OBAMA AGENDA: Free community college
The president wraps up his three-day road trip in Tennessee this afternoon, where he’ll tout a newly announced White House initiative that could make two years of community college free for millions of students. But he’ll need Congressional approval to make the plan a reality, Politico reports: “So far, that plan doesn’t have an official price tag — other than “significant,” according to White House officials. If all 50 states participate, the proposal could benefit 9 million students each year and save students an average of $3,800 in tuition, the White House said.”
He spent this week highlighting some of the positive themes he’ll hit on in his upcoming State of the Union address. Yesterday in Phoenix he unveiled new measures aimed at making home ownership easier and more affordable.
And more good economic news, per the New York Times: "Capping the best year for the job market since the recession began eight years ago, employers added 252,000 jobs in December, the Labor Department reported Friday, and unemployment fell to 5.6 percent. The unemployment rate was last that low in June 2008."
The president made a pit stop back in Washington last night and visited the French Embassy to pay his condolences following the terrorist attack that killed 12 at a satirical newspaper in Paris, the Washington Post reports.
This morning there is developing news as French police have surrounded the suspects at a printing business with one hostage, the New York Times reports.
CONGRESS: Boxer fallout
Longtime California Sen. Barbara Boxer surprised some on Capitol Hill (including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi) on Thursday when she announced she will not seek re-election in 2016. The news will result in a mad scramble to replace her, one of us(!) reports.
The Sacramento Bee lists some of Boxer’s potential successors. Interesting names include billionaire climate change activist Tom Steyer and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The House is expected to pass approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline on Friday, sending it to the Senate where it will likely be voted on next week. The Hill notes: “Friday's vote will mark at least the tenth time the House has voted to authorize the pipeline in four years, and the third time in six months. But unlike previous years, the bill will be sent to a Senate that is under Republican control — and that has made approving the project priority No. 1.”
“A group of House conservatives spent almost a year dreaming big about toppling Speaker John Boehner, but less than a day before the vote they still hadn’t found someone to replace him,” Politico reports on the disorganized effort to oust the Ohio Republican.
On Thursday,Boehner told NBC’s Luke Russert he is “the most anti-Establishment Speaker we have ever had."
Congressional Republicans are continuing efforts to undercut the Affordable Care Act, the Washington Times reports: Congress took its first swipes at Obamacare on Thursday with the House approving a bill to cancel the law’s 30-hour workweek provision, though only a dozen Democrats bucked President Obama on the vote.
NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell explains just what the bill would do to undercut Obamacare.
OFF TO THE RACES: The Iowa straw poll survives!
The Iowa straw poll is likely to survive, according to the Des Moines Register: “In a memo released today, a lawyer for the national Republican party puts to rest worries that holding the Iowa Straw Poll could violate new rules and therefore jeopardize the Iowa caucuses.”
BUSH: “In the early stages of his likely presidential run, Jeb Bush is running the kind of centrist campaign he promised, taking moderate stands on issues like gay marriage and avoiding overt appeals to the right wing of the Republican Party,” NBC’s Perry Bacon Jr. writes.
But Americans are looking to move past political dynasties, at least according to focus group conducted Thursday night on behalf of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, NBC’s Carrie Dann reports.
“Jeb Bush's allies are setting a fundraising goal of $100 million in the first three months of this year—including a whopping $25 million haul in Florida—in an effort to winnow the potential Republican presidential primary field with an audacious display of financial strength,” Bloomberg reports.
CARSON: Ben Carson apologized after Buzzfeed discovered he plagiarized parts of his book, “America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great.”
CLINTON: “David Axelrod on Thursday jabbed at Hillary Clinton, saying that she wasn’t a very strong candidate during the first part of her campaign for the 2008 presidential nomination,”per Politico.
HUCKABEE: “Potential 2016 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's forthcoming book, "God, Guns, Grits and Gravy," is mostly filled with his common defenses of conservative ideals. But his comments on same-sex marriage may surprise even his evangelical supporters,” NBC’s Andrew Rafferty reports.
PAUL: “On Sean Hannity's radio show Thursday, Paul said that he wants to consider how much his "ideas are resonating" before deciding to go forward with a presidential campaign,” the National Journal reports.
RUBIO: “Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) will head to New York City next week for a fundraising event hosted by high-powered GOP insider Wayne Berman,” the Huffington Post reports.
WALKER: “Bush would be wise not to take Walker so lightly. Right now, Walker is the candidate who can most realistically unite the base and the establishment wings of the party,” Washington Post’s James Downie writes.