Morning Briefing: March 20, 2012

After almost a year and half in the majority “House Republicans are still struggling to show they are able to get something done,” as the GOP has few if any real accomplishments under their belt, NBC News notes. From fights over the debt limit to funding the FAA, House Republicans have made a lot of noise but little legislative progress, and Congress will be mostly focused on the election from now on.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is releasing his much-anticipated budget today, but even fellow Republicans are slow to embrace the plan. Tea Party groups and hardline conservative representatives are balking at Ryan’s proposed spending ceiling. Without near-unified support from his own party, the budget may not even make it out of Ryan’s House Budget Committee.

Mitt Romney is hoping for a win in today’s Illinois primary, and the latest polling shows him with a comfortable lead over Rick Santorum. Top level Romney surrogates are stumping for the candidate, underscoring just how important a win would be for the former Massachusetts governor.

Santorum said yesterday in an Illinois speech, “I don’t care what the unemployment rate’s going to be,” handing Romney ammunition that his campaign has already used to attack the former Pennsylvania senator . Santorum was arguing that he won’t change his campaign based on the economy, but the comment suggested Santorum doesn’t care about putting people back to work.

Romney does not disclose his campaign bundlers, but a Washington Post examination finds they include a wide array of hedge-fund managers, bank executives and other members of the financial industry, along with a significant number of energy executives, real estate developers and other business owners.

An anti-congressional insider trading bill “has ground to a halt,” despite being widely popular and enjoying bipartisan support. The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act has become a victim of election year politics after House Republicans tried to make it stronger with an amendment that many viewed as a poison pill.

At least 36 people were killed across Iraq this morning by a series of car bombs and improvised explosive devices ahead of next week’s meeting of the Arab League there.

Marine Gen. John Allen, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, will testify before Congress today, hoping to convince lawmakers that they should “resist the urge to sharply cut funding for the war” despite deteriorating relations between the two countries. Commanders want to keep a robust force in Afghanistan after this fall, but there is growing opposition to the war from both sides of the aisle.

And finally: Mitt Romney made a Puerto Rico sandwich with pancake bread. Before Sunday’s primary, his campaign posted a video of the candidate eating pancakes and saying he hoped to win in the territory. Then yesterday, Romney stopped at a diner in Springfield, IL, where he held up an abnormally large pancake and remarked, “These pancakes are about as large as my win in Puerto Rico last night.”