Morning Must Reads: Tsunami

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Houses swept out to sea burn following a tsunami and earthquake in Natori City in northeastern Japan on March 11. (Reuters/Yomiuri)

–One of the largest earthquakes on record has struck Japan, killing at least 90 people and spawning 23-foot waves. President Obama: “The United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial.” Officials in Hawaii and on the West Coast have issued tsunami alerts. The photos are astonishing.

–The Obama administration is pursuing an unprecedented number of prosecutions against government leakers, reports Mark Benjamin.

–Republicans are crafting another temporary stopgap spending bill, good for $6 billion in cuts and another three weeks to work on a longer-term budget deal.

–In the Senate, the Gang of Six grand bargainers say they have tentative support from 31 senators, 16 Republicans and 15 Democrats. Pete Davis is skeptical and lays out what he sees as the likeliest outcome:

The next CR, for one month, includes more non-security discretionary spending cuts, but less than the $4 billion per two weeks of the first one.
After a short-term debt limit increase or two, a debt limit increase until early 2013 passes with discretionary spending caps for the next three to five years to ratchet spending down in the mid-range between FY08 and current levels in real terms.
Medicaid might be capped, but no cuts to Medicare or Social Security, and no tax increases.

–The CBO finds that nixing the individual mandate would reduce the deficit, albeit at the cost of fewer insured Americans and higher premiums. They have some other ideas for patching the budget.

–Wisconsin farmers plan to swarm the capital with tractors. Mark Blumenthal sees Democratic enthusiasm there returning to 2008 levels.

Scott Walker is not a dictator or anywhere in the neighborhood.

–Influential Iowa social conservative and Huckabee intimate Bob Vander Plaats: “If you’re saying Huckabee’s not going to run, I think you’re nuts.”

–Jerry Brown hammers away at a tricky California budget.

–Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s public speaking problems continue.

–And Jeffrey Goldberg recounts his one-time fling with these voluptuous United States.

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