By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Today's speech on NSA programs charts a remarkable evolution for President Obama - whether or not he references it directly. Imagine, for sake of argument, if Barack Obama was now a second-term senator, on the left side of his own caucus. Who thinks he'd be aggressively making the case to keep intact the broad surveillance programs the nation knew little of until last year? To flip the argument around - imagine if Edward Snowden never got the job as an NSA contractor, or was caught pre-leak. Who thinks President Obama would be outlining reforms and new oversight for the programs that, again, would still be shrouded in secrecy? Oddly, perhaps, the reality argues for just the kind of public debate we're now set to have - the one the president has said he welcomed, sort of.
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: The smooth sailing for the $1.1 trillion spending bill, which keeps the government running until October, continued in the Senate with a 72-26 vote. But don't assume the fiscal fights are over for the year. Up next: Another battle to raise the debt ceiling. President Obama and Congressional Democrats have said again and again that they won't negotiate. Republicans hope to use the moment to push for other demands. This will be the biggest test yet of whether Republican leaders are able to hold their rank-and-file together in this new era of discipline, where they don't want to reprise the political beating they took during the government shutdown. Sen. Ted Cruz wanted to wage a fight yesterday on the spending bill, but was blocked by his fellow Republicans. It seems unlikely the sailing will be as smooth or bipartisan in the next fight.
'UNRUFFLED' AND 'CONFIDENT' CHRIS CHRISTIE ADDRESSES BRIDGE SCANDAL AT FUNDRAISER. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addressed the ongoing lanes closure scandal at a fundraiser Thursday evening for his one-time rival Steve Lonegan, and attendees said the embattled governor seemed unfazed by the controversy, according to ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE. Lonegan, a former candidate for Senate now running for a House seat, said Christie "calmly" told the Republican donors gathered, "We will get through this." "It's unfortunate, it was a mistake, it was obviously upsetting," Lonegan recounted Christie saying at the event in Mountain Lakes, N.J. "He said we have 1,400 days in this administration and lots of challenges for the governing of this state and we will continue to move ahead and those successes over time will overshadow all this negativity." Christie spent about 30 minutes at the fundraiser, where he addressed between 75 and 100 people, according to Lonegan and another host of the event, Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J. Lonegan said Christie spoke of his "successful administration," while acknowledging "there are still challenges ahead." "And over all when you look at this the success of governing it has been terrific and it's going to continue to be terrific because he has 1,400 days to go in this administration and this is only going to be a few days in these 1,400 days," said Lonegan. http://abcn.ws/1dBcirr
ED GILLESPIE'S FIRST CAMPAIGN VIDEO IS A POLITICAL CONSULTANT'S DREAM. What happens when a consummate political expert runs for public office? You get something akin to the perfect political ad, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP notes. Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee Chairman and holder of a half dozen other high-level positions in the Republican Party, is looking for a new job: U.S. Senator. Having advised presidents (George W. Bush), would-be presidents (Mitt Romney), and a host of other private entities, Gillespie knows how to run a campaign, and it shows in the introductory ad that launches his challenge to Democratic Sen. Mark Warner in Virginia. From picturesque images of his wife and children in a very clean kitchen (his?), to baby photos, references to his parents' immigrant past and, of course, Obamacare, it's an ad that would make a grown political ad maker cry. http://abcn.ws/1jaGHPv
PRESIDENT OBAMA THROWING BIRTHDAY DANCE PARTY FOR FLOTUS. First Lady Michelle Obama turns 50 today, but President Obama is saving the big celebration for Saturday night. A White House official tells ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ that the president is throwing the first lady a dance party Saturday evening, a private gathering for family and friends. The White House is keeping a tight lid on the other details, but some information for the private event has trickled out in news reports. Friends and family have been invited to the White House on Saturday night for an evening of "Snacks & Sips & Dancing & Dessert." Guests have been told to wear comfortable shoes and eat before they head over to the White House, where a lot of dancing will be on the agenda. And who will join the president in feting the first lady? Over the past year, reports have speculated that singer Adele could perform and maybe even close friend Beyonce, who sang "At Last" as Barack Obama and Michelle Obama danced for the first time as president and first lady at the 2009 Inaugural ball, may belt a song or two for the birthday girl. http://abcn.ws/1eGH1jr
-50 WAYS TO CELEBRATE MICHELLE OBAMA'S BIRTHDAY. Although the big White House fete planned by President Obama isn't until Saturday, that doesn't mean you have to wait to celebrate. If your invite to Saturday's dance party in Washington went missing, here are 50 other ways to honor the first lady on her big day - by doing some of her favorite things, from wearing stylish dresses to eating your veggies to doing the Dougie, preferably with Jimmy Fallon. http://abcn.ws/1maxNi7
BARBARA BUSH'S SURPRISING TAKE ON A JEB PRESIDENTIAL RUN. Feisty former First Lady Barbara Bush isn't known for sugar coating her feelings - especially when it comes to her son's future political ambitions. Bush said in a recent interview for C-SPAN's "First Ladies" series that it's "silly" to think that America can't find other people who aren't named Clinton, Kennedy or Bush to run for public office, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP and MICHAEL FALCONE write."I refuse to accept that this great country isn't raising other wonderful people," she said in the interview. She added that she hopes her son Jeb, the former governor of Florida, will take a pass on a White House bid in 2016 "because I think he'll get all my enemies, all his brother's." http://abcn.ws/1gRUA1i
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
JOE BIDEN TELLS AUTO EXECUTIVE: 'THANK YOU FOR SAVING OUR ASS'. While touring the Detroit Auto Show on Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden had a special message for Bill Ford Jr., the executive chairman of Ford Motor Company, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes. "Thank you for saving our ass," Biden said to Ford, according to the print pool report. (It was unclear what exactly Biden was thanking Ford for). Biden, a car lover who owns a classic Corvette back home in Delaware, appeared to enjoy himself at the show, checking out everything from a 1965 Mustang to a red Corvette Stingray. "I'm like a kid in a candy shop," the vice president exclaimed. http://abcn.ws/1m9a1mG
WHAT WE'RE READING
"A LOT MORE CONVERSATION, A LITTLE LESS ACTION IN 2014," an ABCNews.com Op-Ed by Joe Brettell. Call it a crisis of confidence, but in recent years a pall has set in on Capitol Hill. No longer the place of grand bargains, Congress appears forever doomed to lurch from one crisis to another, the gridlock in the legislative engine threatening to explode all over both parties. Voters have noticed. According to Gallup, Congressional approval ratings stood at a dire 12 percent in December 2012, which seems awful until you consider they were at 9 percent in November. Whereas legislative minutiae was once the exclusive territory of staff, lobbyists and die hard C-SPAN viewers, the preponderance of websites, social media, interest groups and casual observers has raised even the most mundane act of Congress to the level of breaking news. In some ways, the level of interest has been helpful. Elected Officials such as Marco Rubio have ridden a wave of grassroots support to overcome more entrenched interests and win the hearts and votes of an electorate that may otherwise have never heard of them. However, Sharon Angle and Christine O' Donnell stand as testament that sometimes a social media hero isn't quite ready for prime time. The effect on actual governance has been more pronounced. Until they passed a budget late last year, Congress had been stuck in neutral, passing one continuing resolution after another, while slowly ceding more and more power to the Executive branch. When Republicans eliminated earmarking in 2006, it further weakened its power over the purse and virtually eliminated a cottage industry in D.C." http://abcn.ws/LoGCKg
@StevenTDennis: The Senate won't be the same without Tom Coburn http://blogs.rollcall.com/wgdb/coburn-will-retire-after-113th-congress/ …
@ZekeJMiller: In People interview, Michelle Obama is asked what older women she admires. Names Cicely Tyson and Jane Fonda
?@amyewalter: Indie voters aren't who u think they are. They're more attached to core party values than "soft" partisans http://cookpolitical.com/story/6608