* Important news: The Arkansas version of the Medicaid expansion survives after an effort to defund it narrowly fails in the state legislature, preserving coverage for nearly 100,000 people. Key nugget:

The plan has sharply divided Republicans, and the votes will likely continue to be an issue in GOP primaries for legislative, statewide and congressional offices in May.

It’s possible that things like this signal how Obamacare might ultimately recede as an issue, at least for everyone other than the GOP base.

* Steve Benen flags a striking quote from one GOP lawmaker, state Rep. Kim Hammer, who changed his mind and voted to keep the expansion in Arkansas:

“There are people who will be hurt if I don’t vote for this,” Hammer said. “And I don’t want to see those innocent people hurt because of that.”


* Chris Christie is getting some attention today for claiming the best way to get rid of Obamacare is to “elect a new president.” But this, from CNN’s account, seems far more interesting:

“We expanded Medicaid, because we believe that folks are better off going to see physicians and having care than going to emergency rooms all the time….But the rest of this program does not make any sense,” he said.

Wait, didn’t the Republican Governors Association that Christie helms release an ad attacking Dems over the Medicaid expansion, on behalf of Governor Nikki Haley, who opposed it South Carolina? Yes, it did.

* Robert Gates tells David Ignatius that he’d like to see Republicans exercise a bit more caution in criticism of Obama on the Ukraine crisis. Notable:

I asked Gates what he thought about the criticism of Obama by McCain and Graham. “They’re egging him on” to take actions that may not be effective, Gates warned. He said he “discounted” their deeper argument that Obama had invited the Ukraine crisis by not taking a firmer stand on Syria or other foreign policy issues. Even if Obama had bombed Syria or kept troops in Iraq or otherwise shown a tougher face, “he still would have the same options in Ukraine. Putin would have the same high cards.”

* The Miami Herald’s Marc Caputo does a comprehensive crunch of the polling and early voting evidence and finds signs that Dem Alex Sink is favored to win in Florida’s 13th district. One more time: Whoever wins, it will tell us nothing about what to expect in November of 2014.

* Takedown of the day: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities with an epic look at how Paul Ryan’s report on federal anti-poverty programs distorts and obscures what the safety net and War on Poverty have accomplished.

* Relatedly, Paul Krugman goes big on how the larger ideas animating Ryan’s approach, which you might call the Hammock Theory of Poverty, represent a “falsehood wrapped in a fallacy.”

* A nice post from Jared Bernstein on how to read the two parties’ budget blueprints as larger statements in a fundamental argument over government that goes back to the founding.

* David Atkins on the GOP’s increasingly obvious Obamacare repeal dilemma:

Increasingly, Republican candidates are coming up against the fact that ACA has already improved the lives of millions of people. The public still doesn’t fully trust the law, but an expanding majority doesn’t want it repealed. The “repeal” mantra is increasingly becoming a millstone around Republican necks.

Yes. Mounting enrollment will require ever more strenuous efforts to pretend the law’s beneficiaries simply don’t exist.

* This, from Emptywheel, is worth watching: Senator Mark Udall is pressuring Obama to commit to releasing the Senate Intel Committee’s report on Bush-era torture, something which could represent another fault line among Dems.

* Ben Armbruster argues that the latest tea leaves suggest Congress really has backed off its efforts to scuttle, er, assist the administration’s negotiations with Iran. Notably, Congress’ parameters on what a final deal must look like may have eased.

* A good Ed Kilgore sendup of Senator Bob Corker’s latest in the campaign against unionization at a VW plant in South Carolina.

* And Jon Chait on how Obama’s budget is trolling Republicans by offering them exactly what they asked for.

What else?