By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: All eyes are on the House today as Republicans gather behind closed doors to elect two of their top three leaders. Speaker John Boehner stays in place, but by the end of the day Kevin McCarthy is likely to be elevated to Majority Leader and one of three Republicans will be named Majority Whip. The secret-ballot election means all bets are off for wise predictions. The ardent conservatives in the House Republican Conference are eager to choose one of their own, so they can claim at least a shred of victory in their rift with the establishment. Steve Scalise of Louisiana may have a small edge going in, but Marlin Stutzman of Indiana may hold more cards. He appears to have less support overall, but could be something of a king maker if the race goes to a second round of voting and he throws his support behind Scalise or Peter Roskam of Illinois. It's less dramatic than it seemed last week after Eric Cantor's political career unexpectedly crashed, but make no mistake: The outcome is still a very important marker in the ongoing evolution of the GOP.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: The lead-up to possible airstrikes in Iraq is shaping up as an early moment of Rand Paul scrutiny - and a test for the inevitable anti-Paul rumblings inside the Republican Party. Yes, the new Cheney-led Alliance for a Stronger America is taking aim at President Obama. But Obama isn't running again. Read the new group's mission statement - to "explain the indispensable role America and American power must play in the world to defeat the broad array of threats we face," to "fight to restore the strength of America's military" - and it's impossible not to read that as at least an implicit rebuke of Sen. Rand Paul's foreign policy prescriptions. Paul, R-Ky., has said little on Iraq this week beyond suggesting that a new congressional authorization is needed - a position that puts him close to a few liberals who want the original Iraq war resolution repealed.
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: The annual Faith and Freedom Coalition conference kicks off today and will bring together many of the possible 2016 contenders, all trying to appeal to the evangelical wing of the GOP. Expect heavy criticism of the president, especially on the crisis in Iraq. To "pre-but" the event, the Democratic National Committee is out with a memo from their communications director, Mo Elleithee. The memo "takes stock" of the current Republican Party and says, "People flat out don't like the Republican Party" and "Republican leaders are doing everything they can to keep it that way." "As we're about to see (again) over the next few days, the Republican Party has given up on even trying to change. They've given up on any attempt to rebrand or reach out to new voters. And in many cases, they have moved in the opposite direction," Eleithee writes. Expect much more criticism as the presidential hopefuls take the stage. READ: http://factivists.democrats.org/dnc-memo/
ABOUT LAST NIGHT: 'BAD NEWS BABES' FALL TO MEMBERS OF CONGRESS IN ANNUAL SOFTBALL GAME. Third time's a charm … and it took three years for Members of Congress to beat the Bad News Babes in the Annual Congressional Women's Softball Game, notes ABC's JAKE LEFFERMAN. The final score: 10 to 5. The event, now in its 6 th year, raised $150,000 for the Young Survival Coalition, which helps young women diagnosed with breast cancer. Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords threw out the opening pitch, and notables who turned out to watch the game included Nancy Pelosi and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The MVPs were Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y. for the members team and Abby Livingston of Roll Call for the press team. As ABC's JOHN PARKINSON notes, ABC's SARA JUST crushed a single before coming around to score: http://instagram.com/p/pZ556GBnZr/
with ABC's SCOTT WILSON
BOEHNER TO OBAMA: DON'T WORK WITH IRAN ON IRAQ. House Speaker John Boehner said the Obama administration should "absolutely not" coordinate with Iran as it formulates a response to the destabilizing situation in Iraq where a radical Islamic militia is threatening Baghdad, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON reports. "I can just imagine what our friends in the region, our allies, will be thinking by reaching out to Iran at a time when they continue to pay for terrorists and foster terrorism, not only in Syria and in Lebanon but in Israel as well," Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters at a news conference yesterday at the Capitol. Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier this week that the U.S. was "open" to cooperation with Iran to stabilize Iraq, and Iran's president made similar statements this week. President Obama invited the top Congressional leadership - Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell - for an Oval Office briefing at the White House yesterday afternoon. http://abcn.ws/1lXYx9m
GABBY GIFFORDS BACKS BILL TO PROTECT WOMEN FROM GUN VIOLENCE. Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in a rare public speech Wednesday, backed "common sense" gun control legislation to keep firearms away from domestic abusers, according to ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE. "Dangerous people with guns are a threat to women," Giffords said, at an event sponsored by the Center for American Progress. "Criminals with guns, stalkers with guns, abusers with guns that makes gun violence a women's issue. For our mothers, for our families, for me and you, women can lead the way." Speaking slowly, standing next to her husband former astronaut Mark Kelly, she said, "Together we can change laws, together we can win elections. Please join your voice with mine." The event Wednesday was a panel discussion examining policy solutions to protect women from gun violence at the hands of abusers, specifically legislation proposed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota who was on the panel. http://abcn.ws/1niPbSj
JAY CARNEY'S LAST DAY: TOP FIVE MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney took to the podium yesterday for his final briefing after more than three years on the job, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ and SCOTT WILSON note. Carney walked into the briefing room as a song by Guided Voices played in the background. "Now, that is some good rock 'n' roll," Carney said. "This has been an extraordinary experience, and I have loved every minute of every day, even the many minutes of many days I spent in this room," the outgoing press secretary added. "As I think most of you now understand and believe, it's always a pleasure, no matter how hard it can get in here, how hot it can sometimes be and contentious it sometimes is." ABC News took a look back at Carney's time as White House press secretary. Here are five of the most memorable moments, including some exchanges with ABC News' Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl: http://abcn.ws/1lDnPZL
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
OBAMA TICKLES GIANT ROBOTIC GIRAFFE AT WHITE HOUSE. President Obama encountered an unlikely character on the White House South Lawn yesterday morning: a 17-foot-tall, 2,200-pound robotic giraffe named Russell, according to ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ. At one point, the president reached out and touched the giraffe underneath its chin, prompting a giggle from the robotic animal, who runs his own artificial intelligence program. "Hehe, that tickles," Russell, whose horns are made of silver glittery lava lamps, said with a British accent. Lindsay Lawlor, the owner and creator of the giraffe, said people can ride the giant robotic creature, which is powered by a 12-horsepower, hybrid fuel-engine motor. "The Secret Service may not let us do that," Obama said. Russell was one of 30 exhibits at the first-ever White House Maker Faire, an event featuring student and entrepreneurial projects in the White House's latest push to highlight the potential of the manufacturing sector in the United States. http://abcn.ws/1lDfJjV
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX
CRC PUBLIC RELATIONS CELEBRATES 25TH ANNIVERSARY: Greg Mueller, President of CRC writes into the Note about his firm reaching the quarter-century mark: "The company was incorporated in June 1989 with three employees, including current employees Chairman, Leif Noren and me. Our first office building was in the attic of a very old, Old Town Alexandria house with slanted floors - I remember having to sort of anchor myself to the desk to avoid sliding away from the desk. There was no internet when CRC was founded, fax machines were the new innovation! CRC began as an enterprise servicing conservative clients in direct mail and media relations, with an emphasis on media relations. We have grown to over 30 employees servicing corporate, public policy, political and non-profits. In 2010, CRC expanded our services to include digital communications and social media."
@markknoller: Yesterday from Colombia, VP Biden phoned top Shi'a, Sunni and Kurdish leaders in Iraq to press them to end sectarian animosities.
@samsteinhp: The free-for-all that will follow Boehner stepping down is now going to be vicious http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/19/eric-cantor-next-speaker_n_5508799.html?1403175409 … via @jonward11 + @SabrinaSiddiqui
?@SalenaZitoTrib: To truly get inside the head of why IRS scandal happened you have to understand Obama's Incredible "Referent Power" http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/05/19/obamas_incredible_referent_power_118468.html …
?@AliABCNews: Kerry confirmed he did support arming the Syrian rebels in NBC interview - wouldn't say he regrets that US did not.
@jaketapper: Today's pollen count in DC: CCCCCCCHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhh