By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's RICK KLEIN: So the tea party is five, and that means it's precocious and rambunctious and occasionally shocking in what it can do already. It also means it doesn't know what it wants to be when it grows up, and that self-styled grown-ups tell it to go to its room sometimes. More to the point, tea partiers don't know how to get to where they go, not entirely. They are still Republicans, for the most part. That's to the relief of the establishment GOP, even if that same establishment wants to stomp their candidates from time to time. But they're the kind of Republicans who - as at a birthday celebration yesterday in Washington - had as much cheer for the prospect of retiring House Speaker John Boehner as they did when a speaker recalled how Nancy Pelosi lost that post because of their organizing talents. The Republican Party remains poised for a big 2014. But don't think that's because the party has figured out how to control all its children.
ABC's TOM SHINE: On Dec. 28, 2013, 21,000 veterans lost their unemployment benefits according to Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, and she says another 3,000 will lose them every month Congress fails to act to extend them. As Gabbard points out "these people aren't lazy." Yesterday Senate Republicans blocked a bill that among many other things, would have lifted a VA ban on helping the most severely wounded veterans pay for IVF treatments to start a family. Too expensive was one reason those opposed to the overall bill gave. A Congress that sent these men and women to fight, die, and get grotesquely injured now doesn't want to pay to help them.
AFTER FIVE YEARS, TEA PARTY STILL ITCHING TO TANGLE WITH ITS OWN. Five years after the Republican Party birthed the tea party movement, mother and child have never been more at odds. The tension between "establishment" Republicans and tea party activists was on full display yesterday at a 5th Anniversary event in Washington, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP reports. When Rep. Rep Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, proposed that it was time to "retire John Boehner" - the Republican House speaker - the crowd jumped to its feet before he could even finish the sentence, which ended "Boehner's biggest excuse 'that we only control 1 half of 1/3 of the government.'" Today, the tea party counts among its champions a few influential and relatively new lawmakers, including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. But tensions are rising. Increasingly, so-called establishment Republicans are complaining that efforts to oust sitting Republicans are putting the party's efforts to win valuable seats in the House and Senate in jeopardy. The tea party's allies, however, disagree. "It's a free country and elections are a free market," Sen. Rand Paul told ABC News after he delivered a rousing address to activists yesterday. "Even the people who have people running against them will admit, everyone has a right to run for office." http://abcn.ws/1hEfzoa
OBAMA GETS PERSONAL WITH AT-RISK TEENS, SAYS 'I GOT HIGH'. Last February, President Obama sat in a classroom in Chicago's Hyde Park Academy High School with a group of African-American boys working to overcome their circumstances and navigate the dangers of the city's South Side. The president listened and then shared his own story with the young men, quickly blowing through his schedule to continue the conversation. The president was profoundly affected by their discussion and inspired to take action yesterday to tackle a deeply personal cause: helping minority boys succeed, ABC's MARY BRUCE reports. "I explained to them that when I was their age, I was a lot like them," the president said at the White House, recounting his conversation with the boys. "I didn't have a dad in the house. And I was angry about it, even though I didn't necessarily realize it at the time. I made bad choices. I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do. I didn't always take school as seriously as I should have. I made excuses. Sometimes I sold myself short." http://abcn.ws/1mJ6h0N
JOE BIDEN SHRUGS OFF THREAT OF KOCH BROS. MONEY AGAINST DEMOCRATS. Joe Biden isn't afraid of the Koch brothers, and he wants his fellow Democrats to take them on as well, ABC's ALEXANDER MALLIN reports. Democrats are "too shy" when it comes to promoting the party's ideas among voters, Biden said yesterday in remarks to state leaders at the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting, citing public opinion polls on issues such as a minimum wage hike, equal pay for women and background checks. "What we're worried about is the Koch brothers and their friends bringing in millions and millions of dollars," Biden said of the billionaire industrialists. "Money can't buy an election when you're selling a bad set of goods." "I am so tired of hearing about the 'demise of the Democratic party,'" Biden said at the event in Washington, D.C. "Why are we 'in trouble' as the popular, conventional wisdom is supposedly saying now?" Biden said Democrats are too afraid of attacks on the campaign trail from special interest groups to press for the issues their party advocates. http://abcn.ws/1dFF9q0
TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: This afternoon President Obama delivers remarks at the White House Student Film Festival. The first-ever event is intended to showcase how technology can boost learning and highlight the president's ConnectEd initiative to connect the nation's students to high-speed internet access, according to ABC's MARY BRUCE. Continuing his "Year of Action," the president will announce $400 million in new private sector commitments toward the ConnectED goal. Later, the president delivers remarks at the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting.
CHRIS CHRISTIE AND MITT ROMNEY MEND FENCES TO THE TUNE OF $1 MILLION. New Jersey governor Chris Christie continued reeling in the cash for the Republican Governors Association last night in Boston, raising $1 million at a fundraiser alongside Mitt Romney, according to an RGA official, reports ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE. The evening dinner fundraiser, hosted by New Balance chairman Jim Davis, was held at the Lenox Hotel and was a small, high-dollar affair with only about 20 donors in attendance. The joint appearance by Christie and Romney is a sign they remain allies despite the ongoing George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal. Some Romney supporters, as well as staff, were angry with Christie when he embraced and praised the president in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, just weeks before the election. http://abcn.ws/1kg3hXT
NOTED: CHRISTIE'S LAUGHING AIDES SUGGESTED A 2ND TRAFFIC JAM. Two of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's former aides were caught exchanging joking emails days after they allegedly created a massive traffic jam, wondering whether they should create another set of "traffic problems," this time in front of the home of a prominent rabbi who had ticked them off, ABC's MARK CRUDELE, SHUSHANNAH WALSHE, and JOSH MARGOLIN write. The emails were among a trove of documents released yesterday by the special state Legislature committee investigating the September traffic crisis. Christie's deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelley, and top Port Authority official David Wildstein - both of whom have since been sacked - exchanged text messages on Aug. 19 about creating traffic problems for Mendy Carlebach, an Orthodox rabbi who also serves as chaplain for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that manages the bridge and tunnels between the two states and its regional airports including Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports. "He has officially pissed me off," Wildstein wrote to Kelly. She replied, saying "Clearly … We cannot cause traffic problems in front of his house, can we?" Known for his snark and biting sense of humor, Wildstein, who is also Jewish, remarked "Flights to Tel Aviv all mysteriously delayed." "Perfect," Kelly said. http://abcn.ws/1hWXVR6
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
THE ONE POLITICIAN SETH ROGEN WANTS TO SMOKE POT WITH. "Knocked Up" star Seth Rogen came to Capitol Hill this week to talk about the need to increase funding for Alzheimer's disease research. The 31-year-old actor and celebrity champion for the Alzheimer's Association talked to ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ about his personal crusade against Alzheimer's disease as well as everything from "House of Cards" to legalizing pot in the U.S. Here's 11 questions we asked Rogen: http://abcn.ws/1gFFfA2
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
OBAMA AND BIDEN FILM A 'WORKOUT' VIDEO TOGETHER. President Barack Obama and Joe Biden are keeping in shape - and trying to stay out of trouble with their wives. The president and vice president filmed a "workout" video together, part of Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" fitness campaign. The clip opens with Obama sitting in the Oval Office, checking his watch. Biden walks in. "Mr. President, are you ready to move?" Biden asks. Absolutely, Obama says. So the pair jog through the White House hallways, past dogs Sunny and Bo, and along the building's exterior as workout music plays. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/1hGk1D4
MICHELLE OBAMA BUSTS A MOVE WITH GIANT DANCING VEGETABLES. First lady Michelle Obama wants you to eat your vegetables. She also loves dancing. So it may not have come as a surprise when she merged those two interests yesterday, busting a move with a trio of giant, human-sized vegetable dancers. The eggplant, carrot and broccoli characters of "Super Sprowtz," a traveling troupe promoting healthy eating in kids, met Obama yesterday during the fourth anniversary tour of her "Let's Move" campaign. The first lady had traveled to daycare center La Petite Academy in the Washington suburbs to announce it would be joining 900 others from the national Learning Care Group in the adoption of new health and fitness guidelines for the children in their care. The criteria aligns with the goals of Obama's initiative, aimed at curbing childhood obesity. Obama, characters Colby Carrot, Brian Broccoli and Erica Eggplant, and their human friends led several dozen children in stretches and dance. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/1jEqaS8
@rickklein: Bigger story today - will it be Christie tapes or Clinton papers?
@PostReid: California Senate Democrats are blocking expulsion of a member convicted of 8 counts of felony voter fraud - http://www.sacbee.com/2014/02/27/6195891/senate-democrats-block-republican.html …
@nickmartin: So much going on here: Bill O'Reilly tells Valerie Jarrett to get "gangsta rappers" to "knock it off." http://goo.gl/npPxo4