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First Thoughts: Politics takes a backseat

Politics takes a backseat after yesterday’s terror act in Boston… NBC’s Pete Williams on the search in Revere, MA… Waiting until all the facts are known… Gang of Eight introduces its immigration legislation (though there won’t be a press event rolling it out -- due to Boston)… Obama talks guns, the budget, and North Korea in interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie (conducted before yesterday’s bombings)… Manchin-Toomey compromise doesn’t appear to have 60 votes… And Stephen Colbert, in DC, raises money for his sister.

*** Politics takes a backseat: After spending the last few months covering policy-political stories -- on guns, immigration, and the budget -- yesterday’s bombings in Boston put things into perspective. “Two bomb blasts, 12 seconds apart, rocked the finish line of the 117th running of the Boston Marathon Monday, killing at least three people, including an 8-year-old Dorchester boy, wounding more than 130, and leaving the sidewalks of Boylston Street covered in blood,” the Boston Globe reports. “Medical professionals on hand to care for blisters and sore knees in Copley Square suddenly found themselves treating life-threatening lacerations and lost limbs, as a high holiday in Boston, Patriots Day, turned into an epic tragedy.” Here’s what else NBC News has learned: There were two confirmed explosive devices each containing b-b’s or ball bearings that functioned as shrapnel; officials say they had more questions than answers and had not determined whether it’s a domestic or international terror event; internet chatter claiming credit has so far been dismissed by authorities; and a hospital patient being questioned by policy was NOT in custody and interest in him -- a man on a student visa -- was waning.

*** On the search in Revere, MA: NBC’s Pete Williams has additional details on the man with the student visa: “Authorities stress that there is no suspect in custody. But they talked at length last night to a 20-year-old Saudi man who is here on a currently valid student visa. He was seen running from the area and had burns. He's was questioned for hours in a Boston hospital. And it's his home that police and federal agents searched last night in the Boston suburb of Revere, MA. They carried away some materials for more examination. But the quantity of what they were seen carting away doesn't indicate that they found much, if anything. One official said it's too early to know one way or the other about him, and that he might turn out to have been an innocent bystander.”

*** Waiting until the facts are known: Meanwhile, Washington -- not to mention the politics that traditionally follow acts of terror -- is on hold until all the facts are known. Was it an act of international terror? Domestic terror? No one knows right now. But when we finally get an answer, we fully expect Washington and politics to kick into high gear. It’s sad to admit how predictable Washington reaction can be…

*** Gang of Eight introduces its immigration legislation: Had it not been for yesterday’s tragic events in Boston, today’s big political news would have been about the so-called “Gang of Eight” introducing their immigration-reform legislation. Per NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell, senior aides say they wouldn’t be holding any press availabilities due to what happened in Boston. However, NBC News has obtained the details of the bill. And to us, the headline is that the much-talked-about path to legal status/citizenship doesn’t hinge on MEETING border-security goals. Rather, the path hinges on border-security and fencing strategies simply BEING IN PLACE. (That could be a non-starter for many Republicans who want border-security metrics to be the trigger before the clock starts on the path toward citizenship. *** UPDATE *** A Republican Senate aide counters, "The border security and border fence plans, the universal e-verify program, and the visa-exit system all must be implemented or there is no pathway to green card in 10 years.") More from O'Donnell and NBC's Carrie Dann. “The plan … sets ambitious goals for surveillance and security along the nation’s southern border; and offers qualifying undocumented immigrants a decade-long process – dependent on external border security triggers -- towards legalization and eventual citizenship in the United States.” And NBC Latino’s Sandra Lilley has even more on the legislation. The details:

-- Undocumented immigrants earn provisional legal status when the Homeland Security secretary submits to Congress a notice that the border security and fencing strategies have begun and are operational, and that an employment verification system is up and running. Congress will appropriate a combined $4.5 billion for the border-security and fencing strategies.

-- If a 90% effectiveness rate (in apprehensions and turn-backs in high-traffic border crossings) has been reached five years after the legislation is enacted, the border security goal has been reached

-- If 90% hasn’t been reached, a bipartisan Southern Border Security Commission will be created to issue recommendations to reach 90%.

-- Undocumented immigrants (who have been in the U.S. prior to Dec. 31, 2011) can apply for legal status by paying a penalty (up to $1,000) and pay all fees and taxes. Those who are ineligible are those convicted of felonies, of three or more misdemeanors, of offense under foreign law, and voted illegally.

-- Immigrants who obtain provisional status can work for any employer and travel outside the U.S.

-- After 10 years, those with provisional status can adjust to be a lawful permanent resident (i.e., have a green card) provided they are paying taxes, pay an additional $1,000 fee, work regularly, and demonstrate knowledge of civics and English

-- A green-card holder can apply for citizenship three years later – so the process would be a total of 13 years from undocumented immigrant to applicant for citizenship.

*** Obama talks guns, the budget, and North Korea: Before the bombings took place in Boston, NBC’s Savannah Guthrie sat down with President Obama to talk about the current Washington debates over guns and the budget. Obama on the gun legislation that the Senate is considering: “I think we've got a good chance of seeing it pass if members of Congress are listening to the American people. So let's just take the example of background checks -- 90% of Americans think that we should make it tougher for criminals or people with serious mental illnesses to obtain a gun… And so the notion that Congress would defy the overwhelming instinct of the American people after what we saw happen in Newtown I think is unimaginable.” The president on why he’s asking Democrats from red states to take tough votes, even though he didn’t campaign on gun control in ’08 and ’12: “I think that all of us had to reflect on what we did or didn't do after Newtown.” Obama on North Korea: “Since I came into office the one thing I was clear about was we're not gonna reward this kinda provocative behavior. You don't get to bang your spoon on the table and somehow you get your way.” And the president on his budget proposal: “What we try to do is, and what I try to do, is put forward a budget that I think is a realistic compromise.”

*** Manchin-Toomey compromise doesn’t appear to have 60 votes: While Obama said there’s a “good chance” of the gun legislation passing Congress, prospects for the overall bill dimmed yesterday as a number of GOP senators that Democrats thought they might be able to win over said they would oppose the Manchin-Toomey compromise on background checks, per NBC’s Kasie Hunt. Those GOP senators opposing the compromise include Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) a friend of former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ). Hunt adds that the Senate likely won't vote on the Manchin-Toomey compromise until Thursday -- and possibly not until next week. The compromise's authors were fighting for every vote on Monday, but they still appear short of the 60 vote they would need. Hunt’s whip count shows just seven undecided senators – two of whom (Begich, Pryor) opposed cloture and are expected to oppose the compromise, though their offices say they are still deciding. Democratic leaders would need ALL FIVE of the others to reach 60 votes: Ayotte, Baucus, Heitkamp, Heller, and Landrieu. And this just in: Hunt reports that Senate aides say they are discussing potentially changing the compromise to make it more palatable for senators from rural states. Among those they’re trying to woo: Sens. Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski.

*** Counting on Lautenberg: Meanwhile, aides to Sen. Frank Lautenberg are now hinting that the ailing New Jersey Democrat might now be well enough to come back to the Senate and vote. Yesterday, many supporters of the bill were operating as if they would not have Lautenberg’s vote to count on. Considering that this issue of gun control has been a passion of Lautenberg’s for years, he’s obviously a yes vote if he is well enough to cast it.

*** Stephen Colbert raises money for his sister: Finally, with the Mark Sanford vs. Elizabeth Colbert Busch special congressional election taking place three weeks from today, NBC’s Ali Weinberg reports on comedian Stephen Colbert’s DC fundraiser for his sister last night. Weinberg reports that the fundraiser was very somber due to the Boston bombings, according to sources at the event. After a moment of silence, Colbert recalled how he and his sister were together in New York City after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "Thinking about events in Boston made me think of my sister. She was in New York City on 9/11, and I said to her: 'I wish you could have seen my city on a different day.' She said: 'No, it's beautiful. People are coming together to help each other.'"

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