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Victoria Jones created and edits Quick Morning News. She is chief White House correspondent with Washington DC-based Talk Media News, where her insight and analysis are made available to over 400 news talk radio stations around the country and internationally.
 

Happy St Patrick’s Day! 
 
Quick News
  • SCOTUS: Obama sacrifices Merrick Garland
  • Garland: A quick look
  • Trump: GOP blocks him? “You’d have riots”
  • Clinton: “Insurmountable lead?”
  • Trump presidency: Top-10 global risk – experts
  • Cuba: The Americans are coming
  • Spat! House Benghazi committee erupts
  • House budget panel approves – – – budget
 
SCOTUS: Obama Sacrifices Merrick Garland (AP, NYT, me)
• Ignoring Republican presidential threats, President Obama nominated appeals court judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Obama cast the 63-year-old Garland as a “serious man and an exemplary judge” deserving of a full hearing and a Senate nomination vote, despite GOP vows to deny him both (and beat him “like a pinata”)
 
• Standing in the Rose Garden with Garland, Obama argued the integrity of the court was at stake and appealed to the Senate to “play it straight” in filling the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. “It’s supposed to be above politics,” Obama said of the high court. “It has to be.” (howls of laughter could be heard from GOP Senate offices down Pennsylvania Ave)
 
• Republican leaders held to their refusal to consider any nominee, saying the seat should be filled by the next president after this year’s election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) spoke with Garland by phone. A spox said McConnell wouldn’t be holding “a perfunctory meeting but he wished Judge Garland well.” (well gone)
 
• Garland was to talk by phone to Senate Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and four other GOP senators – Jeff Flake (Ariz), Susan Collins (Maine), James Inhofe (Okla) and Kelly Ayotte (NH), also said they would meet with him. The judge will visit senators today at the Capitol – before the Senate breaks for a two-week recess
 
• Garland is the chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a court whose influence over federal policy and national security matters has made it a proving ground for potential justices

 

• Black women’s groups said Wednesday they feel President Obama rejected them by choosing someone other than a black woman as his newest nominee, particularly considering they’ve had the highest turnout among all racial and ethnic groups in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections – they had hoped for a black woman
 
Garland: A Quick Look
• A graduate of Harvard and Harvard Law, Garland has clerked for Justice William Brennan and Judge Henry Friendly, for whom Chief Justice John Roberts also clerked. As a federal prosecutor, he made his reputation overseeing the investigation and prosecutions in the Oklahoma City bombing case, as well as the case against Unabomber Ted Kaczynski
 
• Garland would undoubtedly shift the court away from its conservative tilt. He would be expected to align with the more liberal members on environmental regulation, labor disputes and campaign finance. But he’s not viewed as a down-the-line liberal (he’s said to be a “really nice man”)
 
• Particularly on criminal defense and national security cases, he’s earned a reputation as a centrist with a law-and-order streak, siding more often with prosecutors. Liberal groups have pointed to early decisions favoring the govt in disputes over the legal rights of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. NRA is freaking out (hardly newsworthy)
 
• In emotional remarks in the Rose Garden, he choked back tears, calling the nomination “the greatest honor of my life.” He described his grandparents’ flight from anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe and his modest upbringing. He said he viewed a judge’s job as a mandate to set aside personal preferences and “follow the law, not make it.”
 
• He waited 2 1/2 years to win confirmation to the appeals court – blocked by Grassley, who relented but didn’t vote for him, though 32 Republicans did. Seven are still in the Senate: Orrin Hatch (Utah), Dan Coats (Ind), Thad Cochran (Miss), Susan Collins (Maine), Jim Inhofe (Okla), John McCain (Ariz) and Pat Roberts (Kansas) (spotlight will be on them…)

 

• Game on. More than 100 protest rallies have been scheduled in key electoral states like New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa. TV ads are being scripted. Twitter and Facebook campaigns are rolling out and email blasts are filling up inboxes. Advocacy groups from the left and right are now engaged in battle over Garland’s nomination
 
Trump: GOP Blocks Him? “You’d Have Riots” (AP, AP, Politico, Politico, me)
• After more victories for Donald Trump Tuesday, Republican leaders spent Wednesday wavering between grudging acceptance and deep denial (panic) about his likely ascent to the GOP presidential nomination. An emboldened Trump warned that if they party tried to block him in a rules fight, “You’d have riots.” (which he wouldn’t foment, of course)
 
• Trump is now the only candidate with a path to clinching the GOP nomination before the party’s convention in July. Even so, with his latest wins, he’s won 47% of delegates so far. He’ll need to win 54% of remaining delegates to clinch the nomination before the convention, according to the AP delegate count
 
• There was no rush among party leaders or donors to embrace Ted Cruz (who has alienated the Senate), the only candidate in the race with even a long shot chance of overtaking Trump in the delegate count. A small group of conservatives moved forward with plans to meet today to discuss rallying behind a third-party option, but no candidate had been identified to lead the effort
 
• Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) floated his successor Paul Ryan (R-Wis) as the nominee in the event of a convention fight. But Ryan quickly took himself out of the mix, saying through a spox that he would “not accept a nomination and believes our nominee should be someone who ran this year.” (he’s third in line, anyway)
 
• During calls to morning TV shows, Trump said some of the same Republican senators who publicly criticize him have called him privately to say they want to “become involved” in his campaign eventually – (no names mentioned). He picked up an endorsement Wed from Gov Rick Scott (R-Fla)

• Trump effectively killed the next GOP debate scheduled for Monday in Utah, saying “we’ve had enough debates.” (interesting – would have been almost one-on-one with Cruz). After Gov John Kasich (R-Ohio) said he wouldn’t debate without Trump on stage, host Fox News scrapped the event

 

Clinton: “Insurmountable Lead?” (AP, AP, me)
• Meanwhile, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton set her sights on a November showdown with Trump. Her sweep of Tuesday’s five primary contests was a harsh blow to rival Bernie Sanders, giving Clinton what her campaign manager described as an “insurmountable lead” in the delegate count
 

• Sanders, unbowed by Clinton’s lead, emailed supporters that his rival has hit her high-water mark and “the map now shifts dramatically in our favor.” He listed Arizona, Idaho, Utah, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington state and Wisconsin as states he could win (maybe, but not large delegate counts – good for momentum, though)
 

• Clinton aides argue that a Trump-Sanders-Clinton competition in the next weeks could set up a power contrast for Clinton, elevating her as an experienced potential commander in chief. But some Clinton backers worry she could be attacked for actually being experienced, as well as over her trade policy, Wall Street ties and funding from outside groups
 
• Her team attributed Clinton’s win in Ohio to a more forceful economic message. Still, exit polls showed that Sanders’ attacks had some impact. Voters in Illinois and Missouri who said trade takes jobs from Americans tended to back Sanders; those who considered trade beneficial generally supported Clinton
 
• Supporters hope to offset losses among working class voters with moderate Republicans, turned off by Trump’s divisive rhetoric. “Trump will get a lot of Reagan Democrats,” said former Gov Ed Rendell (D-Pa). “But for every Reagan Democrat he gets, we will get a suburban Republican.” (will they? will be interesting. dislike of clinton runs deep among many republicans)

 

 
• Had to happen – A new Donald Trump online attack ad which targets Hillary Clinton features Russian President Putin being tough and performing martial arts, then Clinton barking like a dog, and suggests she’s not tough enough to be commander in chief (quite funny – worth a look)
 

Trump Presidency: Top-10 Global Risk (Politico, me)

• A Donald Trump presidency poses a top-10 risk event that could disrupt the world economy, lead to political chaos in the U.S. and heighten security risks for the U.S., according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. It could also start a trade war with China, hurt trade with Mexico and be a godsend to terrorist recruiters in the Middle East, EIU forecasts say (that all?)
 

• The well-respected global economic and geopolitical analysis firm put a possible Trump presidency in its top 10 global risks this month, out Wednesday. Other top 10 risks include a sharp slowdown in the Chinese economy, a fracture of the Eurozone and Britain’s possible departure from the European Union
 

• Trump’s controversial remarks on Muslims would be a gift to “potential recruiters who have long been trying to paint the U.S. as an anti-Muslim country. His rhetoric will certainly help their recruiting effort,” said Robert Powell, global risk briefing manager at EIU. It’s the first time the pending election of a candidate has made it to the top 10 (another first for trump!)
 

• “Innate hostility within the Republican hierarchy towards Mr Trump, combined with the inevitable virulent Democratic opposition, will see many of his more radical policies blocked in Congress,” wrote EIU. But “such internal bickering will also undermine the coherence of domestic and foreign policymaking.”  (chaos in DC, in other words)
 

• Trump has vowed to seize Syria’s oil fields and refineries, which help keep ISIS afloat, and then sell the oil to pay for a U.S. military campaign using as many as 30,000 troops and costing $25 billion. But Powell said that at current oil prices, if the U.S. actually stole the oil, it would only net about $500 million, at most (will anyone raise that with trump, I wonder)

 
• The State Dept won’t meet a legal deadline of today to decide whether or not ISIS’s violence against minority groups, such as Christians and Yazidis, amounts to genocide. The announcement follows a unanimous vote in the House Monday putting pressure on the admin to call the brutality genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity (Hill)

 

Cuba: The Americans Are Coming (Reuters, WaPo, me)
• President Obama plans to lay out his vision for U.S.-Cuban relations in a “speech to the Cuban people” on Tuesday in Havana that would be broadcast throughout the island, but deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes on Tuesday couldn’t confirm whether the event would actually be carried by Cuba’s state-run media. “We’ll see how that transpires.” (we shall)
 
• Obama, who will be the first U.S. president to visit Cuba in 88 years, arrives on Sunday and holds talks on Monday with Cuban President Raul Castro (Fidel is not supposed to show up), followed by what Rhodes described as a joint “press event” and a state dinner. Obama travels to Cuba with the first family
 
• Obama’s meeting with Cuban dissidents on Tuesday will include prominent activists of his own choosing, Rhodes said. Despite Cuban leaders’ view of such meetings as interference in the island’s internal affairs, “if there are any impediments to that meeting, we would be very clear about this,” Rhodes said (and do what exactly?)
 
• Obama will arrive just days after unveiling sweeping new measures to make it far easier for Americans to visit Cuba and for the island’s govt to conduct international trade. One of Obama’s goals for the trip is to press the Cuban govt to move more quickly to take advantage of trade and other openings he has brought through regulatory changes in U.S. law
 
• Obama will be accompanied by three Cabinet secretaries, at least three dozen members of Congress and a large business delegation. After leaving Cuba, he will spend two days in Argentina. While in Cuba, he will attend a U.S.-Cuba baseball game – no plans to throw out the first pitch (if everything falls into place, I’ll be going to Cuba)

 

• The House Benghazi Committee on Wednesday night erupted in a partisan spat after chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC) sharply restricted the ability of Democrats to access witness transcripts and accused the minority party of planning to release them prematurely – a threat Gowdy says would cripple his probe (his being the optimal word there? – Dems are spitting livid)
 
• “Republicans are writing a secret, partisan report that they plan to make public shortly before the election – and they are violating House Rules in order to try to silence Democrats from putting out the facts before then,” an outraged Rep Elijah Cummings (D-Md), the committee’s ranking member, fumed in a statement
 
• Earlier, in a Wed letter, Gowdy told committee Democrats that he would allow them to read the transcripts of recent witness testimony during business hours (oooh lot of trust there – very high school principalish). But Democrats would no longer be able to take custody of the material unless they promised not to release them until after the panel publicizes its findings
 
• “Democrats on the Select Committee will not agree to conditions that prevent us from putting out the facts that witnesses have told the Committee in order to rebut the conspiracy theories about Benghazi,” Cummings thundered in a statement
 
• Gowdy says he checked with the House parliamentarian before acting and was told he was within his rights as panel chair. Democrats say the change goes against House Rules that require Democratic members and staff to “be accorded equitable treatment with respect to … the accessibility of committee records.”

 

House Budget Panel Approves – – – Budget (Hill, me)
• Yup, it’s going to the House floor – and then who knows. The House Budget Committee approved a fiscal 2017 budget resolution by a 20-16 vote Wednesday. The budget provides $1.07 trillion in discretionary spending for fiscal 2017 and proposes deep cuts to non-defense discretionary and entitlement programs in the year ahead
 
• But many conservatives oppose the budget, saying it calls for too much spending, and some GOP lawmakers who supported the bill in committee have said they did so as a favor to leadership but would oppose it on the floor (ouch)
 
• The budget could see floor action next week if leadership can round up the votes (if) but doing so could be tough. House Freedom Caucus members Reps Dave Brat (R-Va) and Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind) joined all Democrats in voting against the budget
 
• Before the budget was approved, the committee adopted an amendment from Rep Scott Garrett (R-NJ) to urge House leaders to attach a separate deficit reduction measure to other must-pass legislation if the House doesn’t take up the $30 billion savings package
 
• The budget was approved after a marathon nine-hour markup during which committee Democrats offered 29 amendments, ranging from Flint aid to community service compensating, all of which were rejected
 
• Watch live! “The President” and “The First Lady” are up a Tulip Poplar tree in the National Arboretum! It’s baby bald eagle watch in Washington DC. A live webcam fixed on a bald eagle nest 24 hours a day is hoping to catch a bald eagle hatching. The President and The First Lady are a mated pair and the chick was due on Tuesday – so keep checking in for the eggy action

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Victoria Jones – Editor