The Note's Must-Reads for Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Note's Must-Reads are a round-up of today's political headlines and stories from ABC News and the top U.S. newspapers. Posted Monday through Friday right here at

Compiled by ABC News' Will Cantine, Jayce Henderson and Jordan Mazza

STIMULUS ANNIVERSARY The Los Angeles Times' David Lauter: " Five Years Later, White House And Critics Fight Over Stimulus Law" Five years after its passage, White House officials and their Republican critics are still fighting over the merits of President Obama's economic stimulus law. Later this week, Obama will mark the fifth anniversary of signing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Monday, his Council of Economic Advisers issued a 70-page report lauding the law's impact. Republicans, meanwhile, seized the anniversary to denounce the law for increasing the federal debt while failing to cure the economy's troubles. LINK

The Hill's Kyle Balluck: " White House Touts Stimulus On Anniversary" The White House on Monday touted the effects of the massive stimulus bill, signed into law five years ago today. "At the time, the country was experiencing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Private employers had already cut almost 4 million jobs, trillions in dollars in household wealth had been wiped out, and the economy's total output was in the midst of its sharpest downturn of the postwar era," Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Jason Furman wrote in a blog post. Furman writes that a final report, released today, from the Council of Economic Advisers affirms that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 "had a substantial positive impact on the economy, helped to avert a second Great Depression, and made targeted investments that will pay dividends long after the Act has fully phased out." LINK

The Washington Times' Tom Howell Jr.: " Sen. Cornyn Marks Five-Year Anniversary Of Obama's Stimulus With Harsh Words" Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn on Monday marked the five-year anniversary of President Obama's economic stimulus, but it was hardly a laudatory toast to the 2009 bid to restart America's infrastructure and workforce. Mr. Cornyn, Texas Republican, said promises of "shovel-ready" jobs from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 were supposed to "get our economy moving." "Five years later, our economy is still sluggish, Americans are dropping out of the workforce by the thousands, and the President's latest big government experiment, Obamacare, is now on track to slash 2 million more jobs from the workforce," he said. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Damian Paletta and Janet Hook: " White House, Republicans Rekindle Feud Over 2009 Stimulus" Democrats and Republicans used the fifth anniversary of the 2009 stimulus law to renew the bitter debate over whether the measure, at a cost of more than $800 billion, sparked job growth and helped ease the country out of recession, or simply worsened the nation's debt load. The divide has present-day consequences as President Barack Obama is expected to call for new spending on infrastructure projects such as road and bridge repairs in a budget proposal set to be released in two weeks. Many Republicans have signaled an openness to approving more money for infrastructure spending, but a vigorous debate about the 2009 law could make any legislation more toxic. LINK

FOREIGN AFFAIRS The New York Times' Michael Gordon, David Sanger and Eric Schmitt: " U.S. Steps Up Criticism of Russian Role in Syrian War" Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday sharpened the Obama administration's mounting criticism of Russia's role in the escalating violence in Syria, asserting that the Kremlin was undermining the prospects of a negotiated solution by "contributing so many more weapons" and political support to President Bashar al-Assad. "They're, in fact, enabling Assad to double down, which is creating an enormous problem," Mr. Kerry said in Jakarta, Indonesia, before he flew here to confer with top officials of the United Arab Emirates, a gulf state that has been a strong supporter of the Syrian opposition. LINK

The Washington Post's Anne Gearan: " U.S. Seeks Prisoner Swap With Taliban To Free Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl" In an effort to free American captive Bowe Bergdahl before the bulk of U.S. forces leave Afghanistan this year, the Obama administration has decided to try to resume talks with the Taliban and sweeten an offer to trade Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the Army sergeant, current and former officials said. Five members of the Afghan Taliban who have been held at Guantanamo for years would be released to protective custody in Qatar in exchange for the release of Bergdahl, who was captured in Afghanistan in 2009 and is thought to be held in Pakistan by the Haqqani network, an allied insurgent group. LINK

USA Today's Oren Dorell: " Nuclear Talks With Iran Headed For Collision In Austria" Iranian and U.S. negotiators meet Tuesday for a new round of talks over a nuclear program that Iranian leaders are vowing to keep despite a threat from the U.S. Senate of harsh sanctions should the talks fail. The Obama administration has said the negotiations in Vienna will lead to a pact that would curtail Iran's ability to convert nuclear fuel to atomic weapons fuel. Israel, which sees the program as a threat to its existence, has threatened to attack Iran's nuclear facilities if negotiations do not prevent Iran from being able to build a bomb. LINK

POTUS ABC News' Jonathan Karl: " 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. "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. LINK

HILLARY CLINTON Politico's Josh Gerstein: " Hillary Clinton Goes Mum On NSA, Skirts Surveillance Fight" Last September, Hillary Clinton strode to a podium in Philadelphia to deliver what she advance-billed as a policy speech addressing the roiling controversy over government surveillance in a digital era. "We are once again in the middle of some big, noisy debates. What are the demands of America's global leadership in a changing world?" Clinton asked. "How do we provide both security and liberty at home and abroad? Every era faces its own questions and has to fashion its own answers, and we are no different." LINK GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE

The New York Daily News' Edgar Sandoval and Corky Siemaszko: " Port Authority Cop With Ties To Gov. Christie And Cronies Being Investigated In Bridgegate" Another day, another Chris Christie crony is under investigation for the Bridgegate scandal. Port Authority Police Lt. Thomas (Chip) Michaels has been targeted by departmental investigators after emails surfaced suggesting he might have known ahead of time about plans to deliberately tie-up traffic on the George Washington Bridge, sources said Monday. The emails also indicate that Michaels chauffeured the man who allegedly ordered the lane closures, David Wildstein, through the traffic-clogged streets of Fort Lee, N.J., in September to see the mess firsthand. LINK

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