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Obama Gets A Break From Congress (But Not The Kind He Wants)

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )

NOTABLES

  • TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: President Obama meets privately with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at the White House this afternoon, presumably to plot legislative strategy on issues ranging from the debt ceiling to immigration reform, notes ABC's MARY BRUCE. Trade policy is also a likely topic. Their meeting comes just days after Reid came out publicly against Obama's push to fast track two large trade deals. They sit down in the Oval Office at 2:30 pm Eastern.
  • THE BIG BREAK: "President Barack Obama is counting on Senate Democrats to help approve his legislative agenda during his final years in office. And though they are his staunchest allies on most economic issues, many Democratic senators are breaking with him on key issues in very public ways," writes Politico's Burgess Everett. "From trade to Iran sanctions, the Keystone XL pipeline, Obamacare, the National Security Agency and energy policy, Senate Democrats seem unusually comfortable criticizing the president, with only minimal concerns about repercussions from the White House. Even Obama's steadfast ally, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, didn't mince words last week when he rejected a bill to fast-track trade deals that is strongly backed by the White House, working against Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, a Senate colleague who has been tapped to be the president's ambassador to China." http://politi.co/1fDNkqa

YOUR VOICE, YOUR VOTE: BAYOU STATE BATTLE ADDED TO ABC's "14 FOR 14." Last week ABC News officially launched "14 For 14," our new project documenting 14 key midterm election races that matter between now and November. It features a dynamic list of campaigns - limited to 14 at any given time - that individually and collectively provide a big picture look at where the country stands and where America is headed. The ABC News Political Unit selected an initial list of 13 must-watch races and left the 14th spot open for everyone to decide in an online ballot. After a week's worth of voting, the clear winner was the Louisiana Senate race in which Sen. Mary Landrieu, a three-term Democrat, is fighting to hold on in the South - a must-win Senate contest for Democrats. ABC News' "14 For 14? homepage provides a one-stop destination to access the complete list of races as well as at-a-glance snapshots of each contest, compiled and reported by ABC's team of political reporters. Extensive coverage and updates to the race snapshots will also be added throughout the year, along with fresh details, reporting, up-to-the-minute stats and factoids. SEE THE COMPLETE RACE LIST AND SNAPSHOTS: http://abcn.ws/1ffGNlS

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

WHY ARE TWO FORMER OBAMA AIDES WORKING WITH HILLARY'S 'SHADOW CAMPAIGN'? In the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, Hillary Clinton was Enemy No. 1 to the staffers working on Barack Obama's campaign. But today, some of those same campaign strategists are joining the ranks of Ready for Hillary, a group trying to lay the groundwork for a presidential campaign for Obama's one-time rival. Two leading Obama loyalists -turned-Clinton admirers are Mitch Stewart and Jeremy Bird. "If you look at her record of leadership, her record of accomplishments, it's probably as strong if not the strongest for any sort of candidate for a national office, or potential candidate in this case," Stewart said of Clinton, who believes the former secretary of state has broad appeal across the national political landscape. Stewart and Bird, along with their new political consulting firm 270 Strategies, help make up the unofficial Clinton shadow campaign, Ready for Hillary. For more of the interview with the Obama whiz kids now working on behalf of Clinton, check out this episode of "The Fine Print" with ABC's JEFF ZELENY: http://yhoo.it/1cMN5ZS

BUZZ

OBAMA'S CONTENTIOUS SUPER BOWL INTERVIEW WITH BILL O'REILLY. President Obama stuck to his defensive game plan yesterday in his traditional pre-Super Bowl interview with FOX News' Bill O'Reilly, repeatedly hitting back that the issues O'Reilly was raising were only issues because his network keeps pushing them, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ reports. O'Reilly questioned Obama on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the IRS scandal, two issues the president said have been drummed up by Fox News. "These kinds of things keep on surfacing in part because you and your TV station will promote them," the president said in the live 10-minute interview. O'Reilly noted that the president's "detractors" claim the president avoided calling Benghazi a "terror" attack because his campaign was concerned about the political damage it might cause. "They believe it because folks like you are telling them that," the president said. Asked if the Affordable Care Act signup website rollout was the "biggest mistake" of his presidency, the president insisted it wasn't. "Bill, you've got a long list of my mistakes," Obama said. http://abcn.ws/1bivPaI

HILLARY CLINTON TWITTER-BLITZES FOX NEWS DURING SUPER BOWL. For Hillary Clinton, the best Super Bowl defense is some offense - unless it's the other way around, ABC's RICK KLEIN notes. The former secretary of state roiled the Twitterverse midway through tonight's big game with a rare tweet that seemed to respond to the aggressive media coverage she's drawn of late. "It's so much more fun to watch FOX when it's someone else being blitzed & sacked! #SuperBowl," Clinton Tweeted from @HillaryClinton. http://abcn.ws/1n6AJg8

NOTED: CLINTON SIDES WITH OBAMA ON IRAN SANCTIONS. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sided with President Obama on the issue of sanctions against Iran, saying Congress should hold off on imposing any additional sanctions while diplomatic negotiations run their course, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ writes. Clinton conveyed her stance in a letter to Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, last month. "Now that serious negotiations are finally under way, we should do everything we can to test whether they can advance a permanent solution," the letter said. "As President Obama has said, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed, while keeping all options on the table. "The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that imposing new unilateral sanctions now 'would undermine the prospects for a successful comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.' I share that view," Clinton said. "It could rob us of the diplomatic high ground we worked so hard to reach, break the united international front we constructed, and in the long run, weaken the pressure on Iran by opening the door for other countries to chart a different course." http://abcn.ws/1bihz1D

PAUL RYAN: OBAMA PRESIDENCY 'INCREASINGLY LAWLESS'. President Obama's tenure is becoming "increasingly lawless" with his embrace of executive orders, which are "creating a dangerous trend which is contrary to the Constitution," House Budget Committee Chair Rep. Paul Ryan said Sunday on "This Week," notes ABC's BENJAMIN BELL. "It's not the number of executive orders, it's the scope of the executive orders. It's the fact that he's actually contradicting law, like in the health care case [when Obama delayed provisions of the Affordable Care Act], or proposing new laws without going through Congress, George, that's the issue," Ryan told George Stephanopoulos on "This Week." "We have an increasingly lawless presidency where he is actually doing the job of Congress, writing new policies and new laws without going through Congress. Presidents don't write laws, Congress does," the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee said. Despite his criticism, Ryan dismissed the idea of impeaching the president when asked whether he thought that was an option. http://abcn.ws/1eisAWN

NOTED: Janet Yellen is set to be sworn in today as the new head of the Federal Reserve, notes ABC's RICHARD DAVIES. With her appointment Yellen becomes one of the most powerful women in the world. In her job as Vice Chair at the Fed Yellen was a leading advocate for the aggressive stimulus aimed at keeping interest rates as low as possible.

IN THE NOTE'S INBOX

TEA PARTY PATRIOTS LAUNCHES SUPER PAC. The national group, Tea Party Patriots, announced a spin-off super PAC today called The Party Patriots Citizens Fund. It will focus on key Senate races and "provide activists with resources - such as voter identification software, polling data, direct mail techniques, media training and other tools - to organize friends, neighbors, and communities around a freedom agenda in an effort to put people in office who will be true representatives of the people," according to a press release. Jenny Beth Martin, President of The Party Patriots Citizens Fund said in a statement: "Unlike other Super PACs that drop in negative ads from their perches in Washington, DC, to trash opponents, TPPCF will empower the people to have the most impact in the targeted districts and states. We are currently huddling with activists on the ground in South Carolina looking for an alternative to Senator Lindsay Graham, and in Kentucky, where many have lost faith in the Senate Minority Leader. We will be expanding the mission into the Mississippi, Nebraska, Louisiana, Arkansas and North Carolina Senate races shortly."

WHAT WE'RE READING

"A YEAR AFTER SNUB, CHRIS CHRISTIE WILL SPEAK AT CPAC 2014," by Yahoo's Chris Moody. "After being denied a speaking slot last year at the largest annual gathering of conservatives, New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie has accepted an invitation to speak at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference next month, Yahoo News has learned. 'We are very excited to announce that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will speak at CPAC 2014,' American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas told Yahoo News. 'At this year's CPAC - and through our theme 'ACU's Golden Anniversary: Getting It Right for 50 Years' - we will celebrate how conservatism has shaped our past and look to the future with excitement. This will be the year that conservatives begin pulling the nation back from the brink of Barack Obama's disaster with a movement that inspires, unites, and discovers new solutions to our current challenges.' An invitation to speak at the conference, held near Washington, D.C., each spring, is traditionally a prime opportunity for aspiring Republican presidential candidates to make an impression on some of the party's most active supporters, as well as the national media. Last year, the ACU, which organizes the three-day confab, made the controversial decision not to invite the rising GOP star. The group withheld its invitation as punishment for what some in the movement viewed as Christie's insufficiently conservative record the year prior, Cardenas said." http://yhoo.it/1fD0uU9

WHO'S TWEETING?

@DavidMDrucker: The House GOP's #DebtCeiling dilemma: http://washingtonexaminer.com/house-gop-in-a-bind-on-debt-ceiling/article/2543246 …

@GeraldFSeib: My quick take on what we've learned in recent days that lends hope to those hoping for immigration reform: http://on.wsj.com/1fEPHJg

@HotlineSteve: . @njhotline's 4th-quarter Senate fundraising winners and losers, from @Alex_Roarty and @HotlineJulie http://njour.nl/1fF9nN2

@PhilipRucker: People under 25 expect "a new way of leadership," Gov O'Malley, preparing for 2016, tells @WPJohnWagner http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/people-under-25-expect-a-new-way-of-leadership-maryland-governor-says/2014/02/03/bc46fa6a-8cd0-11e3-95dd-36ff657a4dae_story.html?wpmk=MK0000203 …

?@StevenTDennis: Steve King wants John Boehner to be held "accountable" for "indelicate" language http://blogs.rollcall.com/218/steve-king-speaker-never-apologized-for-indelicate-insult/ …

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