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Tick, Tock: Associated Press: "[With no] progress to report in efforts to stave off looming government-wide spending cuts, President Barack Obama on Tuesday singled out for praise the few Republicans who say they're open to aspects of his approach, seeking to turn up the heat on GOP leaders ahead of Friday's deadline. Obama rejected a proposal floated by Senate Republicans to give the president more flexibility to pick and choose which programs should be cut to reach the $85 billion over seven months mandated by the so-called sequester. 'There's no smart way to do that,' he said. ... The impact won't be immediate. Federal workers would be notified next week that they will have to take up to a day every week off without pay, but the furloughs won't start for a month due to notification requirements. That will give negotiators some breathing room to keep working on a deal."
That's One Way of Getting People's Attention: New York Times: "In a highly unusual move, federal immigration officials have released hundreds of detainees from immigration detention centers around the country, an effort to save money as automatic budget cuts loom in Washington, officials said Tuesday. The government has not dropped the deportation cases against the immigrants, however. The detainees have been freed on supervised release while their cases continue in court, officials said. But the move angered some Republicans, including Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who said the releases were a political gambit by the Obama administration that undermined the continuing negotiations over comprehensive immigration reform and jeopardized public safety."
That's Another: Politico: "House Speaker John Boehner told Republicans in a closed-door meeting Tuesday that the House doesn’t need to pass a third sequester replacement bill before the 'Senate gets off their ass and passes it once.' It’s a familiar refrain from the Ohio Republican, who has consistently criticized the Senate for failing to act to blunt the sequester. The call for the Senate to move legislation came at a meeting at the Capitol Hill club."
What Comes Next: National Journal: "Congressional leaders are already shifting their focus to the next spending battle after the automatic budget sequester takes effect on Friday—how to keep the government running—but the Democratic strategy on this fight is far from set. House Republicans are gearing up for a bill spearheaded by Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., which would keep the government funded for the rest of the fiscal year at the post-sequester spending levels of $974 billion. That bill is expected to be brought to the House floor as soon as next week. Meanwhile, Senate Democratic leaders are waiting to see what the House can pass and how the votes break down before devising their plans. Although Senate Democratic leaders are engaged in conversations with their House Republican counterparts about the expiring continuing resolution to fund the government, they have not communicated a strategy for handling the CR to the Democratic caucus."
Hagel Back on Track For Confirmation: Washington Post: "Chuck Hagel’s bid to become the next defense secretary cleared a major hurdle Tuesday, beating back a Republican effort to block his nomination almost two weeks after GOP senators launched a filibuster. On a 71 to 27 vote, easily clearing the 60-vote threshold, the former Republican senator is poised for confirmation later Tuesday afternoon, overcoming Republican objections to his views on Middle East security. Eighteen Republicans supported moving to a final vote, joining 53 Democrats. Some of the Republicans who supported ending the Hagel filibuster — including his chief opponents, Sens. John S. McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — are expected to oppose him on the final vote, which will only require a simple majority for his confirmation."
The Slatest: 75 Republicans Sign On to Gay-Marriage Push
Wall Street's Big Bonuses: Chicago Tribune: "Wall Street has been slashing jobs, kicking out traders and bankers as the finance industry shrinks. But those with high-paying jobs are still taking in fat bonuses. The average cash bonus on Wall Street last year rose an estimated 9% to nearly $121,900, according to a report released Tuesday by New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Overall, the New York securities industry is expected to dole out $20 billion in 2012 cash bonuses, up 8% from the previous year. Bonuses for one year are typically paid out in the early months of the following year. New York City has lost 10% of its Wall Street jobs since the financial crisis of 2008 .... Though the financial industry may be shrinking, profits are not. The brokerage operations of the New York Stock Exchange's member firms raked in a collective $23.9 billion in 2012—three times the $7.7 billion they reaped in 2011 and among the most profitable on record."
It Was a Fun Three Months While It Lasted: Washington Post: "Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday fired a rocket into Israel for the first time since a cease-fire reached three months ago ended an Israeli offensive against the militant Islamist group Hamas, police said. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction, claimed responsibility. It called the firing a response to Saturday’s death in custody of a Palestinian who was being interrogated by Israel’s Shin Bet security agency. A Grad rocket landed on a road outside the southern city of Ashkelon, causing damage but no casualties, said Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman. ... The death of the Palestinian prisoner, Arafat Jaradat, has heightened tensions in the West Bank after days of street protests in support of four other Palestinian inmates, who are on extended hunger strikes. Preliminary findings of an Israeli autopsy did not determine a cause of death, but a Palestinian forensic pathologist who attended the examination said it showed that Jaradat had been tortured."
Nuclear Negotiations: Reuters: "Major powers offered Iran limited sanctions relief in return for a halt to the most controversial part of its atomic work during the first day of nuclear talks on Tuesday, and Iran promised to respond with a proposal on the same scale. The talks in Kazakhstan were the first in eight months between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany—the 'P5+1'—on a decade-old dispute that threatens to trigger another war in the Middle East. Iran has used the time since the last meeting in June to further expand activity that the West suspects is aimed at enabling it to build a nuclear bomb, something that Israel has suggested it will prevent by force if diplomacy fails. The two-day negotiations in the city of Almaty follow inconclusive meetings last year in Istanbul, Baghdad and Moscow."
Batting Leadoff: The Hill: "Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has reserved a coveted legislative spot for tax reform — H.R. 1. The designation, confirmed by Boehner's office, sends a message the GOP will press ahead with a rewrite of the tax code despite concerns within the party. H.R. 1 is a slot the party that controls the House generally reserves for a signature issue. ... Saving tax reform as H.R. 1 far from ensures that it will become law this year, or even make its way through the House. But the decision does send a clear signal that the GOP is not backing away from a longstanding goal, even as some of the issue’s most ardent advocates within the party — including Boehner — have acknowledged the difficulties in broadly revamping the code."
The Latest From Italy: Bloomberg: "Italian party chiefs began jockeying to forge a coalition of rivals and head off a second vote as a political vacuum of at least a month loomed, threatening to whipsaw financial markets. In the aftermath of an inconclusive election, Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani and resurgent ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi may be seeking to avoid a ballot that would favor populist Beppe Grillo, whose movement was the top vote-getter in its first national contest. No formal steps can be taken until a new parliament convenes March 15."
A Few More Quick Hits From Slate—
The Slatest: Feds Shut Down Fung Wah "Chinatown" Bus
Brow Beat: Diversity Is Coming to Downton Abbey
Future Tense: Even China Will Have a Carbon Tax Before We Do
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