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Congress: Flexibility

“Republicans controlling the House moved Monday to ease a crunch in Pentagon readiness while limiting the pain felt by such agencies as the FBI and the Border Patrol from the across-the-board spending cuts that are just starting to take effect,” the AP writes. “The effort is part of a huge spending measure that would fund day-to-day federal operations through September — and head off a potential government shutdown later this month. The measure would leave in place automatic cuts of 5 percent to domestic agencies and 7.8 percent to the Pentagon ordered by President Barack Obama Friday night after months of battling with Republicans over the budget. But the House Republicans' legislation would award the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments their detailed 2013 budgets, giving those agencies more flexibility on where money is spent, while other agencies would be frozen at 2012 levels — and then bear the across-the-board cuts.”

Roll Call: “House appropriators are proposing a final fiscal 2013 spending package that would effectively cap federal operating expenses at $982 billion, while giving military and veterans programs new flexibility to cushion the effects of the sequester’s automatic cuts. The House is expected to vote Thursday on the measure (HR 933) unveiled Monday, which combines Defense and Military Construction-VA bills with a stopgap continuing resolution covering most of the rest of the federal agencies. That will give military and veterans programs greater ability to move around the funds that are provided, although it doesn’t protect them from the cuts through the sequester.”

Menendez watch: NBC’s Kasie Hunt reports: Sen. Robert Menendez on Monday again denied allegations that he patronized prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. He made the comments in light of a Washington Post report saying an escort who claimed the New Jersey Democrat paid her for sex has told Dominican police she was paid to make accusations. "I've always said that these are all false, they're smears, and so I look forward to seeing whatever the Dominican courts have to prove what I said all along," Menendez told reporters in the Capitol.

Hunt also reports that two Republican senators central to the push for immigration reform -- Marco Rubio and John McCain -- said separately Monday that they don't share former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's position that a comprehensive immigration plan should move forward without a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. "We are proceeding on the principle that once we have effective control of the border that that would establish the path to citizenship," McCain told reporters. Asked if he would support a bill that didn't include such a path, McCain said: "It's not that I couldn't. It just would go nowhere."

Rubio told reporters he is sticking by the principles he laid out with the so-called Gang of 8 senators who are working on the broader bill. Key among them: immediate legal status, followed by a path to citizenship that opens after the southern border has been secured. "After weighing both sides of it just kind of concluded - that every country that's done this, that's had millions of people living within it that are permanently barred from applying for citizenship, it hasn't worked out really well for them," Rubio said. "I have my principles."

NBC’s Mike Viqueira reports that ahead of the committee vote on John Brennan's nomination for director of the CIA today, the three amigos -- Sens. McCain, Graham, and Ayotte -- have released their primer on Benghazi, including their version of a timeline and what they regard as unanswered questions. The full Senate is expected to take it up on Wednesday or Thursday. Graham had said he and McCain are “hell bent” on getting answers on Benghazi and using the Brennan nomination as leverage.