig Melvin, subbing for Tamron Hall, interviews Jordan Davis’ parents, Lucia McBath and Ron Davis, SC State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, and Reuters & the Atlantic columnist Zachary Karaball.