By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's RICK KLEIN: It doesn't take much these days to provide fresh examples of Washington dysfunction. House Speaker John Boehner's declaration that the House should be judged on the number of laws it repeals lines up neatly - or, rather, jarringly - with the White House contention that Washington took its eye off the ball when it comes to job creation. (Who's this Washington thing, anyway?) We're beyond the point where a fresh series of speeches will change anything in terms of the leadership vacuum and partisan paralysis. Quick, name a player - any player - in Washington whose newfound support for an idea would make it actually happen? Is there even a ball to watch - one that's actually in play - these days?
ABC's DEVIN DWYER: 'Warrior for the Middle Class Returns: The Fight Against Lame Duck,' starring President Barack Obama. Summer blockbuster? Certainly not. But it could be the unofficial title of the latest White House messaging blitz. Obama on Wednesday will make yet another pivot back to pitching his economic agenda with the first in a two-month series of speeches meant to underscore his commitment to the middle class. The talks will "include new ideas and new pushes for ideas he has discussed before," senior Obama adviser Dan Pfieffer said in an email to the White House listserv. The campaign will touch on manufacturing, jobs, health care, housing and education, but an administration official declined to provide further details. If this all feels familiar, it's because it is. And the partisan politics are the same, too. House Speaker John Boehner said flatly Sunday that, despite having "more regular conversations" with Obama of late, he's determined to spoil any Obama-sponsored economic plans. "The president's policies are getting in the way of the economy growing," he said. As for Obama's second-term agenda, Boehner said he has "no idea" what that is.
TED CRUZ DISMISSES TALK OF 2016 PRESIDENTIAL BID. In an interview for "This Week" with ABC's JONATHAN KARL, Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz dismissed talk of a potential 2016 White House bid, along with the question of whether he is ready to run for the highest office in the land after having been a senator less than a year. "We are having a national debate about which direction the country should go…and what I am doing now is trying to participate in that national debate," Cruz said Friday while in Iowa, a state frequented by those with White House ambitions. "I'm not focused on the politics…the last office I was elected to was student council. So this has been a bit of a whirlwind." ABC's BEN BELL notes that Karl also asked Cruz about his eligibility for the White House, which has been questioned given that he was born in Canada. "My mother was born in Wilmington, Delaware. She's a U.S. citizen, so I'm a U.S. citizen," Cruz said. "I'm not going to engage in a legal debate. The facts are clear," he added. "I can tell you where I was born and who my parents were. And then as a legal matter, others can worry about that. I'm not going to engage." http://abcn.ws/13uMGGe
NOTED: Cruz criticized President Obama for trying to advance gun control measures following the December massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut that left 20 children dead. "I think he had a political agenda, which was to restrict the second amendment right to keep and bear arms of law-abiding citizens… They took advantage of that horrible, tragic shooting to push that agenda. And they didn't focus actually on solving the problem," Cruz said. "I think the policies he was advancing were wrong and were dangerous," he added. "And the point that I was finishing is I admire and respect him in that he fights for his principles, but I think his principles are profoundly dangerous."
BONUS: CRUZ ON JON STEWART'S 'DIRTY SYRUP GUZZLER' COMMENTS AND OTHER INSULTS. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas smiled when asked by ABC's JONATHAN KARL about comments by Comedy Central host Jon Stewart, who called him a "dirty syrup guzzler," earlier this year - which was a reference to Cruz having been born in Canada. Cruz said he sent Stewart, who he thinks is a "funny guy," a bottle of Texas syrup and invited him to visit. "I will tell you, in response to that, I did send Jon Stewart a letter saying that I rarely guzzled syrup," the Texas Republican said. "But any time that I did, it was Texas syrup. And I sent him a bottle of Texas syrup and invited him to a syrup festival in the State of Texas," Cruz said. Karl also asked Cruz about some of the harsh criticisms from his peers, including being called a "wacko bird" by fellow Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona. "I cannot control insults that others will choose to hurl. What I can control is that I have not and will not reciprocate. And my focus will remain on the substance," Cruz said. "Because I think - at the end of the day, I think most Americans don't really care about a bunch of politicians in Washington bickering back and forth." http://abcn.ws/18rLtAE
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: PETER KING PREDICTS HILLARY CLINTON WOULD 'DESTROY' RAND PAUL AND TED CRUZ. If you're a 2016 GOP presidential hopeful, watch out for Rep. Peter King's right hook, ABC's ALISA WIERSEMA notes. While discussing his boxing skills with ABC's RICK KLEIN last week, King, R-N.Y., who has been talking up his potential presidential ambitions, took jabs at other possible 2016 contenders. "I'm going to be feeling out the opponents the first few rounds, throwing jabs and jabs and, when they're not looking, right cross and it's all over," King said. He even offered some praise for the Democrat who would be the odds-on frontrunner, provided she decided to run. King believes the Republicans don't stand a chance if they put up the wrong candidate against Hillary Clinton. "I think she's very strong on foreign policy, and I think that if we nominate someone from our isolationist wing of the party, she'll destroy them," King said, putting Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz squarely in the isolationist category. http://abcn.ws/12D32JC
VAN JONES' CRYSTAL BALL: LIZ CHENEY WILL RUN FOR PRESIDENT. "This Week's" roundtable guests included former Obama White House Green Jobs Adviser and co-host of CNN's "Crossfire", Van Jones, who weighed in on Liz Cheney's decision to run for U.S. Senate in Wyoming: "I've watched Liz Cheney. I don't think she's big on potholes in Wyoming. I don't think this about the people of Wyoming. I don't think she's about the Republican Party that much because she's going to get a net zero increase in Republicans if she wins. I think she's running for president. I think this is about the Cheney brand. I think she's running for president in 2020. And I hope the people in Wyoming have enough sense to know when they're being used." http://abcn.ws/1aBPa7J
DETROIT MAYOR ON A FEDERAL BAILOUT: 'NOT YET'. In an exclusive interview on ABC's "This Week," Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said he hopes the city's decision to file for bankruptcy will provide a new beginning for the Motor City, ABC's KARI REA reports. "I'm surely hoping that this will be a new start. Detroiters are a very, very resilient people," Bing said on "This Week." "Detroit is a very iconic city, worldwide, and our people will fight through this. And we will come back." The city of Detroit made history on Thursday when it became the largest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy. Detroit's emergency financial manager Kevyn Orr filed for Chapter 9 protection, citing the city's $18 billion in debts to over 100,000 creditors. Bing, a Hall of Fame former NBA basketball player who has been mayor since 2009, told ABC's GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS he is unsure what role the federal government will play in Detroit's comeback, saying "not yet" when asked if there would be a federal bailout. "I think it's very difficult right now to ask directly for support," Bing said. "I have gotten great support from this administration. I've got great support from a lot of the different departments within the administration. They have been helpful, but now that we've done our bankruptcy filing, I think we've got to take a step back and see what's next." http://abcn.ws/12VzwSR
HELEN THOMAS REMEMBERED. Journalist Helen Thomas, who covered the White House for over five decades passed away Saturday at age 92. Thomas' career ranged through ten presidencies, from Kennedy to Obama until her controversial retirement in 2010 , ABC's MATTHEW LAROTONDA and ANN COMPTON note. Bestowed with the unofficial title of "dean" of the White House Press corps, she was known for firing blunt and even confrontational questions at the leaders of the free world, particularly into her latter years. She broke glass ceilings before anyone called them that. Here's a sampling of some tweets from fellow journalists remembering her life and work: http://abcn.ws/12SIdgS
MORE ABOUT HELEN'S LIFE AND CAREER: Born to humble beginnings as the daughter of Lebanese immigrants in Winchester, Kentucky and graduated from Wayne State University in 1942. By the 1950s, a time when most female journalists wrote on homemaking and other light faire, she was covering federal agencies. Eventually, Thomas would rise to become a legendary figure to Washington journalists and was held with equal respect by the administrations she covered. Tradition held she was given the first question at press conferences and authority to close them with the words, "Thank you, Mr. President." In the White House press briefing room, she was the only reporter to have a seat assigned to her by name rather than the respective media organizations. http://abcn.ws/15UB0xk
WHAT WE'RE READING
"WHY NEARLY EVERYONE IN CONGRESS HAS A LEADERSHIP PAC THESE DAYS," by the National Journal's Shane Goldmacher . "Once the province of actual and aspiring congressional leaders, who used them to dish out money to win friends and forge alliances, leadership PACs are now commonplace all the way to the back benches of Capitol Hill. It's symptomatic of the constant money chase that consumes so much of modern lawmakers' time and energy. Of the new senators elected last November, only one, Maine's Angus King, doesn't have one yet. Overall, 94 of the 100 current senators have created such PACs, according to a National Journal analysis of federal records. Roughly two-thirds of House members have them, as well. 'They're becoming so prevalent now, they're really a misnomer,' said Michael Toner, a former chairman of the Federal Elections Commission. 'You don't need to be a leader in any sense of the word.' In the 1998 election cycle, there were 120 leadership PACs, according to records from the Center for Responsive Politics. Today, there are more than 450. Combined, leadership PACs spent more than $141 million in the last election cycle, including more than $46 million in direct campaign contributions, according to CRP data." http://bit.ly/13YnOtq
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX
EMILY'S LIST ADDS MORE CANDIDATES TO 'THE LIST.' Today Emily's List, the group devoted to electing pro-abortion rights Democratic candidates to office, put several Congressional candidates "on the list": Alma Adams (NC-12), Staci Appel (IA-03), Erin Bilbray (NV-03), Pam Byrnes (MI-07), Emily Cain (ME-02), and Elisabeth Jensen (KY-06). "By putting these women 'On the List,' Emily's List is ensuring that they have access to this powerful network of supporters," according to the group. They join Ann Callis (IL-13), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Jessica Ehrlich (FL-13), Gwen Graham (FL-02), Eloise Reyes (CA-31), and Martha Robertson (NY-23), who were added to "the list."
@frates: Senate Gang Orders Lobbyists to Target House GOP and in the process manages to annoy both groups. http://mobile.nationaljournal.com/congress/senate-gang-orders-lobbyists-to-target-house-gop-20130721 …
@robertcostaNRO: Big week for McConnell as tea-party contender Bevin announces for KY SEN primary. MM has done much to please the right, but he'll be tested