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First Read's Morning Clips

<p>A roundup of the day’s most important political stories.</p>

OBAMA AGENDA: Another executive action

“President Obama will announce Tuesday that the federal government will further tighten fuel efficiency for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, according to a White House official, as part of the president's ongoing effort to use his executive authority to address climate change,” the Washington Post says. “Obama's directive to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation, which he will announce at the Safeway distribution center in Upper Marlboro, Md., marks the second time he has mandated a cut in fuel consumption and carbon emissions from larger trucks. This category, which encompasses all vehicles weighing more than 8,500 pounds, ranges from large pick-up trucks and school buses to massive 18-wheel tractor-trailers.”

The Washington Post: “Although the Council of Economic Advisors released its report on the ARRA on Monday — which says that the law created or saved about 6 million jobs — the president and vice president are holding off their events until later in the week. Obama is supposed to speak on the economy today, and Joe Biden is going to Granite City, Ill., to give a speech on the fifth anniversary of the stimulus package on Wednesday. We're going to be talking about the stimulus package for the rest of the week, and Democrats and progressives may be saving their accolades (or tepid support) for the events planned later in the week — as may many Republicans and conservatives.”

“In an effort to free American captive Bowe Bergdahl before the bulk of U.S. forces leave Afghanistan this year, the Obama administration has decided to try to resume talks with the Taliban and sweeten an offer to trade Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the Army sergeant, current and former officials said,” the Washington Post reports.

“The Pentagon is exploring a novel way to extend troops’ attention spans and sharpen their reaction times: stimulate the brain with low levels of electricity,” The Boston Globe reports. “It sounds like science fiction, but commanders in search of more effective tools than the ubiquitous cups of coffee and energy drinks are testing medical treatments designed to treat such brain disorders as depression to determine whether they can also improve the attentiveness of sleepdeprived but otherwise healthy troops. Early experiments using ‘noninvasive’ brain stimulation have been performed on several dozen volunteers at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The results show the technique improves both alertness and acuity, researchers say.”

The U.S. is becoming more critical of Russia’s role in Syria.

CONGRESS: That’s all, folks!

“After a tumultuous week of party infighting and leadership stumbles, congressional Republicans are focused on calming their divided ranks in the months ahead, mostly by touting proposals that have wide backing within the GOP and shelving any big-ticket legislation for the rest of the year,” Robert Costa reports. “Comprehensive immigration reform, tax reform, tweaks to the federal health-care law — bipartisan deals on each are probably dead in the water for the rest of this Congress.”

The Boston Globe interviews Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, who the paper says is still plotting his course.

Former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds (D-IL) was arrested in Zimbabwe. “The state-controlled The Herald newspaper reported Tuesday that Reynolds was arrested for allegedly possessing pornographic material and violating immigration laws. Reynolds, an Illinois Democrat, resigned from his congressional seat in 1995 after he was convicted of 12 counts of statutory rape, obstruction of justice and solicitation of child pornography.”

OFF TO THE RACES: Enter Tom Steyer

The GOP has the Koch Brothers. Now, Tom Steyer, a billionaire climate activist, is aiming to spend up to $100 million on the 2014 elections with his group NextGen Climate Action to help elect Democrats, the New York Times reports. Among his targets, Gov. Rick Scott in Florida and the Iowa Senate race. He’s looking to raise $50 million to match his $50 million he plans to spend. He’s met with aides to former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He spent $11 million in 2013 to help elect Terry McAuliffe governor of Virginia. For context, the League of Conservation Voters, which spent the most of green groups in 2012, spent about $15 million.

But the GOP is getting another big-money group under the leadership of New York billionaire Paul Singer. You might start to hear a lot about the American Opportunity Alliance.

“While some leading Democrats have been reluctant to condemn the National Security Agency's tactics, the GOP has begun to embrace a libertarian shift opposing the spy agency's broad surveillance powers — a striking departure from the aggressive national security policies that have defined the Republican Party for generations,” the AP reports. “The lines are drawn but not in the traditional way. The Republican National Committee, civil libertarians like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and liberals like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren are on one side of the debate. Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, Democratic former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the House and Senate leadership are on the other side, defending the Obama administration's surveillance programs as necessary to prevent terrorism.”

Darrell Issa was in New Hampshire. Does that mean…? No, he says he’s not running, he just wants to shape the debate. “I came here to hopefully shape the debate for 2016 — not join it — but shape it,” he said.

As for the establishment fighting back, not so fast, reports Beth Reinhard: “So far, what was billed as an ugly and expensive all-out civil war within the GOP looks more like a few scattered skirmishes unlikely to declare a clear victor. ‘There's no question it was overstated,’ said Rob Engstrom, national political director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. ‘How can you have a civil war when there's only five or six primaries that could become competitive?’ While there's still time for more challengers to gain traction, the Republican establishment is mostly holding its fire, a dramatic comedown from the brash, anti-tea-party rhetoric of last year.”

“Under growing political pressure, the campaign arm of House Republicans has overhauled a series of controversial campaign websites that are designed to, at first glance, appear as if they support Democrats,” National Journal reports. “The National Republican Congressional Committee changed the donation page to make clearer to potential contributors that their money wasn't going to the smiling Democrats pictured but instead to the Republicans.”


** Tuesday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: NBC’s Chuck Todd interviews former Ambassador Christopher Hill and Time Magazine’s International Editor Bobby Ghosh on the latest news out of Syria and North Korea. Plus, we’ll take a look at the role Super PACs play in opposition research with America Rising’s Tim Miller and the President of American Bridge, Brad Woodhouse. Then Chuck will interview NBC’s Richard Engel and former Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN) about US-Russia relations. All that plus a packed data bank and Chuck’s Tuesday Takeaway.

*** Tuesday’s “Jansing & Co.” line-up: Today’s guests include former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, United Methodist Chuck bishop Minerva Carcano, the Center for American Progress’ Aisha Moodie-Mills, former DOJ spokesman Matthew Miller, Sherrilyn Ifill of the University of Maryland Law School, and Hector Barreto of the Latino Coalition.