By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: The overwhelming House vote on the $1.1 trillion spending bill is the most persuasive sign yet the Tea Party's ideological grip on Congress is slipping. The outside conservative groups demanded that lawmakers vote against it, arguing the measure was filled with wasteful government spending. But only 64 Republicans heeded the call and opposed the plan, which passed 359-67. It's the latest example of a new spirit of discipline among Republicans, where governing trumps purity. For GOP leaders, it's a lingering lesson from the government shutdown. For Democrats, it's a warning sign that their biggest argument - Republicans are obstructionist - may not work in this mid-term election year.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Your local newsstand makes it look a whole lot like 2016. There's Republican frontrunner Chris Christie lampooned on the cover of The New Yorker, a cartoon version of the New Jersey governor playing a game that's blocking traffic. And Democratic frontrunner (lone runner?) Hillary Clinton is the target on the cover of Time, a high heel in motion to ask the question: "Can Anyone Stop Hillary?" Well, yes - magazine covers like these don't exactly help. Neither do the newspaper headlines, after a week of bridge coverage in Christie's New Jersey, and a day of renewed Benghazi coverage out of the Senate Intelligence Committee report. It's time to relearn the lesson: Running ahead of the pack two or three years out in the presidential cycle is a dangerous place to be.
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX
EXCLUSIVE - EMILY'S LIST TOUTS FUNDRAISING NUMBERS OF DEMOCRATIC WOMEN CANDIDATES. The group devoted to electing Democratic women to office is out with a new memo today on the heels of strong fundraising numbers by several of its endorsed candidates like Michelle Nunn, a Senate contender in Georgia; Wendy Davis, who is running for governor of Texas; and Staci Appel, who is vying for a House seat in Iowa. "The 2012 elections were a clear mandate for women's leadership in this country. And we're seeing that momentum continue into 2014 as women put together strong, competitive campaigns for House, Senate and Governor," Emily's List President Stephanie Schriock wrote in the memo. "We're seeing women beat expectations in races that range from House specials to gubernatorial races. Whether it's Alex Sink's impressive fundraising in the race for Florida's 13th District seat in this March's special, or Wendy Davis' ability to outraise her deep-pocketed opponent in Texas, Democratic women are setting themselves up for success."
GREENER PASTURES AWAIT RETIRING MEMBERS IN THE CONGRESSIONAL AFTERLIFE. With each passing day, more members of Congress seem to be heading for the exits. So far in this Congress, 15 members of the House have retired, a loss of a combined more than 240 years of service by the end of this year, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP notes. In the Senate, seven members have announced that they're leaving official Washington, a loss of more than 200 years. For a lot of Americans, a $174,000 Congressional salary would go a long way. But members of Congress really are far from average, and some of them are either already independently wealthy, or they could be making far more in the private sector. Besides the lifelong (and lucrative) relationships, however, there are a few things they can take with them. For one, former House members are allowed to come back to Congress and spend time on the House floor-forever. And those fancy lapel pins Congressmen get in every term to make identifying them easy? They get to keep those as well (and some are still keen on wearing them around). High demand parking on the Hill and access to the House's members only fitness center (for a fee, of course and not including lobbyists), are among the remnants of the job that can stick around. http://abcn.ws/1m8OI4A
MICHELLE OBAMA REVEALS HER DEFINING ISSUE OF REMAINING WHITE HOUSE YEARS. Speaking to an audience of teachers and representatives from youth and education organizations on Wednesday, first lady Michelle Obama announced that education will be her major focus for the remainder of her husband's presidency, according to ABC's JORDYN PHELPS. "I am going to be doing my best to promote these efforts by talking directly with young people, that's my focus," she said, noting that none of the other issues she has been working on since 2009 were "going away, we're just adding more on." The first lady's remarks came after a White House screening of "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete," a movie that tells to story of two inner-city youth who are left to fend for themselves in the Bronx after their parents are arrested. "This movie isn't just about the challenges that kids like Mister and Pete are facing, and that's really why this movie is so powerful to me, because it's also about their courage, their grit, their resilience," Mrs. Obama said. "Those are three words you're going to hear me say a lot over the next three years." http://abcn.ws/1duadfA
MEMBERS OF CONGRESS JUMP ON SNAPCHAT BANDWAGON. Why let teenagers have all the fun? That's apparently the stance two prominent Republican lawmakers are taking when it comes to the popular social media service, Snapchat. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced Wednesday that he has signed up for the service and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., disclosed just a few hours later that she is already a frequent user. "Did you hear?" Paul wrote in a message on his Facebook page. "I joined @Snapchat! For daily updates & behind-the-scenes footage follow: senatorrandpaul on the photo sharing app." Also on Wednesday at a "Conversations with Conservatives" event organized by the Heritage Foundation, Bachmann revealed that not only does she already have the Snapchat app, "That's how I communicate with all my kids." The Minnesota congresswoman, who is not seeking re-election in 2014, has five children and she and her husband have provided foster care to 23 others. http://abcn.ws/1dwnHc3
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
CHRIS BOSH ON OBAMA'S HOOP DREAMS: SOMETIMES YOU JUST MISS. Seven-time NBA All-Star and Miami Heat power forward Chris Bosh has heard plenty of analysis of his game from sports commentators, but in an exclusive interview at the White House, Bosh offered his own expert critique of President Obama's jumpshot. Asked to give the president some pointers during a visit to the White House, Bosh said president's problem doesn't have to do with his shooting form. "Looks like he's just missing it," Bosh told "Politics Confidentia's" JONATHAN KARL after watching a video of the president missing shot after shot at last year's White House Easter Egg Roll, when the president famously went 2 for 22 during a basketball match-up with some kid-size basketballers. http://yhoo.it/1hu80RP
@PostReid: Actual scoop by @AaronBlakeWP and @benpershing: Ed Gillespie announcing VA SEN bid today - http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/01/16/gillespie-to-launch-senate-bid-thursday/ …
?@michaelscherer: Hillary Clinton Discussed U.S. Approval of an Israeli Strike On Iran http://swampland.time.com/2014/01/16/hillary-clinton-discussed-u-s-approval-of-an-israeli-strike-on-iran/#ixzz2qZU8ui71 …
@nationaljournal: Ted Cruz is losing his grip on the GOP http://njour.nl/1a9Yt2R