Political Updates: Spending and Immigration Bills; Republican Issues

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Appropriators practice art of compromise
WASHINGTON (AP) -- There's one place in Congress where bipartisanship thrives: The House and Senate Appropriations committees.
That's fortunate, because these are the committees where key lawmakers are negotiating the spending bill to avoid a government shutdown and ease the pain of automatic spending cuts that took effect March 1.
The committees are led by Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Republican Rep. Harold Rogers of Kentucky.
They and their aides are conferring with one another daily and sometimes hourly on how to avoid yet another government crisis.
Rogers says he hopes their work is an education for lawmakers who dislike compromise. Mikulski hopes their example moves everyone beyond what she calls "ultimatum and brinksmanship politics."
The spending bill is expected to pass the Senate first, then the House this coming week.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A bipartisan group of House members working in secret on a comprehensive immigration bill is nearing completion and has met with party leaders to brief them.
A spokesman for Republican House Speaker John Boehner says Boehner had a good talk Friday with Republicans in the group, and that the lawmakers have made real progress.
The group's three Democrats met Thursday with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
The group had hoped to release their bill around the time of the State of the Union last month, but now an aide says they will aim for April.
They're expected to include some way for some illegal immigrants to become citizens, but details are unclear.
Attention has focused on a negotiating group in the Senate, which is expected to act first on immigration.

OXON HILL, Md. (AP) -- Conservative activists have given Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul a narrow victory in a presidential preference poll.
Paul's victory in the unscientific yet symbolic straw poll on Saturday capped this week's Conservative Political Action Conference. Paul won with 25 percent of the vote, just ahead of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio with 23 percent. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was third with 8 percent.
The victory offers little more than bragging rights for Paul, who is popular with the younger generation of libertarian-minded conservatives who packed the conference in suburban Washington.
Nearly 3,000 people participated in the online poll and more than half were younger than 26.
Paul's father, former Texas congressman Ron Paul, won the straw poll in 2010 and 2011.
Paul has said he's "seriously considering" a presidential run.

OXON HILL, Md. (AP) -- Returning to the national stage, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin says the Republican Party must broaden its message in order to grow.
She says the GOP must "leave no American behind." And she adds that it's "imperative to reach out and share that conservative message."
Palin addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday. The party's 2008 vice presidential nominee thrilled the audience with pointed criticism of President Barack Obama.
She likened the president to Ponzi-scheme felon Bernie Madoff and later offered Obama a direct message: "Step away from the teleprompter and do your job."
Palin maintained a low-profile during last year's election. She's expected to play a limited role in the future of the party but shared several pointed recommendations Saturday.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sen. Lindsey Graham is proving the limits of the tea party's power to frighten GOP lawmakers into scurrying farther to the right.
The South Carolina Republican has angered conservative activists on several fronts.
He blasted tea party hero and Kentucky's Republican Sen. Rand Paul for criticizing U.S. drone policy. He says he's open to tax hikes in return for changes to Social Security and Medicare.
Several South Carolina Republican clubs censured Graham three years ago. Some called for a conservative challenger.
But even his critics now say Graham is likely to win a third term next year.
They list these reasons: He campaigns almost nonstop. He uses humor and folksiness to deflect criticism. And he stays friendly with conservatives like Paul even when he disagrees with them on some issues.