Take a quick trip Inside Politics and see the stories setting the stage in Washington today:
Obama to Propose NSA Shake-up
The big headline Tuesday morning is that President Barack Obama will call for the end of the NSA’s bulk collection of telephone metadata. The White House plan to reform the NSA’s ability to collect phone data and instead rely on phone companies to store it was first reported by The New York Times and confirmed by CNN.
“Until Congress passes new authorizing legislation, the President has directed his administration to renew the current program, as modified substantially by the President in his January speech,” according to a senior administration official.
The president seems to be seeking the end of that policy in a smart political way, by making Congress authorize the change. Don’t forget, the program was initially begun without Congressional approval.
It’s a break in the president’s second-term theme of seeking ways to go around a Congress that he and Democrats feel is myopic in its opposition to his policies.
The President’s proposal would also seem to be something of a turnaround for him and a victory for privacy advocates and even potentially for Edward Snowden. It was just in January that Obama defended the structure of the programs with a high profile speech.
T-Minus Six Days to March Deadline
Obamacare back at the Supreme Court – If you don’t have insurance and you don’t want to pay a fine with your taxes next year, it’s time to log on to healthcare.gov and take a look at your options. Some states, such as Maryland and Minnesota, are moving to give more time to people who start the process but don’t completely finish it by March 31.
Supreme Court justices get health insurance through their employer, the federal government, but they’ll revisit the issue of Obamacare today. At issue is whether the law can force private companies to provide health insurance that includes contraception.
As CNN’s court watcher Bill Mears points out, the companies with arguments before the court include Conestoga Wood Specialties, whose Mennonite owners object to paying for contraceptive drugs, and Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a crafts chain, which objects to the Obamacare provision that requires companies of a certain size to provide insurance coverage for birth control and other reproductive health services without a co-pay.
The basic question: “Can private employers refuse on the claim it violates their religious freedoms?” A decision is expected from the court by June.
Don’t Tread on My Flag – The liberal group Organizing for Action, the direct descendant of President Obama’s campaign arm, has borrowed some symbols from the tea party with new bumper stickers as part of its effort to turn public opinion toward the Affordable Care Act.
One is a riff on the Gadsden flag, that iconic image, precious to the tea party, of a coiled snake on a yellow background with the words “Don’t Tread on Me.”
The effort to enact a national health reform law helped lead to the rise of the modern tea party, so it is a bit odd to see a coiled stethoscope in the place of a snake and the words, “Don’t Tread On My Obamacare.”
2 Stories from Alaska:Condi Rice and Sarah Palin
These actually have nothing to do with each other. But the TV ad for Sarah Palin’s new outdoor sportsmen (and women) reality show puts the former Alaska governor in yet a new light.
“She’s coming with a full heart and a full magazine,” the tagline says.
What Palin isn’t doing is running for office as she evolves further still from policymaker to cultural tastemaker.
There's no Republican woman in political life that seems more different than Palin than Condoleezza Rice.
Rice has taken a stance in Palin's home state of Alaska. The former secretary of state endorsed a mainstream candidate, Republican Dan Sullivan, for the Republican Senate primary in Alaska. Sullivan used to work for Rice and in a video featuring Rice and posted by Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, she speaks in favor of him against a field that includes more tea party-friendly candidates like Joe Miller, who defeated Sen. Lisa Murkowski to win the GOP primary in 2010. Murkowski went on to win that election as an independent.
Rice is becoming more visible in the political world. She spoke recently at the California Republican Party convention. And Wednesday in Washington she is set to headline a fundraiser for the National Republican Campaign Committee.
Michelle Obama Interview with CNN.com
Michelle Obama sat down with CNN iReport to take questions about her trip to China and studying abroad. She recounted a touching story about her opportunity to study abroad while in high school:
“Our sophomore class had an opportunity to spend a week for break in France. And initially I was nervous about taking that week because for one, I didn’t want to ask my father who was a working class guy who didn’t have a lot of money to pay for that trip. It felt like an extravagance and I remember breaking down and in tears, feeling guilty about even asking him if I could go. One of the things I remember my dad saying is that he wanted me to have all the experiences he didn’t have and he didn’t blink an eye in paying for that trip so I got on a plane with some of my classmates. We stayed in a youth hostel, ate cheese crepes and learned a lot… It opened the gates for me to try many, many new things.”
Biden to New Hampshire
Vice President Joe Biden will travel to the Granite State Tuesday for an event highlighting workforce development and job training. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez will join him. But none of the Democrats in New Hampshire's congressional delegation will. That includes Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who is facing a tough potential rival in Republican Scott Brown, who recently moved to New Hampshire from Massachusetts.
Shaheen has the excuse that she's needed in Washington, where she'll chair a subcommittee hearing and also potentially cast votes.
But her absence at Biden's side is a symptom of a larger problem for Democrats, who welcome Biden and President Obama as fundraisers, but have increasingly shied away from appearing with them.
Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan from North Carolina skipped a January opportunity to appear with Obama in her home state. So did Sen. Mary Landrieu, when the President traveled to Louisiana last November.