By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: The debate over raising the debt ceiling has barely resonated across Washington let alone the country, but that is likely to change over the next two days. House Republicans are reaching a critical moment: Do they persuade enough of their members to swallow a bitter pill and vote to increase the borrowing limit? Or do they hunker down and fight? The latest bit of persuasion comes by trying to tie the unpopular debt ceiling vote to a plan to restore pension cuts for military veterans. But that has its share of detractors, too. Will Democrats give Republicans a lifeline and help them pass it this week? Don't count on it. As the House heads into a long recess at the close of business tomorrow, the chances seem to be rising that this fight may be continued until the 11th hour - when lawmakers get back to work on Feb. 25. After all, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said the nation doesn't run out of borrowing power until Feb. 27, so why not procrastinate?
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Remember the '90s? Hillary Clinton does - and so do her enemies. And, as the so-called "Hillary Papers" - the once-sealed private diaries of Clinton's close friend, Diane Blair - make clear again, they were complicated, uncomfortable years, with ghosts and "-gates" and whiffs of scandal everywhere. Blair's real-time assessment of her friend isn't particularly damaging, so much as it's interesting. And that's the thing: There are dozens of episodes, and hundreds of recollections, that a new generation of voters may only be vaguely familiar with. That will all change if Clinton runs for president, and maybe even if she doesn't. Oddly, the full scope of the Clinton presidential years wasn't litigated in 2008, perhaps because Hillary Clinton didn't advance to the general election. Anyone think we might look forward without looking back again?
TED CRUZ MAKES CASE FOR KEYSTONE XL TO 'BIRKENSTOCK-WEARING, TREE-HUGGING' ACTIVISTS. If you love the environment, Sen. Ted Cruz says you should love the Keystone XL pipeline too, ABC's ERIN DOOLEY notes. "If you're a Birkenstock-wearing, tree-hugging Greenpeace activist, you should love the Keystone pipeline," Cruz said at the Heritage Action's Conservative Policy Summit on Monday. Cruz, R-Texas, focused his remarks on a push to deregulate the controversial practice of hydraulic fracking and expanding offshore exploration, and in the process, appealed to any environmentalists listening in on his remarks. "The Canadians are not going to leave the tar sands unmolested," Cruz said. "They'll send it to China to be refined there and it will be refined in a much, much dirtier way. "If your concern is the environment, the last thing you want to do is send that oil to China to be refined there, which will be far more damage to the environment than refining it in the U.S., where it would generate good, high paying jobs," he added. Environmentalists have a host of concerns about the 1,179-mile pipeline, including fears that it could leak into the Ogallala Aquifer, which it would cross in South Dakota and Nebraska, but Cruz brushed their concerns aside. http://abcn.ws/1m1stmt
DESPITE BRIDGE SCANDAL, CHRISTIE RAISES BIG MONEY FOR RGA. Despite the storm clouds following New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the Republican Governors Association - where he serves as chairman - is crediting him for a hefty haul, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. The RGA says it raised $6 million in January with the help of Christie and other GOP governors, more than double the previous high for fundraising during the same month in organization history. Christie's trip last week to Texas raised $1.5 million, the RGA reports. The organization announced last month that in 2013 the RGA raised $50 million and has $50 million cash on hand, twice as much as what the organization raised in 2010. In a statement, RGA communications director Gail Gitcho says the group has "solid financial footing to elect and re-elect Republican governors in the 36 gubernatorial races" in 2014 and is in a "strong position to counter the public sector union influence on the other side." http://abcn.ws/1ePZZqv
NOTED: BRIDGE SCANDAL PROBE COMMITTEE ISSUES MORE SUBPOENAS. The New Jersey state legislative committee investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal issued more subpoenas Monday, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE, JIM AVILA and JOSH MARGOLIN report. ABC News has obtained the full list of subpoenas from a source briefed on the investigation here: http://abcn.ws/Nw1YXt
WHAT HILLARY CLINTON REALLY THOUGHT ABOUT THE MONICA LEWINSKY AFFAIR. In the days after President Bill Clinton revealed his fling with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Hillary Clinton went dark, not even speaking to her close friend and ally, University of Arkansas political science professor Diane Blair, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP notes. But when she re-emerged, Clinton revealed to her friend a personal and public struggle. Her thoughts and words are documented in the newly revealed account from Blair's diaries, which were first reported yesterday by the conservative publication, the Washington Free Beacon. In Blair's account of their conversation, Clinton says she didn't take responsibility for what her husband did, but even in private she sought to explain his behavior. READ MORE: http://abcn.ws/1jraqV5
SMALL BUSINESSES GET ONE-YEAR REPRIEVE FROM OBAMACARE 'EMPLOYER MANDATE'. The Obama administration has once again delayed a major provision of the president's signature health care law, notes ABC's CHRIS GOOD. Small businesses will get a one-year break from Obamacare's controversial "employer mandate," the requirement that businesses must provide health care coverage if they employ more than 50 workers at more than 30 hours per week, the U.S. Treasury announced yesterday. "We think the phase-in approach really is a way to administer the law better and enhance overall compliance with the law," an administration official told reporters on a conference call. That requirement has drawn criticism from Republicans, who've called the health law an incentive for businesses to lay off workers or cut hours as a means to avoid providing health insurance. In July, the Obama administration announced it would delay the rule's implementation by one year, to Jan. 1, 2015, and yesterdaythe Treasury announced new regulations postponing the employer mandate yet again. http://abcn.ws/MGjuHa
@amieparnes: Hillary Clinton: "I believed strongly that the president needed to forge ahead" on healthcare. It's in our book @HRCStateSecrets, out today!
@ZekeJMiller: The McConnell team clips: Joe Scarborough: Matt Bevin Is A "Snake Oil Salesman" (2/11/14) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_pVR2t_cZc&feature=em-uploademail …
@ThePlumLineGS: Ted Cruz confirms it: He wants to debate immigration during GOP prez primary. GOP may grant his wish: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2014/02/11/morning-plum-ted-cruz-would-love-to-debate-immigration-reform-in-2015/ …
@capitalweather: Poll: How much snow will fall in D.C. Wednesday night and Thursday? VOTE HERE: http://wapo.st/1aQVEUu