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Congress: Sequester stalemate

“With 19 days to go, the sequester standoff hardened Sunday. Congressional leaders from both parties said the deep automatic spending cuts must be prevented from taking effect, but Republicans drew a line in the sand against making tax increases part of any stopgap alternative, and Democrats did the same in vowing to protect entitlements and social programs,” Roll Call writes.

Lindsey Graham still wants more questions answered on Benghazi, and he’s threatening to hold President Obama’s nominations to head the Pentagon and CIA to get them. Per the New York Times, “Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a vocal critic of the administration’s handling of the attack, said he would use a Senate custom known as a hold to stall the nominations of John O. Brennan as C.I.A. director and former Senator Chuck Hagel as Pentagon chief until the White House gave him a full description of Mr. Obama’s actions during the attack on Sept. 11. ‘What did he do that night?’ Mr. Graham asked during an appearance on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation,’ suggesting that the president could have intervened to manage the crisis personally.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is out with a memo charging that “Tea Party House Republicans” are out of step on guns. “On the eve of a major grassroots push in favor of gun violence prevention, it’s clear that Tea Party House Republicans will maintain their out-of-touch approach and obstruct sensible reforms to reduce gun violence that most Americans support – undermining their party’s appeal, hurting their candidates and endangering suburban Republican seats.”

“Marco Rubio is taking center stage as Republicans search for a new leader,” the AP writes. “In the nearly 100 days since President Barack Obama won a second term, the Florida senator has made calculated, concrete steps to emerge as a next-generation leader of a rudderless party, put a 21st-century stamp on the conservative movement and potentially position himself for a presidential run.”

More: In his State of the Union response, “Rubio advisers say his rebuttal will offer economic prescriptions for a sluggish economy and try to counter what they call Obama’s government-centered economic approach.”

“Some individuals in the tea party movement will try anything to undermine Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, even going so far as to question the Republican’s tenacity in bringing money back to Kentucky,” Roll Call writes. “It’s an unusual stance for a conservative movement best known for opposing federal spending on just about everything. But McConnell has long been a target of anti-establishment conservatives, and their latest attack on his failure to secure funding for a deteriorating bridge over the Ohio River would seem to bring them closer to President Barack Obama’s position on federal infrastructure spending.”

Alan Grayson, now in a safe congressional district, Grayson told Roll Call “the House historian informed him the victory, a 43-point swing from his 2010 loss, was the biggest comeback in history of the House. His lesson from the experience is to press on, full steam ahead.”