OBAMA AGENDA: A matter of trust
“Frustrated with his Afghan counterpart, President Barack Obama is ordering the Pentagon to accelerate planning for a full U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of this year. But Obama is also holding out hope that Afghanistan's next president may eventually sign a stalled security agreement that could prevent the U.S. from having to take that step,” the AP writes. “Obama spoke Tuesday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the first direct conversation between the two leaders since last June.”
“President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $300 billion to update the nation's roads and railways,” AP writes. “Obama plans to make the proposal Wednesday at the Union Depot rail and bus station in St. Paul, Minn. The Highway Trust Fund finances federal highway and transit programs but is forecast to go broke as early as August.”
The Washington Post: “To help fund the initiative, Obama will propose dedicating $150 billion in ‘one-time transition revenue from pro-growth business tax reform,’ officials said. Funding for many transportation projects is due to expire later this year, according to the White House, putting more than 700,000 jobs in jeopardy.”
Obama and Boehner met, and both sides played down what could come of it. And, the Washington Post writes, “If the diminished expectations were not clear enough, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) both rejected any likelihood of Congress tackling the complex issue of tax reform, because of a standoff over Democratic demands for more revenue from the wealthy.”
The New York Times: “While the meeting offered a rare moment for private sharing by the leaders of America’s two dominant political parties, few of their colleagues expect it to lead to any legislative breakthroughs.”
The New York Times’ editorial page likes the Pentagon cuts: “The Pentagon’s proposals to reduce the Army to pre-World War II levels and modify some benefits for troops and retirees may seem unsettling to a nation that prides itself on having the world’s most capable military. But these ideas, part of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s 2015 military budget, reflect a necessary and more prudent realism as America ends 13 years at war.”
OFF TO THE RACES: “All eyes” on Brewer
More than 80% of Democrats wants Hillary Clinton to run, but more Republicans DO NOT want Chris Christie to run than want him to – 31%/41%, according to a CBS/NYT poll.
ARIZONA: “Gov. Jan Brewer returned to Arizona on Tuesday and faced a pressing decision about a bill on her desk that has prompted a national debate over religious and gay rights,” AP writes, adding, “There is widespread speculation that Brewer will veto the bill, but she has not said how she'll act, as is her longtime practice with pending legislation. Political observers in Arizona cautioned that the governor is deliberate and not prone to act hastily, despite the growing calls from business, politicians of all stripes, and civil rights groups for a veto.”
Brewer dominates the front page of the Arizona Republic: “All eyes on governor as Ariz. debate rages.”
At issue is this line 26 on Page 2 of SB 1062: “That the person’s religious belief is sincerely held.” The Arizona Republic: “Religious and legal experts disagree whether a judge or jury could know if a belief was sincere. They also don’t agree on what could be considered proof of such a belief.”
The paper also notes that the bill is likely to become part of the 2014 campaign trail.
KENTUCKY: NBC’s Carrie Dann looks at Bill Clinton’s day campaigning for Alison Grimes in Kentucky.
*** Wednesday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: NBC’s Chuck Todd interviews NBC’s Pentagon Correspondent Jim Miklaszewski and The Atlantic’s Steve Clemons regarding Afghanistan. Plus, we’ll continue our week-long look into Florida with Governor Rick Scott. Then, we’ll discuss yesterday’s debate in the Florida 13th special election with the moderator of the debate Susan MacManus of the University of South Florida and The Washington Post’s Reid Wilson. Plus, a packed data bank and Chuck’s Wednesday Takeaway.
*** Wednesday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Tamron Hall interviews Rep. Tim Bishop on the House Democrats push to pass a minimum wage hike; NASA scientist Thomas Painter on their plan to help with California’s drought; Kerrie Lechuga, an Oregon woman fighting to keep her 6 year-old granddaughter from being deported to Mexico; and Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center on the findings of their hate group report.
*** Wednesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, anchoring live from the U.S. State Department, interviews Secretary of State John Kerry, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Anne Gearan, Sen. Angus King (I-ME), and Dem strategist David Axelrod.