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First Thoughts: Bloomberg pushes for background checks

Bloomberg TV ad campaign pushes for background checks… Gay marriage to take center stage at Supreme Court… OFA begins effort on immigration reform… Schumer in the spotlight… Kerry arrives in Afghanistan… And Senate Madness: Let the first round begin!!!!

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at the opening of Intergate.Manhattan, a data center owned and developed by Sabey Data Center Properties, on March 20, 2013 in New York.

 *** Bloomberg pushes for background checks: As New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on “Meet the Press” over the weekend, his organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns is beginning a $12 million TV advertising blitz pushing for Congress to pass universal background checks, which the Senate will consider next month. The ads, which will run in 13 states like Arizona, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, go: “Tell Congress -- don’t protect criminals, vote to protect gun rights and our families with comprehensive background checks.” Bloomberg justified the advertising campaign to NBC’s David Gregory. “If 90% of the public want something, and their representatives vote against that, common sense says, they are going to have a price to pay for that,” he said. “That's what democracy is all about. And all we're trying to do is to tell them what people are doing in Congress, who's voting for what. And then they can make their own decisions.” The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre responded to Bloomberg’s push, telling Gregory: “He's going to find out this is a country of the people, by the people, and for the people. And he can't spend enough of his $27 billion to try to impose his will on the American public. They don't want him in their restaurants, they don't want him in their homes. They don't want him telling them what food to eat; they sure don't want him telling them what self-defense firearms to own. And he can't buy America.”

NBC's Domenico Montanaro explains how Congress plans to proceed on both these issues.

*** Gay marriage to take center stage: However, the biggest political story this week will be the oral arguments in the gay-marriage cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Washington Post: “Two cases — Tuesday’s involves California’s ban on such unions, Wednesday’s concerns Congress’s decision to withhold federal recognition of legally married same-sex couples — offer the justices an unusually wide range of options. A broad constitutional ruling is one possibility, but so is a finding that the cases are not ripe for decision.” On “Meet the Press” yesterday, lawyer David Boies, who is arguing for gay marriage before the court, predicted victory. “What I've said is I think we're going to win. I don't think we're going to win 5-4. I think this is a basic civil-rights issue. I don't think that this is the kind of issue that's going to divide the Court the way some other issues divide the Court.” Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times notes that Chief Justice John Roberts’ cousin -- a lesbian from California looking to marry her partner -- will attend the oral arguments on Tuesday. 

*** OFA begins campaign on immigration reform: The New York Times reports -- and First Read confirms -- that the pro-Obama group Organizing for Action “will jump into the immigration debate this week with an aggressive online effort to highlight the personal stories of immigrants. The group has collected 7,000 stories from supporters, some of whom entered the country illegally or were brought as young children by their parents. Organizers say they will distribute the stories using Twitter, Facebook and blogs beginning this week.” Speaking of immigration, President Obama delivers remarks at a White House naturalization ceremony for active duty military members and civilians at 11:30 am ET. 

*** Schumer in the spotlight: We’ve made this point before, but if Congress passes gun and immigration reform measures this year, the senator who will receive much of the credit -- and will draw legislative comparisons to the late Ted Kennedy -- will be New York Sen. Chuck Schumer. And Roll Call shines this same spotlight on Schumer. “Schumer, the No. 3 Democratic leader, has inserted himself into the middle of two of the president’s top policy priorities and his success could help cement his status as leader-in-waiting, when or if Reid decides to step down. Schumer is known for his campaign savvy and fundraising prowess, but not as much for his policy chops. His legislative history is long and varied, but mostly filled with parochial wins, such as his recent effort to secure $50 billion in disaster relief for the Northeast after Superstorm Sandy.”

*** Kerry arrives in Afghanistan: Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan. And according to NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who is traveling with the nation’s top diplomat, Kerry will meet with President Karzai. Senior officials say Kerry knows Karzai well, and they believe he can get past the difficulty over Karzai’s recent anti-American rhetoric. Before arriving in Afghanistan, Kerry visited Iraq, where he confronted Prime Minister Maliki, accusing him of colluding with Iran to prop up the Assad regime by permitting almost daily weapons shipments from Iran to Syria through Iraq's airspace, Mitchell adds.

*** Senate Madness -- let the first round begin: With your NCAA tournament brackets likely busted after the first two rounds of play, now’s your chance to participate in First Read’s Senate Madness game pitting history’s most consequential senators against one another. Check to see which senators made our list of 64 and which ones didn’t. Here are today’s first-round match ups: In the 19th Century bracket, #1 seed Daniel Webster vs. #16 seed Albert Beveridge (“The Great Orator vs. the Indiana Progressive”), and #8 William Seward vs. #9 John Sherman (The Abolitionist vs. The Sherminator)… In the 20th Century bracket, #1 seed Lyndon Johnson vs. #16 Russell Long (The Master of the Senate vs. the Tax Expert), and #8 Hugo Black vs. #9 Robert Wagner (The Justice vs. The Great New Dealer) … In the Modern Era, #1 seed Ted Kennedy vs. #16 Lloyd Bentsen (The Last Lion vs. The South Texan), and #8 Robert Byrd vs. #9 Tom Daschle (The Longest-Serving Senator vs. Mr. Leader)… And in the Mixed Era, it’s #1 Henry Clay vs. #16 Claiborne Pell (The Great Compromiser vs. The Father of the Pell Grant), and #8 Harry Byrd vs. #9 Sam Ervin. Tomorrow, we’ll unveil our other first-round match ups. 

Click here to vote in our first round: One vs. Sixteen seeds

Click here to vote in our first round: Eight vs. Nine seeds

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