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Recently in Dick Durbin Category

Updated with Durbin comments....

WASHINGTON--Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Vice-Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) on Thursday defended the Obama administration secretly gathering phone data on tens of millions of users because "I think people want the homeland kept safe to the extent we can," Feinstein said.

Congress approved the surveillance, Feinstein said in a hurriedly called press conference in the Capitol, because of the threat terrorists pose. "I know people are trying to get to us," Feinstein said.

Just as the Transportation Security Administration officials screen people at airports, the purpose of the snooping, Feinstein said, was "to ferret this out before it happens."

Feinstein and Chambliss were reacting to the revelation in the British newspaper the Guardian that a judge sitting on the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court signed an order in April allowing the collection of data on calls.

The Guardian posted a copy of the four-page "top secret" court order allowing the collection of information on calls--referred to as "telephony metadata" --from a Verizon subsidiary signed in April by Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Judge Roger Vinson. The order expires on July 19. To be clear: at issue is collection of information as to a number called and length of call; the U.S. government is not eavesdropping.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) continued on Thursday his long held concerns about a program he has argued for years is too broad. The phone record collection raises "a fundamental question of personal freedom and privacy against our concerns for security."

Durbin said he has had to be "circumspect" about his views because he has been privey to classified briefings.

Durbin told reporters the revelations in the Guardian were not surprising to him. "I've been concerned about this program and what's been involved in this for some time. I've been trying to be careful in how I've expressed that concern because we are dealing with classified information."

In 2009 Durbin offered an amendment to narrow the authority for government data collection. In 2009 Durbin said, "The real reason for resisting this obvious common-sense modification of Section 215 is cloaked in secrecy. Someday the cloak will be lifted and future generations will ask whether our actions today meet the test of a democratic society - transparency, accountability and fidelity to the rule of law and our Constitution. I believe our oath of office requires every member of this Committee to seek a classified briefing to truly understand this issue."

Speaking on Thursday, Feinstein said, "I understand privacy. Sen. Chambliss understands privacy. We want to protect peoples private rights and that is why this is carefully done."

Chambliss said, "we review every program in the intelligence community on a regular basis, including this program. ...Where we find abuses, we're going to take corrective action."

Analysts are looking through the compiled data--what Feinstein called "a phonebook of numbers"-- for intelligence that may reveal "credible suspicion" of a terrorist plot. Once a call pattern is established, further court orders must be obtained if probers want to pursue the leads. Chambliss said the information they are looking for is "at the other end of the call."

A senior White House administration official told the Sun-Times in a statement, "the article discusses what purports to be an order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court under a provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that authorizes the production of business records.

"Orders of the FISA Court are classified. On its face, the order reprinted in the article does not allow the Government to listen in on anyone's telephone calls. The information acquired does not include the content of any communications or the name of any subscriber. It relates exclusively to metadata, such as a telephone number or the length of a call.

"Information of the sort described in the Guardian article has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States, as it allows counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States.

"As we have publicly stated before, all three branches of government are involved in reviewing and authorizing intelligence collection under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Congress passed that act and is regularly and fully briefed on how it is used, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizes such collection.

"There is a robust legal regime in place governing all activities conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. That regime has been briefed to and approved by the Court. And, activities authorized under the Act are subject to strict controls and procedures under oversight of the Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the FISA Court, to ensure that they comply with the Constitution and laws of the United States and appropriately protect privacy and civil liberties."

By Lynn Sweet and Frank Main
Chicago Sun-Times

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) is highly critical of a proposal by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) for mass arrests of 18,000 Gangster Disciples, telling the Sun-Times on Wednesday that Kirk's approach is "headline grabbing" and an "upper-middle-class, elitist white boy solution to a problem he knows nothing about."

One of Kirk's top priorities is targeting gangs; he has been meeting with law enforcement officials to devise a plan to execute the mass arrests.

Rush's comments came as Kirk and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) huddled Wednesday with Zachary Fardon, the nominee for U.S. attorney in Chicago, and urged him to keep fighting public corruption and to redouble the battle against street gangs.

The senators asked Fardon, who is expected to be confirmed by the Senate in the coming months, to put the pressure on Chicago's largest gang, the Gangster Disciples.

Kirk said at a press conference with Durbin at the Union League Club following the Fardon meeting that he will ask the Senate Appropriations Committee for $30 million "to go after gangs like the GDs . . . and pick the biggest and baddest for a federal effort."

"I think it's completely within the capability of the United States government to crush a major urban gang," Kirk said. "Just think of what the greatest generation did here in Chicago, pretty much crushing the Capone organization."

Rush, asked by the Sun-Times to react to Kirk's proposal said in a phone interview: "It's a sensational, headline-grabbing, empty, simplistic, unworkable approach."

If there is $30 million for Congress to spend, better most of it be allocated for "job creation and job training," to address the gang problem, Rush said.

Rush's House district includes communities plagued by gang violence. He said his criticism of Kirk is "not to excuse their activities."

Rush said an arrest sweep "is not going to work. . . . It is not a law and order, lock 'em up solution."

Rush said he would like to talk to Kirk, to "get him to see the bigger picture." He added, "I am really very upset with Mark" and that Kirk's approach was an "upper-middle-class, elitist white boy solution to a problem he knows nothing about."

Realizing those were very strong words, a short time later Rush issued a follow-up statement to the Sun-Times to put his remarks in context.

Kirk's "current plan does not include the option to create jobs, provide affordable and safe housing, quality health care and improve schools in urban areas, BUT certainly a plan to incarcerate 18,000 black men is elitist. Why is incarceration the sole option instead of rehabilitation which is proven to work and not locking young men up," Rush said in an email.

A Kirk spokesman, told of Rush's comments, said Kirk's "commitment to stopping gang violence in our communities goes back more than a decade. The senator will continue to work with Sen. Durbin, Mayor Emanuel, law enforcement and the entire congressional delegation to keep Illinois families safe."

Finding the money to bankroll the mass arrests will be a major hurdle to clear in Congress, even though Kirk and Durbin are members of the appropriations panel in the Senate.

In the House, there is massive resistance to spending from Tea Party Republicans. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) sits on the House Appropriations Committee and told the Sun-Times, "it is not easy getting money out of the House, worthwhile or not."

Quigley said he appreciates Kirk "going after a plague in Chicago" but believes the focus for federal prosecutors and police should be on "prosecuting the most serious gun traffickers who put weapons in the hands of gang members."

On Tuesday, Kirk, trying to put pieces in place to implement his plan for the mass arrests, met with the Chicago chiefs of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Lynn Sweet reported from Washington D.C.


WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) lauded Commerce Secretary nominee Penny Pritzker, the Chicago billionaire business executive a few hours before introducing her with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) at her Thursday confirmation hearing.

She "inherited a few dollars," Durbin noted at a Thursday morning breakfast for Illinois residents visiting Washington he co-hosts with Kirk. But she has "made a few dollars in her life."

"She also participated in the Iron Man triathlathons," he said. "I'm not ready to take her on it that."


For ongoing coverage of the Pritzker confirmation hearing, find more at blogs.suntimes.com/sweet and @lynnsweet on Twitter.


WASHINGTON--Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) lauded Commerce Secretary nominee Penny Pritzker, the Chicago billionaire business executive a few hours before introducing her with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) at her Thursday confirmation hearing.

"When somebody from your state gets nominated for a top job, which often happens when your president is from your state, today I'm going to be introducing Penny Pritzker of Chicago to be our next commerce secretary. Pretty excited to do that," Kirk said at a coffee for Illinois consitutients he co-hosted with Durbin.

He said Pritzker was "a vibrant part of the Jewish world, of the charitable world in Chicago."


For ongoing coverage of the Pritzker confirmation hearing, find more at blogs.suntimes.com/sweet and @lynnsweet on Twitter.

WASHINGTON--Gov. Pat Quinn formally requested federal flood assistance on Thursday, unleashing a bi-partisan push from the entire Illinois congressional delegation for President Barack Obama to declare 11 Illinois counties in need of disaster relief following torrential April downpours.

Quinn, in Springfield, said 49 Illinois counties were impacted and further disaster relief requests for more counties would be coming. "We want to move forward as quickly as possible," Quinn said. The 11 Illinois counties suffering damage from the rainstorm starting on April 18 are: Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Fulton, Grundy, Kane, Kendall, Lake, LaSalle, McHenry and Will.

Quinn said the White House will be asked to handle the request on an expedited basis. Once a county is declared a disaster, residents can apply for federal loans and other financial flood and storm relief.

The delegation wrote in a letter to Obama, "The State of Illinois has determined that state and local funds are not adequate to address the damage to public infrastructure and costs related to debris removal and emergency protective measures resulting from this weather event. "We respectfully request that you make the necessary declaration so that these counties can receive the assistance they need. We thank you in advance for your timely consideration of this important request and stand ready to assist in any way appropriate."


Members signing today's letter are Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Danny Davis (D-IL), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Bill Enyart (D-IL), Bill Foster (D-IL), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Randy Hultgren (R-IL), Robin Kelly (D-IL), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Peter Roskam (R-IL), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Aaron Schock (R-IL) and John Shimkus (R-IL).



Text of the letter below...

WASHINGTON--Illinois and other states could collect sales tax on online purchases under a measure approved by the Senate Monday on a 69-27 vote. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who championed the "Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013" voted yes; Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) voted no. The legislation now advances to the House, where it faces an uncertain future.

Durbin said in a statement, "I am proud to have joined sixty-nine of my Senate colleagues from both sides of the aisle in passing this long-overdue legislation that will give much needed support to local businesses around the country," said Durbin. "I thank Senators Enzi, Alexander, Cardin, Heitkamp, Reed and many others for their efforts in securing such strong support for this legislation. I've often listened to speeches in the House and Senate about how we need to do more to make certain that small businesses - the true job creators - can succeed. A solid majority of the Senate stood up for small business today. I think the support in the House will be similar if the leadership practices what they preach and calls this bill for a vote."

Background, from Durbin: "The Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013 - introduced by Durbin and Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) - would give states the option to require the collection of sales and use taxes already owed under state law by out-of-state businesses, rather than rely on consumers to remit those taxes to the States, the method of tax collection to which they are now restricted. The bill currently has the support of over 268 labor, business and government organizations while 22 Governors (15 Republicans and 7 Democrats) have come out in support of leveling the playing field for businesses by addressing sales tax fairness."


WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), discussing trying again to pass a gun-control measure in the Senate, said Sunday on CNN the backers need to find five more votes, but "we can do this."

"What we need to see is a change in political sentiment within the Senate. We need to pick up five more votes, and that's quite a task, I might add, as whip in the Senate, but we can do this. I hope the American people don't give up. I know the president hasn't given up," Durbin told CNN's "State of the Union" host Candy Crowley, speaking from Chicago

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) chairs a hearing Tuesday on "Drone Wars: The Constitutional and Counterterrorism Implications of Targeted Killing."

The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Right "will focus on the constitutional and statutory authority for targeted killings; the scope of the battlefield and who can be targeted as a combatant; and establishing a transparent legal framework for the use of drones."

"Targeted killing raises important legal and policy questions that require a public debate," Durbin said in a statement. "President Obama has made it clear he wants to work with Congress to establish 'a legal architecture' for drone strikes to prevent abuses. My subcommittee will begin this important constitutional debate when we meet tomorrow."

Witnesses at the hearing will include: General James Cartwright, United States Marine Corp (ret.); Farea Al-Muslimi, a Yemeni youth activist and writer; Peter Bergen, Director, National Security Studies Program, New America Foundation; Rosa Brooks, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center; Colonel Martha McSally, United States Air Force (ret.); and Ilya Somin, Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law.

-30-

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" Boston marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should not be tried in a military court as an enemy combatant.

Durbin told host David Gregory that there are questions the FBI needs to answer regarding anything was missed when agents talked to Tsarnaev's older brother, Tamerlan --who died Thursday following a carjacking and a confrontation with police. The brothers mother told reporters FBI agents had interviewed Tamerlan.

Asked by Gregory, "Do you have questions about the FBI's tracking of the older suspect here who is now dead and whether something was missed," Durbin replied, " Of course I do.

"And I think we should ask those questions. That's our responsibility. But I listened to Mike Rogers and I thought he laid it out as a former FBI agent himself as to what we were faced with when we were asked these hard questions. We've got to make sure as well, let me add David, that we give to the intelligence and law enforcement agencies, federal, state, and local, the resources they need to keep America safe. We live in a dangerous world. We live also in a free and open society, which we value very much. In order to keep Americans safe at the marathon, at every other public event, we need to invest the resources that are necessary for law enforcement."

Some Senators have said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be treated an enemy combatant.

Gregory asked Durbin, "I want to make sure I nail you down on that point, you-- you oppose that?'

Said Durbin, "You bet. Well, let me just tell you, history tells us that we're doing the right thing. Hundreds-- literally hundreds of terrorists, those accused of terrorism, have been successfully prosecuted and imprisoned in the United States using the same process that's being used in this case in Boston. The handful, Liz Cheney and others, who are calling for military commissions, have to explain to us why in-- since 9/11 only six times have we used military commissions. I think we are approaching this in the right way following the law as we should. We are gathering the evidence, and I think at the end, the right decision is being made to pursue this."


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Flooding on the Edens Expressway Thursday morning forces lane closure.  (Sun-Times photo by Jon Seidel)

Good morning. Thunderstorms, high today 72 [Forecast]

Breaking

Horrific Texas fertilizer plant explosion kills at least 5, injuries scores more and forces the evacuation of the small town of West, about 20 miles north of Waco. [Sun-Times] [NBC]

Breaking

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle fly to Boston for a bomb blast  memorial, "Healing Our City: An Interfaith Service" at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.[Boston Globe] The 10 a.m. Chicago time service will be carried live on multiple platforms.

Breaking

Parts of the Ike, Stevenson expressways shut down by heavy rains, flooding. Metra, CTA, O'Hare and Midway Airports reporting delays and cancellations. Flash flood warnings. For the latest and updates [Sun-Times] 





Sex, drugs, no rock n'roll 
Going to pot... The Illinois House voted to legalize medical marijuana and mandate abstinence in sex education classes for grades 6-12. [Sun-Times][Crain's Chicago Business]

Both bills now move to the state Senate. Lawmakers taking a break from the heavy lifting...as in pension reform. 

Gun-control measures fail

GOP Senators blocked multiple gun-control measures. [Wall Street Journal] [Washington Post]

Obama called the defeat "shameful" [Sun-Times]

The underlying gun bill--with the anti-traffickling provision named after the slain Chicago teen, Hadiya Pendleton-- is expected to be sidelined today. [Sweet, Sun-Times]

Big loss for Obama. [Politico] [Ezra Klein, Bloomberg]

Obama has a lot on his plate. [Real Clear Politics] [Roll Call]

Major takeaway: Obama slapped with big loss on legacy issue. With the Senate shutdown, unlikely the House will act on gun bills.

Weather forces Rahm to delay Washington trip

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was supposed to be in Washington today and Friday; he was grounded in Chicago because of the weather. He was the headliner for an immigration forum hosted by The Atlantic. Tomorrow, Emanuel joins former President Bill Clinton to launch an "Infrastructure Financing for Cities Task Force."  

Emanuel was going to conduct rounds in the White House and huddle with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)

Boston bomb suspect

Videos of the Boston Marathon finish line blast site yielded the faces of suspects. Now authorities have to find them.[Boston Globe 

Ricin suspect arrested

A Mississippi man was arrested in connection with the mailing of letters containing poison to Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.). Since the anthrax attacks of 2001, all White House and congressional mail is screened. [Sweet, Sun-Times] [Washington Post]

The suspect is an Elvis impersonator [CBS/DC]

POLITICAL BUSINESS 


*White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett on Time Magazine's new list out this morning of 100 most influential people in the world.

*Obama dined last night with a group of Democratic senators at a hotel near the White House. This follows two dinners with GOP senators. A White House official said they discussed immigration, guns and the Boston bomb blasts.  Durbin was there along with...according to the official ...Dem Senators Michael Bennet, Chris Coons, Dianne Feinstein, Mary Landrieu, Patty Murray, Jack Reed, Jeanne Shaheen, Debbie Stabenow, Mark Warner, Sheldon Whitehouse and Ron Wyden.

*Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) on Wednesday received the 2013 Good Jobs, Green Jobs Champion Award from the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation. Context: Rush is on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

*Hello, Illinois.... Mike Schrimpf former Republican Governors Association communications director, is new communications chief for Bruce Rauner's gubernatorial exploratory drive. [Politico] 

*DLA Piper Chicago office associate Katie Jahnke Dale working with DC colleagues on a new partnership between DLA's New Perimeter global pro bono affiliate and the State Department to combat human trafficking across the globe.

DAYBOOK

Pressers....House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) at 10:30 a.m. Chicago time; House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at 9:45 a.m. Chicago time, both in the Capitol.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Secretary of State John Kerry, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg at various Senate committees testifying on fy2014 budget requests

In Springfield, Governor Pat Quinn delivers remarks at the 5th Annual Muslim Action Day breakfast at the Mansion; later, a speech in the State Capitol in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Meetings.... Illinois Riverboat Gaming Board, Video Gaming Board.

DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin headlines the City Club of Chicago lunch.

Nobel Laureate Gary S. Becker delivers the 3rd annual CME Group Lecture on Global Financial Markets, "Will American Retain its Economic Leadership?

Author Thomas Dyja discusses his book, "The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream" at the Harold Washington Library.

Chef and Bravo host Curtis Stone discusses his cookbook "What's for Dinner?" at the Barnes & Noble in Skokie's Old Orchard shopping center.

SPORTS TODAY

Cubs owners prey on your hopes by promising titles with Wrigley repairs. [Morrissey, Sun-Times]

Bulls clinch a playoff berth; will play Nets on Saturday in first round. [Sun-Times]

Cubs play the Texas Rangers at Wrigley Field this afternoon; White Sox away at the Toronto Blue Jays tonight.

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans blocked a series of gun-control measures on Wednesday with an anti-trafficking provision named after Hadiya Pendleton, the Chicago teen shot to death in a park, expected to be sidelined with the rest of the gun bill on Thursday.

Two items of particular interest to the Chicago area -- an amendment expanding background checks to close gun show and other loopholes and another amendment cracking down on gun trafficking and fencing, with similar Pendleton language -- could not muster the 60 votes needed to advance.

Each of those amendments had a majority, but in the Senate, the 60-vote, supermajority threshold was needed to avoid a filibuster.

President Barack Obama -- who could not get the votes Wednesday for legacy legislation -- said: "I see this as just round one." It's not clear -- given that public opinion was on the side of gun-control advocates -- when or under what circumstances gets him round two.

Hadiya's mother, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton in reaction told the Sun-Times' Becky Schlikerman, "It's just disheartening, these are bills that are being proposed to make our lives safer."

"Something needs to be done. There should be something on the table instead of nothing. . . . I do pray that the gun trafficking law is passed. Something needs to happen."

Sen. Mark Kirk broke with most of the Republicans on the gun votes. Kirk and Sen. Dick Durbin were the central crafters of the anti-trafficking language.

Kirk was the only Republican to vote for an assault weapons ban championed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). He was one of four Republicans to support expanded background checks in a deal crafted by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W-Va.).

Kirk, who already had an "F" rating from the National Rifle Association, had little to risk, unlike Toomey and Manchin who had NRA "A" ratings.

Durbin on the Boston blasts

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Good Morning. High today 54, partly cloudy[Forecast]


Breaking

In the wake of the twin blasts at the Boston Marathon, a White House official tells the Sun-Times that overnight, President Barack Obama "received updates from his Assistant for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco on the ongoing response efforts and investigation into the explosions in Boston, including the continuing federal support for those activities. 

"The President made clear that he expects to be kept up to date on any developments and directed his team to make sure that all federal resources that can support these efforts, including the investigation being led by the FBI, be made available. Later this morning the President will receive a briefing from his Assistant for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, FBI Director Robert Mueller and other senior members of his team."

Takeaways: The first major attacks on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001 now overshadows a week where Congress is starting to grapple with two major items on Obama's legacy agenda, immigration and gun-control. The Boston tragedy will likely mute--for a few days--critics and supporters.

Anchors for the morning network shows--NBC, ABC, CBS--in Boston; the marathon bombings will dominate the news today.

Breaking

The Senate "Gang of Eight"--including Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)--unveil their long-awaited bi-partisan immigration bill with a key provision in the sweeping measure a 13-year path to citizenship for the millions of people living in the U.S. illegally. The bill would cover individuals in the U.S. prior to Dec. 31, 2011.  The  11 a.m. ET press conference was cancelled as the Boston blast dominates the day.  [Washington Post] Durbin played the key role in adding Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) to the "Gang of Eight." First Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill is set for Friday.




Boston bombings

The aftermath...From the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications: "At this time, we are not aware of any additional threats." Tighter security in Washington D.C. on Tuesday morning, especially around the landmarks. Ramped up security on the Metro. 

Explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday afternoon--12 seconds apart--killed three and injured at least 144. [Sun-Times] 

[Boston Globe] [Boston Herald] [CBSBoston]


Nightmare: Brothers watching marathon each lose a leg. [Boston Globe]


Photo gallery: [Sun-Times]

Map: [Sun-Times]

Obama: "We will find out who did this." Video and transcript. [Sun-Times] What Obama is learning talking about terror. [Politico]

Chicago's security challenges. [Bowman, Sun-Times] 

Bombing turns Marathon area into a war zone. [New York Times]

The hunt for the bomber(s) [Time]

London marathon on Sunday; planners are "confident" there will be no security problems. [London Telegraph]

For updates through the day: [Sun-Times]

Wrigley Field Deal: Not so fast

There are still big discrepancies between what Emanuel has agreed to support and what the Cubs say they need to preserve Wrigley for 50 years and make it the moneymaker Ricketts says he needs to turn the Cubs into a perennial contender. [Crain's Chicago Business, [Sun-Times]

Oust Rahm Drive

Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis isn't waiting for 2015 to try to oust Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whom she blames for closing a historic number of public schools, she said Monday, announcing an aggressive campaign to train his possible replacement. "If the mayor and his handpicked corporate school board will not listen to us, then we must find those who will," Lewis said.The popular Lewis, who hit the national stage during the historic Chicago teachers strike in September, strongly denied she'd be the one seeking to replace Emanuel. Nor would she name candidates she had in mind. Instead, the CTU and other partners are launching a new effort to get 100,000 new voters registered in time for the 2015 elections when Emanuel is expected to seek reelection. They also plan to train possible candidates for mayor, alderman and statehouse offices, and increase donations to their political action committee to financially support potential candidates. [Sun-Times] [Crain's Chicago Business] 

Meanwhile, Emanuel continues to raise a lot of money for his political war chest; see Political Business below. And note to CTU: you can't beat someone with no one. At some point, a candidate--not a concept--will need to surface if this political attack is to be taken seriously.

Gun-control fate uncertain
The immigration bill gets dropped in the Senate as the chamber grapples with gun control. Despite efforts from Vice President Joe Biden on down, the Senate votes may not be there. [Politico]

Washington Post/ABC News Poll shows "most Americans, including half of all gun owners, say it is possible to enact new laws without infringing on gun rights, and overwhelming majorities support expanded background checks at gun shows and for online gun sales." 

And on immigration, "There are deep partisan differences on the other marquee issue slated to soon start moving in the Senate: comprehensive immigration reform. Overall, support for legislation that includes a way for undocumented immigrants to live legally in the U.S. is higher than ever, with nearly two-thirds of Americans backing a pathway to legal status. However, while three-quarters of Democrats and at least six in 10 independents support such a move on immigration reform, support drops sharply among Republicans. As with gun legislation, the results are yet another reminder that Republican lawmakers face a fractured base on these two volatile issues." [Washington Post]


POLITICAL BUSINESS

While the CTU ponders mounting a challenge to Emanuel, the union besides a voter drive, needs a face (as noted above) and a lot of money. Emanuel's latest campaign disclosure, filed Monday--covering Jan. 1-March 31 shows that in the first quarter of this year he raised $378,700 and has $1,908, 696.08 in his "Chicago for Rahm" war chest.

The report shows Emanuel picked up a lot of Hollywood money from producers, directors, writers and studios. I'm told he threw himself a fund-raiser when he was in Los Angeles a few weeks ago for an "Education Mayors" conference. Brother Ari Emanuel is the big Hollywood agent. 

A sampling...Aaron Sorkin, $2,500; Michael Eisner, $2,500; Laurie David, $2,500; Lionsgate Entertainment, $10,500...Check out my blog later for more details....[Sweet]

.....Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) sworn-in last week, is staffing up in Chicago and Washington. Among the first wave of hires:

Audra Wilson - District Chief of Staff  (former Director of Diversity Education and Outreach and Adjunct Professor, Northwestern U. Law; former welfare advocacy staff attorney, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law; former Deputy Press and Policy Director, U.S. Senate Candidate for Barack Obama.

Dante Sawyer- Chicago Office Coordinator/Constituent Services Representative -  former Field Director, Robin Kelly for Congress

Anthony Beckham - Constituent Services Representative/Caseworker - Ministry Outreach Coordinator, Robin Kelly for Congress; former small business owner        

E. Brandon Garrett - Chief of Staff - Policy and Political Advisor for Vice President Joe Biden at Obama for America; former Policy Director for the Congressional Black Caucus.                                                                                               

Kayce Ataiyero - Communications Director (former Chicago Tribune reporter, former Deputy Communications Director at Illinois State Treasurer's Office, most recently did communications in the Quinn administration).

Tony Presta - Scheduler and Office Manager (former scheduling and logistics coordinator at Illinois State Treasurer's Office, former special assistant to the Chief Administrative Officer at Cook County Government)

 

DAYBOOK

President Barack Obama meetings with United Arab Emirate Crown Prince Moammed Bin Zayed, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, NASCAR's  Sprint Cup series champ Brad Keselowski

Gov. Pat Quinn speaks at groundbreaking ceremony for Grundfos' new North American headquarters in Downers Grove. 

Visitation for Anne Smedinghoff, U.S. diplomat from River Forest killed in Afghanistan. Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home in Oak Park. 

Panel discussion on the legacy of the late Mayor Harold Washington. Chicago State University

Chicago native and Academy-award winning director William Friedkin joins Filmspotting co-founder and host Adam Kempenaar to discuss his new memoir "The Friedkin Connection." Harold Washington Library, Pritzker Auditorium. In case you did not get the reference, Friedkin directed the French Connection. He is married to  former Paramount Pictures CEO Sherry Lansing, another Chicago native. [Tribune]

NPR "All Things Considered" host Michelle Norris speaks in the Columbia College "Conversations in the Arts" series. Film Row Cinema, 1104 S. Wabash Ave. Very fun to guest on her show.

SPORTS TODAY

Cubs play the Texas Rangers at Wrigley Field; White Sox  in Toronto for match with the Blue Jays. The Blackhawks and the Bulls are both off Tuesday.
 

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Good morning. High today in the mid 60s. [Forecast]

Breaking

The Cubs and city make a deal for Wrigley field renovation. Must be a miracle on Addison; a Jumbotron is on the way.  News conference 11 a.m. at Wrigley Field, but the story burst out last night; see links below.

Breaking

Secretary of State John Kerry will stop in Chicago on Monday to visit the parents of Anne Smedinghoff, a young U.S. diplomat from River Forest who was killed while delivering textbooks in southern Afghanistan on April 6. [Sun-Times]

Breaking

The Senate "Gang of Eight" will unveil a bi-partisan immigration bill on Tuesday morning. Congress returns from spring break with a major week ahead; the main action is over in the Senate with historic gun-control and immigration legislation debated. Prognosis: Immigration measures will be easier to pass than gun provisions.

Exclusive: Mayor Rahm Emanuel heads to Washington this week; on Thursday he's the headliner at a forum hosted by The Atlantic.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________


Friendly confines facelift

The Cubs will renovate Wrigley Field and develop the land around it under a "framework" unveiled Sunday that includes a 5,000-square-foot video scoreboard in left field; an 800-square-foot see-through sign in right field; 40 night games; street fairs on weekend game days, and signage all over a new hotel and open-air plaza. [Sun-Times] [Tribune] [Crain's] [ABC7]

Negotiations between the Cubs and the city have been in extra innings. A timeline with the details. [Sun-Times] And speaking of baseball, with the release of "42," a photo gallery of Jackie Robinson in Chicago. [Sun-Times]

Senate tackles immigration, guns

It's a big week ahead for Congress--immigration, guns, and the budget, where Democratic are not happy with President Barack Obama's proposed changes to Social Security. The House has a series of budget hearings. [House.gov]

On the Senate side, it's guns and immigration. Sweeping immigration proposal to be released on Tuesday [USAToday] Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) is the man to watch. [Washington Post]

On the gun front, families of shooting victims will be on Capitol Hill, along with former Rep. Gabby Gifford (D-Az.) recovering from her head wounds and her former astronaut husband, Mark Kelly. The couple is leading a major drive for gun control. May be schisms within the pro-gun community. [Washington Post]

Jesse Jackson Jr. surfaces

Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. surfaced at the Saturday meeting of Operation PUSH. [ABC7] Facing sentencing at the end of June, Jackson's team is starting a "campaign" in the hopes that he will get less than four or five years in prison.

Crony conflict

One of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's biggest campaign contributors, Howard Labkon, has the president of the Fraternal Order of Police on his company's payroll -- a relationship that's come to light as Emanuel and the union try to negotiate a new contract for 10,400 Chicago cops. [Sun-Times]

Abortion doctor trial

Assessing whether there is "enough" coverage of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. [Washington Post] The developing storyline breaking into mainstream media--pushed by conservative outlets--is that the Gosnell trial is not getting the attention it deserves from national media because of an abortion rights bias.

Justin Bieber and Ann Frank

Bieber visited Ann Frank's hideout in Amsterdam, where her family and others hid from the Nazis--and his note in the guest book has triggered an uproar. Because it was more about him than her. [Bill Zwecker]

Chicago story obits

Blues guitarist Jimmy Dawkins was a son of Mississippi with a stinging West Side style. [Sun-Times' Maureen O'Donnell]

CSO trumpet great Adolph 'Bud' Herseth dies at 91 [Sun-Times' Andrewhttp://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/sports&id=9064877 Patner]

Political Business

*Political veterans John Borovicka and Mike Alexander--each with deep government and political networks-- are teaming up to launch Alexander & Borovicka Government Solutions. The firm will work at the federal, state and city levels.

At-a-glance: 

Borovicka managed Rahm Emanuel's first campaign for the House in 2001 and went on to be his Chicago District Director; ran the Chicago office of State Senator John Cullerton; worked for now Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.). Borovicka was Deputy Campaign Manager for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's final reelection campaign in 2007.

Alexander has long ties to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), working in his Senate campaign and later joining his Senate staff, working in Washington and Illinois. In 2003, Alexander became the Director of Local Government Affairs for the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity (DCEO), serving under Jack Lavin, the current Chief of Staff to Governor Pat Quinn.

*Robert Weinberger,  former 10th Congressional District Democrat nominee on Sunday wed Jennefer Hirshberg, a one-time press secretary for former First Lady Nancy Reagan at a lovely ceremony in suburban Washington. Durbin--who interned with Weinberger in the office of  the late Sen. Paul Douglas (D-Ill.)-- offered the first toast.


Daybook

*Obama honors the BCS National Champion University of Alabama Crimson Tide on the South Lawn of the White House.

*Gov. Pat Quinn chairs a meeting of The Big River Moves Leadership Forum to discuss economic and environmental issues facing Mississippi River states at the Blackstone Hotel.

*Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle paddles down the North Branch of the Chicago River with canoeists and kayakers. She launches from the Skokie Lagoons, Willow Road and North Forest Way.

*Quinn and Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.)--in her first joint appearance with the governor since her swearing-in last week-- will announce a project to update the Kankakee area's water infrastructure.

*Illinois Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno headlines the City Club of Chicago.

*Because it's April 15... Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) now a WIND-AM talk show host at a Chicago Tea Party and Tea Party Patriots Tax Day Tea Party Rally at the Daley Center. 

And happy birthday to cousin David, a Chicago parking and transportation planner whose last name really is Taxman.

Sports Today

White Sox at Toronto; Bulls at Toronto; Blackhawks host the Stars.


Republicans in the Senate failed on Thursday to block the chamber from taking up a series of gun-control bill. With a filibuster threat clear, the Senate will spend at least the next week debating gun legislation. Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat and Sen. Mark Kirk, a Republican, voted to let debate begin. See the Roll Call HERE

http://www.flickr.com/photos/senatordurbin/8640735236/
(Photo by office of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)

One of the best Illinois traditions has been the Thursday coffees hosted by Illinois senators for anyone from Illinois who is in Washington when the Senate is in session. It's a tradition going back over 35 years, started by the late Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) After Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) suffered a stroke--sidelining him for almost a year--the two-Senator coffees obviously were put on hold. On Thursday, Durbin and Kirk held their first coffee of the 113th Congress.

frontpage041113blog.jpg


Good Morning. Overcast, drizzle, high today in the low 50's. Goose Island streets open again...

Breaking

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) swears in Robin Kelly at 1:30 p.m. Chicago time. Kelly holds presser afterwards to talk about her swearing-in on the House floor. Freshman Kelly is allowed to inherit the well-situated Rayburn House Office Building suite of the man she is replacing, disgraced former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. 

Breaking

Two brothers shot at on the South Side, a man grazed by a bullet in Lakeview and a car-on-pedestrian accident in Goose Island were among the stories that happened between midnight and 6 a.m. in Chicago. [Sun-Times

___________________________________________________________________________________

Senate gun-control votes

Four months after the Sandy Hook massacre, the Senate today is set to hold a series of crucial votes on gun-control laws, with big resistance from the National Rifle Association. The House will not act until the Senate sends over legislation. [USA Today] President Barack Obama has a lot on his plate: guns, immigration, new budget. [Washington Post]

Sandy Hook families will be at press conference with Democratic senators in the Capitol this morning, pushing for a package of measures to curb gun violence.

Michelle Obama jumps in gun fray

With the Senate poised to act, First Lady Michelle Obama, back home in Chicago spoke out for the first time--with great emotion-- about youth violence and for the first time, gets involved in a controversial issue, urging Congress to allow votes on gun bills. [Sun-Times] And finally time she did. [Lynn Sweet] Mrs. Obama spent two hours at Harper High School on the South Side. [Mary Mitchell] [Bloomberg]

Mrs. Obama made it a day-trip. She headed from Harper back to Midway Airport, returning to Washington last night.

Quinn's gun push

With gun measures pending in Springfield, Gov. Pat Quinn headlines an Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence rally "in support of common sense gun legislation" in front of the Abe Lincoln statue at the state Capitol.

Wright's daughter indicted

Imagine if this story broke during the 2008 election, when the controversy surrounding the Rev. Jeremiah Wright--then pastor for presidential candidate Barack Obama threatened to derail his bid. Jeri Wright, his daughter, was indicted Wednesday on charges of money laundering and lying to federal investigators in an expanding 2009 state grant-fraud case.[Sun-Times]

Political Business

* Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) will be reporting more than $390,000 raised in the first quarter. Aiming to discourage the man he beat for the tenth district seat from trying again, Schneider's team noted that he raised more than former Rep. Bod Dold (R-Ill.) "raised in his first quarter in 2011."

*Ald. Tom Tunney holds a fund-raiser aimed at the LGBT community. Double entendre on invite: "Come out to support equality." Tunney Honorary co-chairs: state Rep. Deb Mell and spouse Kelly Cassidy; state Rep. Greg Harris; Ald. James Cappleman and Water District Commissioner Debra Shore. Happening at the Lincoln Park home of Brad Lippitz and Jonathan Pizer. The tab ranges from $100 to $1,000.

* Last night, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) threw  a fund-raiser at Nationals Stadium during the Nationals-White Sox game.

* Cook County Committeemen huddle today to select a replacement for the latest pol forced to resign because of corruption, former Cook County Board Members William Beavers, convicted on federal evasion charges last month.

Daybook

Memorial for Roger Ebert, the beloved Sun-Times movie critic who died last week. His funeral was Monday and today, a tribute at a fitting place, the Chicago Theater, 175 N. State.

 ...Mayor Rahm Emanuel joins Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles Williams in announcing Chicago's completed transition to a grid garbage system at 11:30 a.m. CT, 900 East 103rd St. 

...U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin at Greene Elementary School, 3525 S. Honore on student health. ...National ACLU president Susan Herman at the Chicago-Kent College of Law. 

Obit

Donald L. Duster, the grandson of anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells. Under former Gov. James R. Thompson, he led the state's Department of Business and Economic Develop. [Sun-Times Obit writer Maureen O'Donnell]

Sports Today

Bulls play New York Knicks; Cubs host San Francisco Giants; White Sox continue stand against Washington Nationals. The Nats beat them Wednesday 5-2. 


Talkers Today

HBO's "Veep" star Julia Louise-Dreyfus guests on Ellen DeGeneres; Edie Falco on Jon Stewart; Alec Baldwin on David Letterman; LL Cool J on Jay Leno; Tom Cruise on Jimmy Kimmel; Carl Reiner on Craig Ferguson and Vince Vaughn on Jimmy Fallon.

Lynn Sweet discusses her Michelle Obama column on Julie Mason's SiriusXM show, 12:03 p.m. Chicago time.




Good morning. Grab your rain gear, stormy weather ahead. [Sun-Times]

Exclusive
Hours after her election to the House, Robin Kelly is jetting to Washington Wednesday catching the 8 a.m. American Airlines flight. Kelly day ahead: O'Hare Airport interview, in D.C. meetings to get her operation set-up. Swearing-in Thursday afternoon, followed by a reception in her office. Kelly easily won the special election to replace disgraced former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. [Sun-Times]

Breaking
Two semi-trucks collided on Interstate 80 early Wednesday, killing one of the drivers and closing the expressway to westbound traffic in Joliet, Illinois state police said. [Sun-Times]

Breaking
First Lady Michelle Obama heads to the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan for 11:30 a.m. lunch with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to bolster his fund-raising drive to bankroll projects for at-risk youths. Mrs. Obama motorcades over to Harper High, 6520 S. Wood for 2 p.m. event.


Senate gun deal
Two key senators forged a bi-partisan compromise deal on gun background checks with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) announcing the details at 11 a.m. ET at a press conference in Washington. This comes as the entire Senate is poised to debate major gun legislation as early as Thursday, with a filibuster threat from GOP senators overcome on Tuesday. [Sun-Times] [Washington Post]
Prognosis: Major hurdles ahead as Senate debates gun measures next week.

Michelle Obama back home
When Mrs. Obama speaks this morning--to a group of some 700 business, civic and community leaders gathered by Emanuel, we'll be listening to see if the ever cautious First Lady speaks out about gun-control. [Lynn Sweet column] [The Hill] [Marin Report]
And Mrs. Obama is not sure about her bangs. [People]

Remembering slain diplomat
Touching service at Fenwick High School in Oak Park for alum Anne Smedinghoff, who died "in the smoking chaos of a car bomb attack in southern Afghanistan." [Sun-Times]

New life for old post office
A stunning high-rise multi-use is proposed to replace the old main Chicago Post Office with the distinctive feature of having part of the building built over the Congress Parkway. [Sun-Times Grid]

Obama $3.77 trillion budget unveiled
President Obama delivers a statement about his proposed budget from the Rose Garden at 10 a.m. [Washington Post]

Early GOP react from Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, out Wednesday morning."Reminder That You Can't Trust the Numbers That the White House Uses in Previews of Their Budget." Obama dines with GOP senators at 6:30 p.m. ET in the Old Family Dining Room. On the menu: dishing up good will.

4 takeaways from senior White House officials budget briefing:


  • *Budget contains last offer Obama earlier put on the table so the GOP should be open to it.

  • *False choice, having to choose between deficit reduction and job creation.

  • *Let's get the era of government by crisis behind us.

  • *If the GOP refuses to put revenues in the deal, there is no deal.

Political business
Emanuel's Deputy Communications Director Kathleen Strand and AllState's Corporate Communications Strategy Manager Bobby Kellman - both Hillary Clinton campaign alums - have set their wedding date. October 5 at the South Shore Cultural Center. Same place Rahm and Amy/Barack and Michelle wed.

...Obama tapped for United State Holocaust Memorial Council: Rabbi Sam Gordon from Congregation Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette and Maureen Schulman, Eli's Cheesecake public relations chief.

...Harold Washington's gang is getting together today, heading to the City Council chamber when aldermen take up a resolution proclaiming April 15 "Harold Washington Day." As the late mayor would say, "You want Harold, you got him."

Daybook
Play it again. Chicago Symphony Orchestra press conference to announce projects for the 2013-14 season. ...Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams at the University of Illinois, Chicago to keynote 4th annual World Health Day symposium. ...UIC also hosting "Top Chef" quarter finalist Beverly Kim, to talk about her experience on the TV show. ..Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics. ...Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) guested on MSNBC's "Daily Rundown," hosted by Chuck Todd.

Sports Today
Cubs host Milwaukee, White Sox away game with the Washington Nationals. Keep an eye out for the political fund-raisers....


WASHINGTON -- Sen. Mark Kirk announced Tuesday he supports gay marriage, the result of a new appreciation for life and love he's gained as a survivor of a stroke that almost killed him.

It's another chapter in an evolving stroke-inspired journey for a man who opposed gay marriage when he started running for the Senate in 2009 -- worried about a challenge from the right in the 2010 GOP primary.

Kirk's announcement tells us a few things:

♦ Kirk didn't want to be bringing up the rear on this issue.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) also announced his support for same-sex marriage on Tuesday, with a post on Facebook.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) recently told the touching story of wanting his gay son to be able to wed in declaring his gay marriage backing.

With Portman and Kirk the only Republican senators for gay marriage, that makes them stand out. Portman's politics are often to the right of Kirk. Supporting gay marriage early -- that is for a Republican -- helps Kirk burnish a moderate credential.

Sen. Dick Durbin is one of 48 Democratic and Independent senators who back gay marriage.

♦ Curiously, Kirk, the top Republican in the state, did not use the occasion to explicitly call on the Illinois House to pass a pending gay marriage bill the state Senate already approved.

President Barack Obama wrestled with gay marriage for years. It was only last May that Obama said: "At a certain point I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married."

However once Obama was in -- well, he was in. Last December, as state lawmakers in Springfield started to take up gay marriage legislation, Obama (a former state senator) sent a statement that if he were still in the Illinois Legislature, "he would support this measure that would treat all Illinois couples equally."

Obama, Durbin and seven House Democrats -- all from the Chicago area -- have urged the Illinois House to pass the now stalled state bill.

♦ Kirk is not anticipating a 2016 GOP primary challenge where gay marriage support would be an issue. Anyway, that's years away.

♦ Kirk's stroke has liberated him. Kirk vaulted into the news with a heartfelt, 68-word statement: "Our time on this Earth is limited, I know that better than most. Life comes down to who you love and who loves you back -- government has no place in the middle."

A Kirk staffer told a gay marriage advocate: "The journey story is clear; he is unshackled since he came back from his stroke."

♦ Kirk and his staff, I'm told, did hear from a lot of people urging him to speak up on the gay marriage issue sooner than later.

Rick Garcia, director of the Equal Marriage Illinois Project told me, "We've met with his staff and talked to him."

River Forest residents Lee and David Neubecker are the parents of Braiden, 10. On March 1, David Neubecker and Braiden met with Kirk legislative staffer Gretchan Blum in Washington.

Neubecker said his daughter made the case why "her two dads should be allowed to get married."

Kirk's past opposition to gay marriage seems based more on politics than convictions, given what he told the Illinois Radio Network on Tuesday.

"Most of us have gay acquaintances at work or at church and we know them and the thought of legally discriminating against our own friends and co-workers is an anathema to me," Kirk said in the interview.

Kirk wrote a column that ran in the Washington Post on Feb. 1 about how his stroke -- which kept him out of the Senate almost a year -- gave him a new outlook on life. Wrote Kirk: "I want my life to count for something more than the honors I once craved. I believe it will. My faith is stronger. My humility is deeper. I know I depend on family and friends more than I ever realized. I know, too, that the things that divide us in politics are infinitesimal compared with the dignity of our common humanity."

Kirk's journey continues.

Waukegan Harbor--one of the most underused assets in the Chicago area--will get a boost, some $990,000 in federal funding for dredging to clean up damage caused last year by Hurricane Sandy, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) announced on Friday.

Where the money comes from and background, according to Durbin and Schneider release: "The funding was awarded as part of the $821 million approved for the Army Corps of Engineers in the supplemental appropriations bill to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy and to rebuild the areas that were impacted.

"For many years, Waukegan Harbor and the entire Great Lakes navigation system have been threatened due to underfunding which was worsened last year by record low lake levels and damage from Hurricane Sandy," said Durbin. "While more work needs to be done, this funding will restore navigation and keep goods moving this shipping season. It will also help protect the Illinois jobs and economic development that depend on reliable access to the harbor."

"Waukegan Harbor has been closed to commercial navigation for far too long, and this is an encouraging development in what will be a long-term project to restore the harbor," Schneider said. "Fostering economic growth and helping create new jobs in the region, this investment will pay great dividends and promote development in the area."

"In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the United States covering 900 miles and impacting 24 states, including the states surrounding the Great Lakes where gale force winds caused damage to breakwaters and silted in harbors and channels. The storm left Waukegan Harbor with only a 12 foot draft in its approach channel where there should be 22 feet of clearance forcing the closure of the harbor to all commercial traffic. The harbor's commercial interests support over 100 jobs and millions of dollars of personal income for the local community."


WASHINGTON--If Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is to "merit" re-election, he "needs to show leadership and produce results," fellow Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin said Wednesday, with the senator seeming to prod Attorney General Lisa Madigan to get in the race.

Bill Daley, former White House chief of staff and former Commerce Secretary--and brother of former Mayor Richard M. Daley--is mulling a run for governor but is likely not to challenge Quinn in a Democratic primary if Madigan is in the race.

Durbin, speaking to reporters at a session hosted by the Wall Street Journal, said, "I don't think Bill Daley will get in the race. But I leave that up to him. I mean, that's really ultimately his decision."

"Illinois is going through a period here," Durbin said, "as I mentioned earlier, with our legislature in Springfield and our governor that's as hard a political assignment as I've ever seen, dealing with this pension problem. And it's - it is awful, as you can imagine. And all the choices are bad. And there's a feeling that the governor needs to show leadership and produce results in order to merit renomination and re-election.

"There are people looking at running against him. They include Lisa Madigan, the attorney general, and Bill Daley, who's known to everyone here in the room. I don't believe - I don't know that Lisa has made a decision. I think she's going to make one soon. If she gets in the race, she is likely to be the only challenger. I don't think Bill Daley will get in the race. But I leave that up to him. I mean, that's really ultimately his decision."

One of Lisa Madigan's potential main liabilities in a statewide run is her father, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), the state Democratic Party chairman.

Durbin, asked if Speaker Madigan could stay on if his daughter runs for governor, said "That's a hard question.

"He's been around for many years, not only the most powerful person in the state capital as speaker - and she has - she has really earned her stripes as an individual, not as his daughter. I mean, she won a tough primary for attorney general. She has served well and has high approval ratings, one of the highest approval rating of any state official. So the relationship with her father and her possible future run - I'm not going to speculate on that."

Corrected to reflect today's hearing is Sen. Leahy's...

WASHINGTON--Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing today on "The future of drones in America: law enforcement and privacy concerns." The domestic use of drones is a concern that crosses partisan lines. The hearing starts at 10:30 a.m. ET and you can listen to a webcast HERE. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is holding a hearing on drones next month.

Below, the witness list....

Benjamin Miller
Unmanned Aircraft Program Manager, Mesa County Sheriff's Office
Representative, Airborne Law Enforcement Association
Mesa County, CO

Amie Stepanovich
Director of the Domestic Surveillance Project
Electronic Privacy Information Center
Washington, DC

Michael Toscano
President & CEO
Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International
Arlington, VA

Ryan Calo
Assistant Professor
University of Washington School of Law
Seattle, WA

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) hit two fund-raisers on Sunday, stockpiling cash for his 2014 re-election bid with events at the homes of two of his major supporters, Susan and Lew Manilow in Chicago and Dan and Fay Levin in Winnetka.

The events at the Manilow and Levin homes were attended by Durbin's circle of longtime donors.

Susan Manilow, a long-time Democratic activist, is the finance chair of Durbin's campaign. Lew Manilow, a real estate developer, is also a long-time Democratic activist who, in 1992, was President Bill Clinton's national vice-chair and Illinois Finance Chair.

Dan Levin is the founder and chairman of The Habitat Company. Fay Levin is the former United States Ambassador to the Netherlands, tapped by President Barack Obama. She served between 2009 and 2011.

Durbin's fundraising has been and continues to be handled by the Chicago-based Nancy Kohn.

WASHINGTON--Zachary Fardon is emerging as the likely nominee for U.S. attorney in Chicago, with his main rival for the pick, Lori Lightfoot, telling people she got a White House call a few days ago telling her she is out of the running, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Fox 32 News reporter Larry Yellen is reporting that Fardon will get the nomination for the Northern District of Illinois spot.

President Barack Obama's team has been vetting potential contenders for the job, vacated by former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald last summer.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) ran a bi-partisan search committee and sent the White House four names for consideration last September, since whittled to two, Lightfoot and Fardon. The four --Fardon, Lightfoot, Jonathan Bunge and Gil Soffer--are all partners in Chicago law firms with experience as federal prosecutors in Chicago.

The search was started last July. The timing is up to the White House, which is vetting, or investigating the prospects before Obama taps a nominee. The next step is for the nomination to be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee--of which Durbin is a member. From the time Obama sends a nominee to the committee to confirmation could take between two and four months.

Fardon specialized in public corruption cases as federal prosecutor in Chicago and Tennessee. His prosecuted former Illinois Gov. George Ryan and his chief of staff, Scott Fawell. He is now a partner with the Chicago law firm of Latham & Watkins in Chicago. He received his undergraduate and law degree from Vanderbilt University.

Lightfoot is a former federal prosecutor in Chicago and former chief administrator at the Chicago Police Department's Office of Professional Standards. Lightfoot is a partner with the Chicago law firm with the Mayer Brown. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and her law degree from the University of Chicago Law School. She is the only woman and minority on the list.

Since Fitzgerald's departure, the interim U.S. attorney has been Gary Shapiro, who was Fitzgerald's second-in-command.

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) a member of a bi-partisan Senate group drafting immigration reform legislation, told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" he sees a deal getting done.

"We are working, literally, hours every week, four Democrats, four Republicans. And, we're making progress. There are still some tough, tough issues out there. But I feel good about it.

"There is a feeling in the room we have a responsibility to this nation after 25 years to write an immigration law, that we can live with for generations to come.

Wallace asked Durbin, "What's the biggest problem?"

Replied Durbin, "Well, there are several problems. You know, we are dealing with border enforcement, which is very important on the Republican side of the table. We are dealing with the question of the 11 million people paying their taxes, having a path to legalization and, then, ultimately, to citizenship.

"Tough issues but we are coming together and I think we can do it. I have a positive feeling."

Over in the House, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is working with a bi-partisan group also trying to forge a deal.

WASHINGTON--There is enormous interest in the use of drones on both sides of the aisle and next month Sen. Dick Durbin (D-lll.) will chair a Senate Judiciary Committee
hearing titled "Drone Wars: The Constitutional and Counterterrorism Implications of Targeted Killing."

On March 16, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) will chair hearing on the domestic use of drones titled "The Future of Drones in America: Law Enforcement and Privacy Considerations."

Last week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) took to the Senate floor for a 13-hour filibuster of John Brennan's CIA director nomination to be CIA director and his concerns over the Obama administration targeted drone strikes.

The April 16 Durbin hearing "will focus on the constitutional and statutory authority for targeted killings; the scope of the battlefield and who can be targeted as a combatant; and establishing a transparent legal framework for the use of drones."

"Targeted killing raises important legal and policy questions that require a public debate," Durbin said in a statement. "President Obama has made it clear he wants to work with Congress to establish 'a legal architecture' for drone strikes to prevent abuses. My subcommittee will begin this important constitutional debate when we meet next month."


WASHINGTON -- As President Barack Obama was motorcading to the Capitol on Tuesday -- the first of three visits this week to huddle with GOP and Democrat lawmakers, known here as his "charm offensive" -- I asked Sen. Susan Collins if the mixers could make a difference, what with entrenched Congressional gridlock.

"My hope is it will change the atmosphere and to make everyone work better together," the Maine Republican known for her bipartisanship told me. "The presidents' overtures are long overdue, but they are welcome nevertheless."

Obama met with Senate Democrats Tuesday in a session that featured a lot of senators asking questions -- described to me as sort of like their own news conference -- as Obama attempts to make up for lost time in forging more productive relations with Congress.

Today Obama returns to the Capitol to talk with House Republicans and on Thursday meets with House Democrats and Senate Republicans.

Why is Obama devoting all this time to wooing Congress? Last week he took a dozen GOP senators to dinner and had House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) over for lunch. Ryan, in return, served up Tuesday a proposed fiscal 2014 budget that strips funding for Obama's signature health care law.

Obama's shuttle diplomacy to the House and Senate rank and file may shut down -- or at least soften -- Republican criticism that he doesn't reach out to them.

"With regard to what a lot of you have described as the president's charm offensive, we welcome it," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters.

After Obama left, I asked Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 leader in the Senate, what he made of the presidential outreach.

"I think it is worth a try," Durbin told me. "What he is trying to do is to move them beyond, for many of them, just a knee-jerk negative reaction to him and his proposals. And I can tell you from conversations I've had with Republicans, we haven't converted them to Obama supporters, but I think they are listening, which is all you can ask for."

The Senate is run by Democrats, and face time with Obama is not an issue. Obama confronts a tougher crowd on Wednesday, since the GOP controls the House.

Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) reminded reporters on Tuesday about the rarity of Obama's personal dealings with the House GOP members. No meetings with House members in 2012 (hey, it was an election year), an invite to all House Republicans to the White House on June 1, 2011, and a speech at the House GOP retreat in Baltimore on Jan. 29, 2010.

I don't want to oversell these meetings as a cure to what ails a moribund Congress.

"Listen, one meeting, no one is going to fall in love or anything like that," Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) told me.

What they may do is blunt some of the sharper critics.

King said, "It's a lot easier to quote/unquote hate someone if you don't deal with them, so you get rid of some of that attitude. Some guys can get that out of their system."

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) will run for another term in 2014, I'm told, and is ramping up for a campaign with five fund-raisers here in the next two weeks.

Durbin is in absolutely no rush to make any official announcement and his core supporters have understood for some time that he will seek re-election, I'm told.

Durbin has held more than 20 fund-raisers since November and as of Dec. 31 had $2,590,707 cash-on-hand in his campaign fund.

Starting in early April, Durbin will step up his political travel, I'm told, speaking around the country for other Democrats and for himself.

Durbin, 68, the Senate Assistant Majority Leader, was first elected to the Senate in 1996 after serving in the House between 1982 and 1996.

Durbin has no opponent on the horizon--either for a Democratic primary or a Republican. Illinois Republicans who are looking for statewide races are far more interested so far in running for governor.


Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaking during the seventh hour of his filibuster.

WASHINGTON--After nearly 13 hours, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) ended a rare filibuster on the Senate floor, early Thursday, opposing the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director and speaking out against the Obama administration refusal to say whether drones would be used domestically.

TO NOTE: Paul, who comes from the Tea Party movement within the GOP Party, keynoted Monday night the 6th Annual Northwest Suburban Republican Lincoln Day Dinner in northwest suburban Palatine. The event was hosted by a group of Republican township organization in the northwest Chicago suburbs: Palatine, Schaumburg, Barrington, Hanover, Northfield, and Wheeling.

While the threat of a filibuster always hangs over Senate business--Senators usually don't use the delaying tactic. Paul started talking at 11:47 a.m. ET on Wednesday, according to Paul's office and concluded at 12:39 a.m. ET on Thursday, according to press reports. The Senate then adjourned at 12:41 a.m. ET, according to the Senate record.

DURBIN: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was there until the end. After Paul yielded, Durbin filed the motion to set the stage for a vote on Brennan's confirmation, with the vote possible on Thursday.

A senator has to remain physically present to hold the floor, and Paul finally yielded because he had to go to the bathroom, he suggested at the end of his marathon.

During his seventh hour Paul said, "If the President is unwilling to say clearly and unequivocally that he is not going to kill noncombatants in America, I don't think we should tolerate that. I think there should be a huge outcry and the President should come forward and explain his position. This discussion tonight really isn't so much about John Brennan. It isn't about his nomination so much as it's about whether or not we believe that in America there are some rights that are so special that we're not willing to give up on these. So as we move forward into this debate, it's not really about who gets nominated to be the head of the CIA It's about principles that are bigger than the people. It's about something bigger and larger than the people involved. It's about Constitutional principles that really we shouldn't give up on."

NO FILIBUSTER RECORD SET:
Though Paul had a long stint, he didn't break any filibuster records. The Washington Post looks at filibuster lengths HERE.

RAND PAUL FILIBUSTER TWEETS
SenRandPaul
I'm not a great fan of Jane Fonda. But I'm not so interested in putting her on a drone kill list either.

Senator Rand Paul ‏@SenRandPaul
The American people deserve a clear statement from the President concerning limits of executive power.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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