One-Upping Arkansas: Associated Press: "The North Dakota Senate on Friday approved banning abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, sending what would be the most stringent abortion restrictions in the U.S. to the state's Republican governor for his signature. The measure would ban most abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, something that can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The House already approved the measure. Gov. Jack Dalrymple generally opposes abortion but has not said whether he will sign the bill into law. It's one of several anti-abortion measures the state Legislature has weighed this session. The vote came with almost no debate in the Senate and after the same chamber approved another measure that would make North Dakota the first to ban abortions based on genetic defects such as Down syndrome."
A Shift in Power? Washington Post: "Scholars who study social movements ... tend to divide the [anti-abortion movement] into two factions. There are those who see Roe as the law of the land, and try to work within the confines of the Supreme Court decision. ... The other faction tends to be more aggressive; they don’t accept the Roe v. Wade decision as law and don’t use it as a framework for passing legislation. They tend to be more ideological and less pragmatic, thinking about the best ways to restrict abortion regardless of whether they’ll be upheld by the Supreme Court. ... The more aggressive wing of the antiabortion movement up until now, has had difficulty gaining traction with it’s 'all-or-nothing' approach. ... In 2013, however, they appear to be taking hold."
Maryland Set to Abolish Death Penalty: Associated Press: "Maryland lawmakers approved a measure abolishing the death penalty on Friday, and the bill is expected to be signed by the Democratic governor who has long pushed for banning capital punishment in the state. If the measure is signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley, it will make Maryland the 18th state in the nation to do away with the death penalty. ... The House advanced the legislation this week after delegates rejected nearly 20 amendments, mostly from Republicans, aimed at keeping capital punishment for the most heinous crimes. If passed, life without the possibility of parole would be the most severe sentence in the state."
But Not a Done Deal Just Yet: Baltimore Sun: "While opponents of capital punishment celebrated the vote, the legislation's passage in Annapolis will not necessarily be final. Death penalty supporters could still petition the repeal bill to a referendum in the 2014 election, giving Maryland voters the final say. Polls show the death penalty still has the support of a narrow majority of voters. Five men, all murderers, remain on death row in Maryland for crimes that date back as far as 1983. While the law does not directly affect their fate, it appears likely they will either have their sentences commuted to life without parole or that the state will simply abandon efforts to rewrite its rules for executions, which were invalidated by the Court of Appeals seven years ago."
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What's the Opposite of a Victory Lap?: Washington Post: "Mitt Romney made a wistful but triumphant return to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, receiving standing ovations from the audience as he expressed optimism about the Republican Party’s future and vowed to work with conservatives to achieve 'larger victories' after failing to win last year’s presidential election. 'Of course I left the race disappointed that I didn’t win, but I also left honored and humbled to have represented the values we believe in,' the 2012 GOP presidential nominee told the conference in a 16-minute speech. 'We’ve lost races before in the past, but those setbacks prepared us for larger victories.'"
Notable Omissions: Politico: "Romney name checked nine of the 30 Republican governors, including Virginia’s Bob McDonnell and New Jersey’s Chris Christie – both of whom weren’t invited to CPAC in a much-criticized decision. Tellingly, only two of the governors he praised for offering the way forward to a majority are speaking at the three-day confab at a Maryland resort outside Washington – South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who introduced him, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. ... Romney also tipped his hat to his former running mate, who raised eyebrows earlier in the day by omitting any talk of the 2012 campaign from his own speech. ... Bobby Jindal was notably absent from the list of governors he praised. The Louisiana governor, who backed Rick Perry in the primaries, blasted Romney shortly after the election for saying Obama won because he gave 'gifts' to his base. Jindal spoke only one hour after Romney. Last year at this conference, Romney used the word conservative 25 times in his 26-minute speech – including calling himself “a severely conservative governor.” This year he used it just three times in 15 minutes, according to the prepared text."
Also On Stage at CPAC: Washington Post: "NRA head Wayne LaPierre offered another fiery critique of Congress’s actions on gun control Friday, suggesting universal background checks and a federal gun registry are only meant to tax guns and confiscate them. LaPierre got one of his biggest applause lines at the Conservative Political Action Conference, though, when he turned to the matter of self-defense, suggesting that a gun is the best defense against a 'violent rapist.' 'The one thing a violent rapist deserves to face is a good woman with a gun,' he said."
Speaking of Gun Control: New York Times: "For months, as gun control advocates and gun rights groups have held competing rallies, senators have debated and President Obama has implored Congress to act, one key player, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, has remained largely on the sidelines of the national debate over guns. Now that the debate has moved to the Senate floor, the spotlight returns to Mr. Reid. Mr. Reid, the majority leader, who for years proudly curried favor with the National Rifle Association, will now be forced to weigh the relative merits and political implications of four new gun safety measures that have cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee. How the bills are presented to the full Senate — and which ones Mr. Reid chooses to promote personally — will probably reshape the debate over what, if anything, should be done legislatively to address gun violence, one that for a decade has largely been controlled by the N.R.A."
A Step Backward? Washington Post: "The Obama administration is leaning toward revising its landmark proposal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants, according to several individuals briefed on the matter, a move that would delay tougher restrictions and could anger many environmentalists. The discussions center on the first-ever greenhouse gas regulations for power plants, which were proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency nearly a year ago. Rewriting the proposal would significantly delay any action, and might allow the agency to set a separate standard for coal-fired power plants, which are roughly twice as polluting as those fueled by natural gas. While the move could bolster the administration’s legal justification for regulating power plants’ carbon emissions, any retreat on the rules would be a blow to environmental groups and their supporters, who constituted a crucial voting block for President Obama and other Democrats in last year’s elections."
Keys Update: Politico: "Reuters has suspended deputy social media editor Matthew Keys, after he was charged Thursday in a federal indictment for allegedly conspiring with members of the hacker group 'Anonymous,' POLITICO has learned. Keys has been suspended, with pay, a Thomson Reuters spokesperson told POLITICO."
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This post has been updated with additional information.