By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: As Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders try to revive the immigration debate, a sentiment of skepticism hung in the air among rank-and-file lawmakers inside the room at the House GOP retreat. Even among those who may be inclined to support some type of reform, a central question: Do we have to do this now? Republicans suddenly seem more united than they've been in months, so why rock the boat? But the speaker, in a stronger position than perhaps he's ever been, has made it clear this is a priority. And providing a path to legal status - not citizenship - for 11 million undocumented immigrants is the starting point for the latest chapter in the immigration debate. While there are plenty reasons to be skeptical that this latest round of talks will lead to anything, these four words from Boehner yesterday inside the closed-door meeting of his Republican conference, "It's important to act," suggests the moment for reform may be at hand.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Stop us if you've heard this one before… Amid the cautiously optimistic statements issued yesterday by immigration-reform advocates, in elected office and out, is a purposeful forgetfulness about the last decade of immigration politics in this country. It's been a star-crossed last several years, with the House, the Senate, and the president all arriving at roughly the same place at different times in political cycles. There's some reason to think this time may be different, but not all that much. Consider that it took House Republican leaders 13 months of the current Congress to produce a series of "principles" that are strong enough to be lacerated from the right, yet vague enough to avoid taking a position on the single biggest sticking point, time again: what to do about undocumented immigrants who are already in this country. The House may even pass a bill this year, but the conditions under which that would happen would almost certainly limit what a conference committee could do from there. Even this process of arriving at principles House Republicans could call their own displays the many reasons to think this year will be no different than last, or either of the times John McCain and Ted Kennedy announced a deal last decade.
HOBOKEN MAYOR'S DIARY CALLED INTO QUESTION IN CHRISTIE SCANDAL. Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer's journal, which she turned over to the U.S. Attorney's office, has emerged as a crucial part of her claim against the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. But now something she said in a deposition in July 2013 is calling into question her diary writing, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE and JOSH MARGOLIN report. Earlier this month, on the heels of the developing lanes closure scandal, Zimmer accused the Christie administration of threatening to withhold Sandy relief funds if she did not back a Rockefeller Group development deal in Hoboken. When she came forward she pointed to diary entries she kept in May 2013, in which she writes about being approached and threatened by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. The Christie administration has denied Zimmer's accusations. In July 2013, Zimmer was deposed during a wrongful termination suit. The deposition, obtained by ABC News, would have been about two months after she chronicled the threats from the Christie administration. "When you have meetings regarding day-to-day activities involving Hoboken business with your department heads, do you memorialize any of the conversation that takes place yourself?" attorney Louis Zayas, who represented former Hoboken public safety director Angel Alicea in a wrongful termination suit, asked Zimmer. Zimmer replied, "No, I don't transcribe it." READ MORE: http://abcn.ws/MCsMEX
TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: President Obama is back at the White House and will focus on efforts to help the long term unemployed with two events today, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes. President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will meet with CEOs to talk about best practices for hiring the long term unemployed. Executives from eBay, McDonalds, Boeing, and Marriott are among the presidents and CEOs who will attend the meeting and commit to hiring more long term unemployed. The president will also deliver remarks on new efforts to help the long term unemployed. He will also sign a memorandum calling on the federal government to hire more long term unemployed workers. This afternoon the president will participate in a virtual road trip across the country via Google+ hangouts to discuss his State of the Union address.
OBAMA VISITS NASHVILLE HIGH SCHOOL REELING FROM STUDENT'S DEATH. President Obama traveled to a Nashville, Tenn., high school yesterday on the final leg of a post-State of the Union tour that took him across four states in two days, ABC's MATTHEW LAROTONDA and ARLETTE SAENZ note. And here, with a recent shooting tragedy hanging over the school, the president once again played the role of consoler-in-chief. "I wanted to come here today because I've heard great things about this high school and all of you," the president said at McGavock Comprehensive High School on Thursday. "But I also recognize the past couple days have been hard and have tested people's spirits. Some of you lost a good friend." "So I wanted you to know that Michelle and I have been praying for all of you in the community, and I know that all of us are sending prayers to those families that have been so directly impacted; this has been heartbreaking," he said. Prior to the event, President Obama met with the family of Kevin Barbee, 15, who attended the school and was shot and killed earlier this week, a White House official said. On Wednesday a sophomore at McGavock was charged with homicide for the fatal shooting of Barbee at an apartment complex. Local ABC affiliate station, WATE-TV, says the students were friends and playing with a handgun when it discharged, striking Barbee in the face, and the shooter fled the scene. http://abcn.ws/1igD2x5
40-YEAR VETERAN OF CONGRESS BECOMES LATEST TO JOIN CAPITOL HILL QUIT LIST. After serving for four decades in Congress, Rep. Henry Waxman, a prominent Democrat known for his work on healthcare, the environment and government oversight, announced his plans yesterday to retire at the end of this year, ABC's RYAN STRUYK writes. "I have had a long career and an eventful one - and I wouldn't trade any of it," Waxman said in a statement. "After 40 years in Congress, it's time for someone else to have the chance to make his or her mark." Waxman's announcement is the seventh retirement for Democrats during this election cycle in the House, a chamber where Democrats' hopes of retaking a majority seem to be falling out of reach. But Waxman's district, in Los Angeles, is heavily Democratic, and Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the Republican Congressional campaign committee, said he doesn't anticipate a competitive race to replace Waxman. Waxman's announcement comes on the heels of retirements from other long-standing Democrats, like fellow 20-term California Rep. George Miller, Virginia's Rep. James Moran and New York's Carolyn McCarthy. http://abcn.ws/MEdvDt
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
MICHELLE OBAMA SINGS A STEVIE WONDER HIT TO RYAN SEACREST. First Lady Michelle Obama appeared on Ryan Seacrest's nationally syndicated radio show on Thursday to promote the Affordable Care Act and discuss her healthy lifestyle - even fitting a dig in about the entertainment personality's height, ABC's KYLE BLAINE notes. "My mom used to always say that if I eat certain things, I would grow to be a certain height. It didn't pan out, would you say that that's accurate when moms say that to their kids?" Seacrest jokingly asked during a conversation about healthy eating. "But just think about how short you'd be," Obama quipped. Seacrest, who is the host of "American Idol," also asked the First Lady what song she would sing if she were to audition for the talent competition. "I think by now people know that I love Stevie Wonder. He is a musical genius. He is one of my favorite artists of all time. And I would probably sing, 'You Are The Sunshine of My Life,'" she told Seacrest, even singing a line from the song to him. "And then people would press a button and kick me out or whatever you do." http://abcn.ws/LtpB1n
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
POLITICAL SATIRE: BEFORE JON STEWART THERE WAS HERBLOCK. During the second half of the 20th century, in an era when newspapers reigned supreme, political satire cartoonist Herbert Block was a force to be reckoned with; and the new HBO documentary, "Herblock: The Black & The White," tells the story behind his legendary work. "He really was the kind of founder in political satire and part of it was that he was a terrific reporter and was really interested in facts and with that, he had this kind of startling and occasionally scathing humor and he could draw," Producer George Stevens told "Top Line." The pioneering cartoonist, who worked for the Washington Post and had his cartoons syndicated in newspapers across the United States for over 50 years commanded so much respect, Stevens said, that political leaders would pick up their morning newspapers and "just hope it's not Herb working on you." To learn more about the life and legendary cartoons of Herb Block, and to hear Stevens' opinion on whether there's a modern equivalent to "Herblock," check out this episode of "Top Line" with RICK KLEIN and OLIVIER KNOX. http://yhoo.it/1jRDnsZ
WHAT WE'RE READING
"MICHAEL DUKAKIS DECRIES TERMINAL HONOR," by the Boston Globe's Laurel J. Sweet. "The Legislature probably thought former governor and mass transit enthusiast Michael S. Dukakis would be thrilled when state reps voted unanimously to honor him by renaming Boston's venerable South Station after him. But the idea of the 'Gov. Michael S. Dukakis Transportation Center' had the Duke steaming yesterday. 'Boy, when they start naming things for you, you know you're on your way out. Let me tell you, I'm 80 and I feel 20,' said Dukakis, claiming yesterday's phone call from the Herald was the first he'd even heard of the homage, which was tucked in a $12 billion transportation bond bill. Dukakis, reached at his home in Los Angeles, where he and former Massachusetts first lady Kitty have wintered for two decades, stated emphatically he has 'never' wanted anything in the city named after him - least of all the 115-year-old rail terminal where one of his biggest hopes and dreams fell short of fruition." http://bit.ly/1bGZASs
@mattklewis: The obvious problem with just 'waiting till next year' to address immigration reform - http://dailycaller.com/2014/01/31/why-now-for-immigration-reform/ …
@ByronYork: Principles basically indistinguishable from Senate Gang of Eight 'framework' that Boehner/House GOP rejected… http://ow.ly/t98TY
@StevenTDennis: Waxman's Exit May Mean a Comeback for John Dingell http://blogs.rollcall.com/218/with-waxmans-retirement-a-race-for-his-committee-seat-and-a-slew-of-speculation/ …