Welcome to Wonkbook, Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas's morning policy news primer. To subscribe by e-mail, click here. Send comments, criticism, or ideas to Wonkbook at Gmail dot com. To read more by Ezra and his team, go to Wonkblog.

Wonkbook's Number of the Day: 24. That's the number of years some prospective immigrants have to wait to immigrate legally into the United States. There is a wide variety of wait times -- some quick, others interminable. More on immigration reform below.


(Reuters/Robert Galbraith)

Wonkblog's Graph of the Day: The sandwich generation.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: 1) The pitfalls of immigration reform; 2) what Biden said to Senate Democrats on gun control; 3) HHS faces big burdens building exchanges; 4) the Senate suspends the debt ceiling; and 5) preparing for Friday's job report.

1) Top story: Immigration reform won't be easy at it first seemed

Citizenship question roils the immigration debate. "Rising tensions over whether to give illegal immigrants a chance to pursue full citizenship could ruin what President Obama and congressional leaders agree is a pivotal moment in resolving long-simmering problems in the country’s immigration system." Peter Wallsten and Rosalind S. Helderman in The Washington Post.

On immigration, the devil's in the details. "Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York and a member of the group, offered a glimpse of one of the more vexing details that still needs to be worked out. With Republicans insisting that a pathway to citizenship be contingent on a securing of the nation’s borders, who will decide when the borders are secure, and what metrics will used?" Ashley Parker in The New York Times.

@davidfrum: "Seal the borders" must not become an alternative to "enforce immigration laws at the workplace."

How long is the immigration line? As long as 24 years. "There are many lines with wait times that vary wildly depending on the type of green card that a prospective immigrant is applying for, the number of visas available and his or her country of origin." Suzy Khimm in The Washington Post.

Debate: Is the border secure? The New York Times.

...And don't forget about taxes as a part of immigration reform. "[I]mmigration policy experts on both sides of political spectrum say this is easier said than done — and maybe even not worth the hassle for the tiny pool of cash it would bring to the Treasury." Rachael Bade and Lauren French in Politico.

@robertcostaNRO: Part of Rubio's strength on immigration is that he's been having these conversations since he was in the FL state House.

Worried about the economy? Then do immigration reform. "Immigrants begin businesses and file patents at a much higher rate than their native-born counterparts, and while there are disputes about the effect immigrants have on the wages of low-income Americans, there’s little dispute about their effect on wages overall: They lift them." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

Explainer with humor: Jon Stewart explains the Republican embrace of immigration reformSean Sullivan in The Washington Post.

KRAUTHAMMER: How to get it right on immigration. "Americans are a generous people. They don’t want 11 million souls living in fear among them. They would willingly, indeed overwhelmingly, support amnesty — as long as it is the last." Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post.

ROBINSON: Immigration reform, a solvable problem. "Truly comprehensive reform would include designing a viable legal pathway for those who want to come here and contribute their ambition, determination and skills. No such pathway exists now — and none existed for the millions who decided to enter the country without papers or overstay their visas." Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post.

BROOKS: Immigration is easy. "The forlorn pundit doesn’t even have to make the humanitarian case that immigration reform would be a great victory for human dignity. The cold economic case by itself is so strong." David Brooks in The New York Times.

NOONAN: Republicans attempt to break the ice. "Do you hear the sound of an ice floe cracking? I think I did the past 10 days...These sharp cracks in the air just may be the sound of a frozen party moving on into swift and warmer waters. And if it's just a beginning, good, it's a beginning...In fact, solving immigration is important politically to the GOP because it would remove an impediment to reconciliation. But immigration reform itself probably won't result in any electoral windfall for the Republicans." Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal.

DIONNE: The new politics of immigration. "Until Obama was reelected, party competition translated into Republican efforts to block virtually everything the president wanted to accomplish. On immigration, at least, the parties are now competing to share credit for doing something big. It’s wonderful to behold." E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post.

PETHOKOUKIS: Is Rubio really about to ruin the Republicans? No. "Immigration reform would nudge conservatives and Republicans to move beyond an economic agenda — both in terms of policy and messaging — that’s been focused almost exclusively on a) debt reduction, and b) directly meeting the needs of business and entrepreneurs. Keep all that stuff, of course, but what about education and health care reform and the tax code’s anti-parent bias? A populist, middle-class agenda won’t just help win the votes of Hispanics, but also the votes of millions of middle-income and working-class Americans of whatever race and ethnicity who think the GOP and conservative policies have nothing to offer them." James Pethokoukis in AEI.

Eat interlude: You're using takeout boxes wrong.

Top op-eds

ALTER: Replanting the goalposts. "Goal-post shifting is back in style. Behind the soaring rhetoric of the inaugural address and his announcement of a bold immigration plan, the president is engaged in a carefully calibrated effort to move the debate away from the right side of the field." Jonathan Alter in Bloomberg.

KRUGMAN: Looking for Mr. Goodpain. "I’d like to talk about a different but related kind of desperation: the frantic effort to find some example, somewhere, of austerity policies that succeeded. For the advocates of fiscal austerity — the austerians — made promises as well as threats: austerity, they claimed, would both avert crisis and lead to prosperity. And let nobody accuse the austerians of lacking a sense of romance; in fact, they’ve spent years looking for Mr. Goodpain." Paul Krugman in The New York Times.

SACHS: America's new progressive era. "For more than three decades, no one really challenged the consequences of turning political power over to the highest bidders. In the meantime, America went from being a middle-class society to one increasingly divided between rich and poor...Maybe, just maybe, Obama’s recent address marks not only the end of this destructive agenda, but also the start of a new era. Indeed, he devoted almost the entire speech to the positive role of government." Jeffrey D. Sachs in Project Syndicate.

COHN: How to build a better assault weapons ban. "[I]t’s one thing to say gun laws haven’t significantly reduced gun violence, quite another to say theycouldn’t. Both the Brady Law and assault weapons ban had serious, specific flaws." Jonathan Cohn in the New Republic.

SAMUELSON: The sequester we need. "[T]he sequester mandates about $1 trillion in government spending cuts over nine years, divided between defense and non-defense programs. These would be the wrong cuts, done in the wrong way. There’s a better approach." Robert Samuelson in The Washington Post

Geographic practice interlude: Cool maps of the global telecommunications network.

2) Biden talks guns with Senate Dems

Vice President Joe Biden meets with Senate Democrats on gun control legislation. "Vice President Biden dined with Senate Democrats on Thursday and discussed the Obama administration’s new proposals to limit gun violence, marking his first formal meeting with his colleagues to explain the proposals presented by President Obama two weeks ago." Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

Interview: Former Australian prime minister John Howard calls gun control 'apolitical.' Evan Soltas in Bloomberg

Chuck Grassley wants to fix the guns database. "Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) questioned Thursday the effectiveness of implementing a universal background check system, instead saying that the government should 'beef up' the database already in place." Kevin Cirilli in Politico.

Advocates worry mental health will be scapegoated in gun debate. "[A] growing number of state and national politicians are promoting a focus on mental illness as a way to help prevent further killings...[C]ritics say that this focus unfairly singles out people with serious mental illness, who studies indicate are involved in only about 4 percent of violent crimes and are 11 or more times as likely than the general population to be the victims of violent crime." Erica Goode and Jack Healy in The New York Times.

Cruel interlude: Note from a diner at Applebee's: "I give God 10%. Why do you get 18%?"

3) The HHS is exchanging names on health exchanges

HHS reaffirms exchanges will be ready by October. "The central component of President Obama’s signature healthcare law will be ready to go in just eight months, some of the administration’s top healthcare officials said Thursday. The Health and Human Services Department has until October to build a federal insurance exchange in the 30-plus states that won’t set up their own marketplaces." Sam Baker in The Hill.

...Except they won't be called 'exchanges.' "The Obama administration has stopped using the term 'exchanges' to describe part of the healthcare law because the word doesn’t translate into Spanish, an official said Thursday. Anton Gunn, director of External Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said the rebranding of the insurance exchanges as 'marketplaces' was geared toward Spanish speakers who will use the system." Elise Viebeck in The Hill.

Obama is open to cutting Medicare. But not Medicaid. "The White House is willing to make bigger Medicare cuts in order to protect Medicaid, senior economic adviser Gene Sperling said Thursday. Sperling said the White House is no longer willing to make even the Medicaid cuts it had previously supported, but acknowledged that puts more pressure on Medicare. The White House’s upcoming budget proposal will reflect those priorities, Sperling said." Sam Baker in The Hill.

Ohio governor is weighing the Medicaid expansion. "In an interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer this week, Ohio Gov. John Kasich hinted he would call for expanding the joint federal-state health care program for poor and disabled in his pending two-year budget proposal, which is due Monday." Lisa Bernard-Kuhn in USA Today.

All states now have restrictions on abortions except one: Oregon. "A separate decision two decades later, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, guaranteed states’ rights to limit access to abortion, so long as it did not pose an 'undue burden' on the woman. States have, over the past four decades, made no short use of that latter right. Only one state, Oregon, has not layered additional restrictions on top of the Roe decision. At the other end of the spectrum is Oklahoma: With 22 abortion restrictions, it has more than any other state." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Device makers really don't like competitive bidding. "The medical-device lobby is railing against a new expansion of Medicare's competitive bidding program for durable equipment, a policy projected to save billions of dollars for beneficiaries and the Part B Trust Fund by 2022." Elise Viebeck in The Hill.

Driving interlude: How you can adjust your mirrors to eliminate blind spots.

4) Breathe easier: the debt limit has been suspended

The Senate has suspended the debt limit. "Congress gave final approval Thursday to a plan to temporarily suspend the legal limit on the national debt, permitting the Treasury Department to keep borrowing and lifting the threat of a government default until August. The measure, approved by the Senate 64 to 34, now goes to the White House for President Obama’s signature." Lori Montgomery in The Washington Post.

Joe Scarborough, Paul Krugman, and the divide on deficits between pundit and economist. "These worlds seem to be talking past each other, and for one reason in particular. There is, in the Washington conversation, a generalized aversion to deficits. It’s an aversion with an almost moral dimension...But to economists, deficits are simply the difference between revenues and outlays.  A large deficit could be a good thing if it’s going toward a productive investment. A small deficit can be a bad thing if the economy needs more support. So if you’re worried about deficits, you need to say why." Neil Irwin in The Washington Post.

Sen. McCaskill says it will take years to fully audit the Defense Department. "Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) gives us a great, jaw-dropping detail at the confirmation hearing for defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel: It’s going to take until at least 2017 for the Defense Department to fully audit its byzantine accounting books." Rajiv Chandrasekaran in The Washington Post.

Explainer: What if Obama spent like Reagan? Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

We've raised the debt ceiling 15 times since 1996. Why? "This afternoon, the Senate is set to pass the House’s “suspension” of the debt ceiling through May 19, a move that, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center, will amount to an increase in the ceiling of about $450 billion." Dylan Matthews in The Washington Post.

The Army's hiring freeze is imperfect. "The Army has released further details on its recently imposed civilian hiring freeze, stressing that there are no specific exceptions even for hiring wounded veterans or for filling positions that have been converted from contractor performance." Eric Yoder in The Washington Post.

The link you're going to send to everyone right now interlude: The world's most dedicated person to April Fools' Day -- he once fooled residents near a dormant volcano by dropping burning tires from a plane onto the valley.

5) Tomorrow's jobs report: what you need to know

What to expect when you're expecting a jobs report. "The first major indicator of how the economy is performing in 2013 is due out Friday morning, and it will offer a window onto whether the job market is gaining momentum or stumbling in the new year. Analysts are expecting the new Labor Department report, due out at 8:30 a.m., to show continuity. Forecasters expect to see 165,000 net new jobs added in January, up a bit from the 155,000 added in December. They expect the unemployment rate to be unchanged at 7.8 percent." Neil Irwin in The Washington Post.

...Meanwhile, the "Jobs Council" is no longer. "The jobs council President Obama convened with much fanfare in January 2011 is expected to expire on Thursday, and the White House is defending its decision not to renew it" Felicia Sonmez in The Washington Post.

Scientific interlude: Working on an artificial pancreas.

Wonkblog Roundup

The U.S. has some of the lowest taxes on energy in the developed worldBrad Plumer.

Americans want to raise payroll taxes and Social Security benefitsDylan Matthews.

What to expect from Friday's jobs report. Neil Irwin.

Why the Justice Department is fighting for your right to cheaper beerSteven Pearlstein.

Chart: What if Obama spent like Reagan? Ezra Klein.

We've raised the debt ceiling 15 times since 1996Dylan Matthews.

Worried about the economy? Then pass immigration reformEzra Klein.

Joe Scarborough, Paul Krugman, and the deficit debate. Neil Irwin.

How long is the immigration line? Suzy Khimm.

Andy Warhol, pop-wonkEzra Klein.

Et Cetera

How incomes shifted to avoid taxesCatherine Rampell in The New York Times.

The U.S. has some of the lowest taxes on energy in the developed worldBrad Plumer in The Washington Post.

Americans want to raise payroll taxes and Social Security benefitsDylan Matthews in The Washington Post.

How much does it cost to buy an ambassador post? Nicholas Confessore in The New York Times.

Following recess appointment decision, next step is to undo all of NLRB's rulings, says ChamberMelanie Trottman in The Wall Street Journal.

The FTC chairman makes her exitBrent Kendall and Thomas Catan in The Wall Street Journal.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.