By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
THIS WEEK ON 'THIS WEEK': As the Olympic Games begin, House Intelligence Committee Chair. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., discusses the latest security threats to the Winter Games in Sochi, only on "This Week" Sunday. And the "This Week" powerhouse roundtable debates all the week's politics, with Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., CNN "Crossfire" co-host S.E. Cupp, and former Obama White House senior adviser and ABC News contributor David Plouffe. Be sure to use #ThisWeek when you tweet about the program. Tune in Sunday: http://abcnews.go.com/thisweek "This Week" Quiz: Rep. Tom Cole: http://abcn.ws/1b3al7i
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: Speaker John Boehner wants to pass immigration legislation. He's been clear privately, where GOP lawmakers say he scolds them for being too timid. And publicly, where he says immigration has unfairly become a political football. But his decision yesterday to put the brakes on a new effort to give undocumented immigrants a path to legal status underscores the limits to which he can push his Republican conference. Since announcing the plan last week, he's heard an earful of criticism, so he decided to ratchet back his plans. A top Republican adviser said that for now, the burden rests on a coalition of outside interests, particularly agriculture, Chamber of Commerce and faith groups. Pressure must build from those sectors to help Boehner and other House GOP leaders move immigration forward. Yet Boehner, as much as anyone else, is the leader of the Republican Party. He knows it's essential to revive the immigration debate. So expect him to try again, perhaps as early as this summer after primary challenges are over, or after the midterm elections.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: So let's see… What changed inside the week between House leaders' optimistic outlining of immigration "principles," and House Speaker John Boehner's considerably more pessimistic assessment Thursday? Since Boehner is blaming President Obama, surely it's some new executive action, or the promise thereof? Or at least some fresh presidential pontificating about pathways to citizenship, or Republican recalcitrance? Actually, there's been none of that. The president has been staying quiet on the subject, even signaling an openness to compromise on legal status for undocumented immigrants. What's changed is that Boehner has faced fierce blowback from his own Republican members. Boehner often has a long game in mind, and knows his members better than anyone. And he's right that the phone-and-pen strategy comes with consequences in perceptions that impact realities. But it's hard to see how blaming the president for House Republicans' failure to reach consensus will be productive. What's seems to have changed is Boehner's willingness to lead, rather than be led.
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Democrats are jumping on the fact that while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been out of state fundraising he hasn't made public appearances with the GOP governors of those states. In Florida last month he raised money for and with Gov. Rick Scott, but they were not seen publicly after the Bridgegate scandal first began to explode. Thursday, it happened again with Democrats gleefully pointing out that while Christie was fundraising in Dallas and Fort Worth, Gov. Rick Perry was not by his side and GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott would be in Houston. But, there's at least one Republican candidate who wants to appear with Christie. Dave Carney, a top strategist for Abbott told ABC News although his candidate and Christie were in two different cities Thursday, they "have been working on plans through the RGA for Gov. Christie to come to Texas post primary, some time this spring." The gubernatorial primary is in March. An aide to Perry also pointed out Republican governors are always visiting the Lonestar State, but there isn't always time to meet.
THE GOP'S INCREDIBLE SHRINKING DEBT CEILING DEMANDS. It's official: the debt limit will be reached today, according to the Treasury Department, and once again, it appears the country is on the verge of crisis. For the next few weeks, so-called "extraordinary measures" will keep the country from slipping into default, but in the meantime everyone is holding their breath for House Republicans to announce what they'll demand in exchange for raising the debt limit. Over the last several years, however, the list of GOP demands seems to have shrunk from grand ideas of one-for-one spending cuts to far less ambitious measures. In October, Republicans agreed to raise the debt limit in exchange for minor changes to President Obama's health care law and a pledge to tackle the budget, which ultimately resulted in a modest, short-term budget deal. This time, Republicans reportedly can't agree on what they'll ask for, and they've already rejected ideas ranging from demands for the Obama administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and making further changes to the health care law. How this latest debt limit chapter will end is hard to say. But, as ABC's ABBY PHILLIP notes, from the history of debt limit negotiations, it seems that Republican ambitions are continuing to shrink. TAKE A LOOK: http://abcn.ws/1kkiLKn
OBAMA ON THE ROAD: President Obama travels to Lansing, Michigan, today to highlight how the Farm Bill will boost the economy and sign it into law, ABC's MARY BRUCE notes. This afternoon, the President tours the Michigan Biotechnology Institute, where he "will see firsthand what institutions are doing to create jobs and drive innovation that benefits farmers, ranchers, our rural communities," according to the White House. Later, he delivers on-camera remarks on the economy and signs the Farm Bill.
ONE VOTE SHORT, UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS EXTENSION KILLED IN SENATE - FOR NOW. Three weeks after Senate Republicans blocked an extension of benefits to the long-term unemployed, another effort to restore the checks fell one vote short of breaking a filibuster, ABC's STEVEN PORTNOY reports. "It was not the actions of all. It was the actions of a few. We stood one vote away," Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said. "One person stands between families in America having relief from stress, from strain, from the agony of uncertainty, and having a little something to bridge them forward [while] they look for a job." Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) accused Republicans of holding the long-term unemployed hostage. "They are acting like a kidnapper who demanded a ransom, got paid and is still keeping the hostage, or in this case, 1.7 million hostages," Schumer said. Four Republicans joined with Democrats, but the effort was just one senator short of the 60 required to move forward. After majority leader Harry Reid changed from a yes to a no vote for parliamentary reasons, to allow him to bring the bill up for a vote again,the final tally to go ahead was 58 to 40. http://abcn.ws/1c8hqOu
NOTED: The Senate confirmed one of its own Thursday - Max Baucus, D-Mont. - to be the next ambassador to China. Baucus, who has served in the Senate for more than three decades, was confirmed with a vote of 96-0. The Montana Democrat, who was instrumental in the passage of President Obama's signature healthcare law, had already announced his plans to step down at the end of 2014 before he was nominated to the ambassadorship post in December. Baucus will replace Gary Locke, who has served as ambassador to China since 2011. http://abcn.ws/1bw2dqD
OBAMA EXPLAINS PUTIN'S TOUGH GUY 'SHTICK'. President Obama thinks Russian President Vladimir Putin's "shtick" is to try to look like a "tough guy." Putin, after all, has carefully crafted a no-nonsense public image as a rugged outdoorsman. He's been photographed hunting, fishing and riding horses, all while bare-chested, writes ABC's MARY BRUCE. Despite appearing standoffish in meetings with Obama, the U.S. president said his Russian counterpart has always treated him with "respect" and that "there's a surprising amount of humor" in their interactions. "He does have a public style where he likes to sit back and look a little bored during the course of joint interviews," Obama told NBC News as the network kicked of its Olympic coverage. "I think that's where some of these perceptions come up." "My sense is that's part of his shtick back home politically as wanting to look like the tough guy," he said. "U.S. politicians have a different style. We tend to smile once in a while." http://abcn.ws/1duhMi7
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
THE REAL STORY BEHIND 'THE MONUMENTS MEN' MOVIE: If you think you've already heard all the heroic tales there are to know about World War II, think again. The new George Clooney movie, "The Monuments Men," hits theaters today and tells the remarkable story of a unique group of soldiers that saved millions of pieces of European art and cultural artifacts that were stolen by the Nazis during the war. Check out this episode of "Top Line." http://yhoo.it/1d1YGV3
@Goldfarb: The average unemployed person has been jobless for 9 months. The median for 4 months.
@timkaine: Headed to a jobs center in Richmond to talk about why we need to #RenewUI
@PostReid: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers says she might face ethics probe stemming from leadership run - http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2022854520_mcmorrisrodgersethicsxml.html …
@jmartNYT: How has no dc-area biz type tried to open coffee concession at targeted orange line metro stops?