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Congress: Fiscal fatigue

“After last fall's tumultuous, bitterly partisan debt ceiling and government shutdown battles, a sense of fiscal fatigue seems to be setting in among many Washington policymakers as President Barack Obama prepares for his fifth State of the Union address later this month,” the AP writes.

“The Voting Rights Act of 1965 would be modernized under a bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Congress on Thursday in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that gutted a core part of the landmark law,” Reuters writes. “The legislation would provide a new formula to determine if any state or locality - not just those with a history of racial discrimination - should be required to obtain prior federal approval to changes in its election rules.”

How it would work: “Under the Voting Rights Act Amendment of 2014, states would need prior federal approval to change election laws if they had five or more violations of federal law in the previous 15 years. A jurisdiction would need federal approval if it had three or more violations in the previous 15 years or has had one violation and ‘persistent and extremely low minority voter turnout.’”

MSNBC's Ari Melber has more: “While the original law used literacy tests and turnout data from the civil rights era to pick which states required extra supervision to prevent discrimination, the ‘Voting Rights Amendments Act’ uses more recent discrimination.  If a state is found to discriminate against voters five times, over a 15 year period, that conduct ‘triggers’ federal supervision to protect the state's voters.  There is a similar formula for local jurisdictions.  Call it ‘five strikes and you're in.’”

But MSNBC’s Zachary Roth and Adam Serwer: A new bill may not be the win for Voting Rights it claims to be. In a bid to win Republican support, it goes out of its way to make an exception for voter ID laws.

The Hill: “President Obama has told Senate Democrats he expects Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to pass immigration reform this year, defying predictions the issue is dead for 2014. Obama believes Republicans will feel politically vulnerable if they fail to advance the issue, a high priority among Hispanic voters, according to Democratic senators who met with the president this week.” 

“House Republicans are quietly discussing the option of not writing a budget in 2014, a maneuver that would free up time on the legislative calendar and protect GOP lawmakers from a potentially damaging vote in an election year,” National Journal reports. “The idea of Republicans skipping this year's budgetary process seems odd when considering the House GOP made history last year by attaching a policy rider called ‘No Budget, No Pay’ to a debt-limit extension. That measure tied lawmakers' salaries to budgets being written in both chambers and paved the way for a budget agreement between House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray.”

Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates says he does “denigrate” Harry Reid in his book. 

MSNBC’s Suzy Khimm: While Congress bickers over whether to continue her unemployment checks, people like Kristi Jamison have decided to swallow their pride and apply for food stamps.