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First Read's Morning Clips

A roundup of the day's most important political stories

OBAMA AGENDA: Overhauling the NSA meta-data program?

The New York Times reports on some of the details of the Obama administration's legislative proposal to overhaul the NSA phone records program. Under the plan, "the N.S.A. would end its systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. The bulk records would stay in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would. And the N.S.A. could obtain specific records only with permission from a judge, using a new kind of court order."

The Supreme Court case on religious exemptions to Obamacare is turning typical ideological roles upside-down, writes the Wall Street Journal. "The legal doctrine conservatives are citing to limit government burdens on religious expression was written by the Supreme Court's liberal champion, the late Justice William Brennan. The jurist who rolled it back in the early 1990s was Justice Antonin Scalia, a contemporary conservative icon."

The Washington Post pens this op-ed as the court prepares to take up the Hobby Lobby case: "Not every American of every creed will be comfortable with reasonable, general rules that extend across the marketplace — requiring vaccinations, say, or prohibiting discrimination against women in the workplace. But it’s not feasible for a corporation to easily opt out of any generally beneficial law that happens to offend its owners."

Irin Carmon of previews the case here.

NBC's Chuck Todd gets an inside look at how world leaders participated in a real time war game in the Hague, complete with mock intelligence assessments and a hypothetical nuclear crisis.

Cocktail waitresses and bus tours: The New York Times delves into how insurers are pushing to maximize new coverage signups before the March 31 deadline.

Some states are planning to give consumers leeway to finish the health care sign-up process even after the deadline at the end of the month, writes the Wall Street Journal.


Senate advances Ukraine aid packageThe Senate advanced a U.S. aid package to Ukraine Monday evening, but many Republicans are still objecting to its included reforms of the International Monetary Fund, keeping a final deal out of reach for now.

NBC News: "House Republican leadership aides are bristling at accusations made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Monday that Republican opposition to provisions in the Senate Ukraine aid package may have emboldened Russia to annex Crimea."

The House Intelligence Committee is also poised to unveil its own proposal to address NSA phone records, the Wall Street Journal reports. "The proposals from the Obama administration and the House Intelligence Committee are strikingly similar, except the White House would prefer to have a judge approve each data search before as opposed to after the fact, officials said."

"An independent congressional ethics board found ‘substantial reason’ to believe Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), the fourth-ranking House Republican, improperly used official funds for campaign activities," writes The Hill.

And NBC's Frank Thorp notes that the Office of Congressional Ethics says that Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., may have violated House rules and federal law by taking more than the legal amount of outside income in 2013.

OFF TO THE RACES: No more Newts for Sheldon Adelson?

The Washington Post's Matea Gold and Philip Rucker report that billionaire Sheldon Adelson is changing his strategy to help elect a more mainstream Republican presidential nominee. "In 2012, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson spent so much of their money on long-shot candidate Newt Gingrich that they helped extend an ugly intra-party fight that left the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney, severely bruised by the time he faced President Obama in the general election. This time, the Adelsons are plotting their investments based not on personal loyalty, but on a much more strategic aim: to help select a Republican nominee they believe will have broad appeal to an increasingly diverse national electorate."

The New York Times profiles one-time Clinton foe David Brock, who's slated to deliver a speech Tuesday about "Countering the Culture of Clinton Hating" at the University of Arkansas. "Mr. Brock has apologized publicly for his early attacks on the Clintons, suggesting he was a naïve young conservative pressured by the movement’s leadership to participate in what he calls the politics of personal destruction. But people close to Mr. Brock have said his ultimate act of penance would be to help get Mrs. Clinton elected president. He serves as an adviser to Ready for Hillary, a political action committee focused on grass-roots outreach, and is on the board of Priorities USA, the big-money fund-raising vehicle devoted to a Clinton candidacy."

The Washington Post writes that former Florida governor Jeb Bush "has not formally begun to consider a presidential campaign but plans to decide no later than early 2015."

The Star-Ledger isn’t buying the results of an internal review of Bridgegate by lawyers for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, labeling it “baloney” in an op-ed.

KENTUCKY: Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes is test-driving a new line of attack against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling him "Yesterday's Senator."

MICHIGAN: The Lansing State Journal reports: "Gov. Rick Snyder is sidestepping questions in the wake of Friday's federal court ruling declaring Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, refusing to say whether the state will recognize about 300 marriages performed Saturday before an appeals court stayed the ruling or even whether he supports Attorney General Bill Schuette’s decision to appeal the case."

MISSISSIPPI: NBC's Kasie Hunt and Ben Mayer hit the road to cover the primary between Republican Sen. Thad Cochran and challenger Chris McDaniel. McDaniel, they write, "surprised a state that's accustomed to respecting its elders by dispensing with deference and challenging Cochran in the Republican primary for the seat he's held for 36 years. McDaniel's not-so-subtle suggestion is that Cochran is too old — in age and in way of thinking — to continue representing Mississippi." More: "I don't know," McDaniel said when asked if the senior senator was ready for a difficult primary fight. "I mean, I hope so. I pray good health on him."

NEW HAMPSHIRE: New Hampshire Senate contender Scott Brown gave a big rhetorical bouquet of flowers to Democratic oppo researchers with this quote-of-the-day Monday: "Do I have the best credentials? Probably not. 'Cause, you know, whatever. But I have long and strong ties to this state," he told The Associated Press. "People know."

And Vice President Joe Biden visits the Granite State Tuesday for a job training event and a fundraising swing for three Democratic candidates.


*** Tuesday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: NBC’s Luke Russert interviews Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), American University’s Steve Wermiel, Robert Hager, Eunice Yoon, NBC’s Justice Correspondent Pete Williams, Miguel Almaguer, and Chuck Todd.

*** Tuesday’s “Jansing & Co.” line-up: Chris Jansing interviews Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Cornell Law School Professor Michael Dorf, Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel, Vox Media’s Sarah Kliff, MSNBC News Aviation Analyst John Cox, Reuters Investigative Reporter David Rohde, GOP Pollster Chris Wilson, and Political Analyst & Contributor Zerlina Maxwell.

*** Tuesday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Tamron Hall interviewsJudy Waxman, VP for health and reproductive rights at the National Women’s Law Center, and Steven Shapiro, legal director for the ACLU.

*** Tuesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Sen. Patty Murray, Hobby Lobby co-counsel Mark Rienzi, NBC’s Pete Williams, Chuck Todd, Richard Engel and Tom Costello, USA Today’s Susan Page and the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza.

*** Tuesday’s “The Reid Report” line-up: MSNBC’s Joy Reid interviews pilot and air-disaster attorney Robert Hedrick, Huffington Post political reporter Laura Bassett, Lori Windham - the Senior Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the New York Times’ Elizabeth Rosenthal, and Dr. Corey Hebert - Professor LSU Health Sciences Center.