National Journal: “Just four days remain until Friday’s start date for federal spending cuts that were supposed to be too painful to ever let happen, but lawmakers return to Washington on Monday with little hope for an eleventh-hour deal to avert or reshape them—or any let-up in the fighting over who is to blame.”
The New York Daily News: “Billions of dollars in automatic cuts are set to hit government spending this week — and Washington is in full hysteria over who's to blame and just how bad it will really be.”
“President Barack Obama will be meeting with the nation’s governors as they push Congress to avert deep federal spending cuts that begin to take effect Friday,” AP writes. “The state leaders are in Washington for the annual meeting of the National Governors Association. The president, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, are scheduled to address them at the White House.”
Drones? What drones? Robert Gibbs on MSNBC Saturday: “When I went through the process of becoming press secretary, one of the things, one of the first things they told me was, ‘You’re not even to acknowledge the drone program. You’re not even to discuss that it exists.'"
“Chuck Hagel appears poised to finally put his bruising confirmation battle behind him this week — but as soon as it’s over, he’ll immediately face a series of crises at the Pentagon,” Politico writes. “Hagel’s camp is confident he’ll get the required 60 votes when the Senate is expected to consider his nomination again on Tuesday and move ahead to confirmation as the next secretary of defense. But barring a sudden outbreak of comity in Congress, Hagel’s Defense Department and the rest of the federal government will endure the now-infamous automatic, across-the-board budget restrictions of sequestration on Friday. So before he’s even had one week on the job, Hagel could lose more than $40 billion from his budget. Then he’ll lose an additional $6 billion on March 27 under what’s been called the ‘second sequester,’ cuts that go into effect with or without a 2013 budget.”
Obama Treasury nominee Jack Lew is slated for a Senate Finance Committee vote Tuesday and expected to pass.
Reuters: “Cuban President Raul Castro announced on Sunday he will step down from power after his second term ends in 2018, and the new parliament named a 52-year-old rising star to become his first vice president and most visible successor. … In a surprise move, the new parliament also named Miguel Diaz-Canel as first vice president, meaning he would take over if Castro cannot serve his full term. Diaz-Canel is a member of the political bureau who rose through the Communist Party ranks in the provinces to become the most visible possible successor to Castro.”
Here’s the bigger picture: “The new government will almost certainly be the last headed up by the Castro brothers and their generation of leaders who have ruled Cuba since they swept down from the mountains in the 1959 revolution.”