By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
- ANALYSIS: ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Yes, November is looming, as always. But remember: It’s FEBRUARY. That’s what makes the House Republicans’ tacit admission that big-ticket legislating is effectively over for this year striking. “Comprehensive immigration reform, tax reform, tweaks to the federal health-care law — bipartisan deals on each are probably dead in the water for the rest of this Congress,” The Washington Post’s Robert Costa reports. It’s the logical extension of the don’t-screw-it-up strategy – the GOP effort to avoid divisive issues that are likely to end poorly for Republicans. Last week’s debt-ceiling vote was Exhibit A. But it’s a dangerous path for the opposition party in Washington to all but give up on offering big alternatives. To be clear: This is less a choice than it is an admission that House Republicans don’t have an effective majority when it comes to getting big things done. And that’s not a shortcoming that this year’s election is likely to change.
- VOICES FROM THE GOP: From Robert Costa’s Washington Post piece headlined, “Congressional Republicans are focused on calming their divided ranks”: “‘We don’t have 218 votes in the House for the big issues, so what else are we going to do?’ said Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), an ally of House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio). ‘We can do a few things on immigration and work on our principles, but in terms of real legislating, we’re unable to get in a good negotiating position.’ Added Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster who works closely with party leaders: ‘It is an acknowledgment of where they stand, where nothing can happen in divided government so we may essentially have the status quo. Significant immigration reform and fundamental tax reform are probably not going to happen.’ GOP brass in both chambers have shifted their focus to stability, looking to avoid intraparty drama, rally behind incumbents and build Republicans’ ground game ahead of November’s midterm elections, where they hope to be competitive in a slew of Senate races and hold on to the party’s 17-seat House majority.” http://wapo.st/1m2dJQS
MEET THE ELIZABETH WARREN DEMOCRATS. What happens when you mix FDR-style populism with a Paul Krugman-esqe love of wonky policy? You get the so-called “Warren wing” Democratic candidates. They are an eclectic mix of upstarts, largely political outsiders, who are running with freshman Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s cause — whether she likes it or not, ABC’s ABBY PHILLIP reports. But what exactly does a Warren wing Democrat want? “It’s time that Washington was more responsive to communities’ concerns,” said Shenna Bellows, dubbed a Warren wing candidate for Senate in Maine. “It’s important to restore our constitutional freedom.” If that sounds familiar, that’s because it is — at least on the surface — strikingly similar to the tone of another insurgent political movement of recent years: the tea party. Warren wing candidates are by no means tea party-like in their aims or even in their methods. They are firmly in favor of government and there is little desire to, for example, oust sitting Democrats in a quest for ideological purity. This progressive, populist force within the Democratic Party is notably diverse. Some are younger, political novices, others are closer to the average age of elected lawmakers in Washington right now. http://abcn.ws/1c0DCKx
CHRISTIE HITS FOURTH STATE IN FUND RAISING SPREE. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s first town hall since the Bridgegate story exploded last month was postponed due to snow, but he will be fundraising this evening in New York City for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, another example of the possible 2016 presidential candidate trying to broaden his national message while he deals with the fallout from the scandal at home, notes ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE. “Governor Christie is speaking at the welcome reception for the Winter NRSC Majority Makers Policy Retreat,” a Christie aide told ABC. The aide noted that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will be attending the event which will be held at the Harvard Club. Christie has kept up a robust fundraising schedule since the scandal broke, raising cash in Florida, Texas, and Chicago for the Republican Governors Association where he serves as chair. Although Christie did not hold any public events with GOP candidates or office holders he did rake in the money, raising $1.5 million in Texas and $1 million in Chicago. Last week the RGA reported it has raised $6 million with the help of Christie and other GOP governors. He has other fundraising stops in Massachusetts, Utah, Georgia, Connecticut and Michigan on the calendar and will make a trip to Washington, DC later this week for a National Governors Association meeting. http://abcn.ws/1bIdcTy
TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: This morning President Obama delivers remarks on the economy at the Safeway Distribution Center in Upper Marlboro, Md., ABC’s MARY BRUCE notes. Continuing his “year of action,” the President will announce he is taking steps to improve the fuel efficiency of American trucks and tout the steps his administration has already taken to improve efficiency standards. “The President will direct the EPA and the Department of Transportation to develop and issue the next phase of medium- and heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards by March 2016,” according to a White House official. Later the President meets with leaders from African American civil rights groups at the White House. In the evening, the President hosts a private screening of “The Monuments Men” with cast and crew.
OBAMA’S LONG LOST CAMPAIGN PROMISE. Here’s a campaign promise the White House would like to forget: In 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama promised to reverse what he saw as “one of the biggest problems” facing America — the president using his executive power to bypass Congress, ABC’s JONATHAN KARL reports. “I taught constitutional law for 10 years. I take the Constitution very seriously,” Obama said during a campaign rally in Lancaster, Pa., on March 31, 2008. “The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all.” And then came the promise: “And that is what I intend to reverse when I become president of the United States.” Now, of course, Obama is vowing to do precisely what he criticized Bush for doing: using the power of the presidency to act where Congress won’t. The video is striking — and not just because Obama has absolutely no gray hair. Substitute the words “President Bush” with “President Obama” and he sounds precisely like Republicans today. http://abcn.ws/1m12PLn
A SECOND LOOK AT THE STIMULUS. Five years ago yesterday, President Obama signed a $787 billion stimulus bill that would fuel conservative opposition and spark not only the beginnings of the Tea Party, but years of political drama over whether or not the massive injection of government cash into the economy was, in fact, saving anyone’s job. To mark the anniversary the White House released the last Council of Economic Advisers update on how the stimulus has performed, notes ABC’s CHRIS GOOD. The report’s main claim: That the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act saved “about 6 million job-years” over four years: “The Recovery Act, by itself, saved or created an average of 1.6 million jobs a year for four years through the end of 2012 — cumulatively, equivalent to about 6 million job-years, where a job-year is defined as one full-time job for one year. The estimate is within the range of estimates provided by the Congressional Budget Office.” Elements of the stimulus, like extended unemployment insurance, have continued after they were set to expire, as Congress has in subsequent years faced pressure to renew spending and tax policies at “stimulus levels.” The White House touted the stimulus (and the report) in a blog post: http://1.usa.gov/1gWSc97
BILL CLINTON NUDGES W. TO JOIN TWITTER. Yesterday was Presidents Day, and at least one actual U.S. president didn’t forget, ABC’s ABBY PHILLIP notes. Bill Clinton, who is quickly leaving his predecessors and successors in the dust when it comes to social media, tweeted out a Presidents Day greeting on the social media site this afternoon. And in the process, he ribbed President George W. Bush for his absence on Twitter with the hashtag “#HowAreYouNotOnTwitter?”. Bush is the only president since President Reagan not to be on social media. The younger Bush’s father, President George H.W. Bush joined in December. President Jimmy Carter, who Clinton referenced as #39, has also skipped social media-at least for now. http://abcn.ws/1fbNeGM
CHELSEA CLINTON OPENS UP ABOUT HER FAMILY’S PRIVATE SIDE. Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton says even she doesn’t know whether her mother will run for president in 2016. “My crystal ball is no clearer than yours,” she insisted at a Human Rights Campaign event last weekend. But, as ABC’s ERIN DOOLEY reports, she did offer the audience a window into what it’s been like to grow up in the Clinton political family. “I was raised in a family where inertia is not an option,” Chelsea quipped during her remarks, as the audience laughed. “If we are not making progress, we are, by definition, falling behind.” Until recently, the former first daughter led a “deliberately private life.” But she has stepped into the spotlight lately with several high-profile public appearances and has more coming up. In those speeches, the 33-year-old has vowed she’s not gearing up for her own political campaign, but there is another potential candidate that stands to benefit from Chelsea’s publicity: Her mom. The hard-charging former secretary of state, who continues to be a lightning rod for critics over her handling of the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, as well as for her husband’s decade-and-a-half old sexual foibles could benefit from Chelsea’s efforts – intended or otherwise – to soften her mother’s tough image. http://abcn.ws/1gcFSko
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
SCOTT BROWN ROCKS OUT ON STAGE WITH CHEAP TRICK. Scott Brown is having sooo much fun. The former Massachusetts senator has the political world waiting patiently to find out whether he’ll jump in to the New Hampshire Senate race, but in the meantime, he seems to be having the time of his life. The latest: rocking out on stage with 80-s rock band Cheap Trick at a concert in Massachusetts last weekend, ABC’s ABBY PHILLIP notes. Brown gleefully Tweeted and Facebooked photos of his latest moment in the sun with the band: http://abcn.ws/N3gvZE
IN THE NOTE’S INBOX
–FORMER OBAMA AIDE, ERIC LESSER, SEEKING MASSACHUSETTS STATE SENATE SEAT. “I want to share some exciting news! This morning I announced my candidacy for Massachusetts State Senate in the First Hampden & Hampshire District. I also posted a statement about why I’m running and the ways we can improve the Pioneer Valley by working together.” The “Eric Lesser for State Senate” website is already up and running, complete with family photos of Lesser, his wife, Alison, and the couple’s young daughter, Rose. “I’m a proud Democrat,” Lesser writes in a statement on the site, “but I will work with anyone — Republicans, Democrats, and independents, to bring fresh thinking to the challenges we face.” http://www.ericlesser.com/
–DEMOCRACY FOR AMERICA ANNOUNCES FIRST SENATE ENDORSEMENT OF 2014. Democracy for America, the liberal group founded by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean in 2004, announced today its first U.S. Senate endorsement of the midterm election cycle: incumbent Sen. Brian Schatz, who is running in a contested Democratic primary for Senate in Hawaii. His opponent is Democratic Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. “Senator Brian Schatz isn’t just a reliable vote for progressives in Washington, D.C., he takes it a step further and organizes other Senators to join him. Whether it’s fighting on the front lines against climate change, defending a woman’s right to choose, or expanding Social Security, Brian Schatz has proven he’s a true progressive leader,” Charles Chamberlain, Executive Director of Democracy for America said in a statement. DFA has also endorsed Rep. Mike Honda for re-election in California’s 17th Congressional district – another contested Democratic primary.
@ehuetteman: Billionaire plans to invest $100 million in attack ads against politicians to combat climate change: http://nyti.ms/O3IPfw
@ByronYork: Link: Why Hillary Clinton’s past is fair game in presidential race. http://ow.ly/tJYAJ