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Congress: Droning on

Rand Paul: “I have a message from the Tea Party” Paul talked and talked last night and finally ended his filibuster on drones after midnight. Mitch McConnell, who is facing reelection next year in Paul’s state of Kentucky, even joined in. And the NRSC even was raising money off it.

It all ended because he had to finally go the bathroom… “I would go for another 12 hours to try to break Strom Thurmond’s record, but I’ve discovered that there are some limits to filibustering and I’m going to have to go take care of one of those in a few minutes here,” Paul said, per the New York Times. (Maybe Kirk’s team shouldn’t have offered him that thermos of green tea.)

“The House approved a six-month stopgap spending bill Wednesday to keep the government operating past March 27 and shift billions of dollars to military operations to help the Army and Navy cope with automatic spending cuts ordered last week,” David Rogers reports. “The 267-151 vote sends the measure to the Senate, where a bipartisan coalition hopes to expand on the package next week and give other Cabinet departments the same relief promised to the Pentagon.” (Some conservatives are upset, by the way, that the CR doesn’t defund… Obamacare.)

But Roll Call notes: The continuing resolution that will come out of the Senate will almost certainly be a larger and more complicated measure than the stopgap funding measure the House coped with this week. How far Democrats in the Senate hope to take the bill remains an open question, however, with lawmakers trying to balance concerns over the effects of the sequester on federal agencies and spending on major regulatory initiatives with the fundamental need to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year.”

So much for that… ”Sen. Chuck Schumer is ending the bipartisan gun control talks with Sen. Tom Coburn without a deal, a major setback to President Barack Obama’s effort to pass universal background checks,” Politico reports.

“In the absence of a bipartisan deal, Schumer will introduce an updated version of the Fix Guns Checks Act of 2011,” The Hill writes. “It’s similar to the legislation Schumer was discussing with Coburn, Kirk and Manchin, but without the latest modifications, such as improvements to get state records into the background check database.”

And here might be why… “The National Rifle Association and its allies are kicking their lobbying forces into high gear as the Senate heads toward a vote that could remake key pieces of the country’s gun laws,” Politico reports. “The gun lobby is taking its fight to Capitol Hill — stepping up meetings with old friends and trying to make inroads with a handful of swing Democrats in the Senate. They’re also blanketing the airwaves, winding up their grass-roots machines, taking to social media and even, in the NRA’s case — sponsoring a NASCAR race at the Texas Motor Speedway and putting up new TV ads targeting black voters. Their goal: thwart any move by the Senate to pass gun control legislation, with a special focus on universal background checks — an idea that has picked up steam.”

“Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is pressing GOP centrists to accept a budget that would cut Medicare benefits for recipients who are now 56 years old,” The Hill writes. “The House Budget Committee chairman and 2012 GOP vice presidential candidate argues the change is necessary to help him produce a budget next week that balances within 10 years. He also says that the change must be made and that it is better to adopt it now than next year, when Republicans will face voters in the midterm elections. The problem for Ryan is that many Republicans have said his budget would not touch Medicare benefits for anyone who is already 55 years old. Members may have trouble supporting a measure that goes back on that commitment. “

Bloomberg: “While some evangelical leaders have long favored an immigration revision, it’s only now -- in the wake of the 2012 elections that spotlighted Republicans’ weakness with Hispanic voters -- that they are stepping up their activism. It remains a difficult goal, even with a new sense of political urgency among Republicans who warn their party must do better with the fastest growing minority voting bloc. A large swath of the party base opposes loosening immigration rules, and their advocacy group are also engaged in the debate.”