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First Read's Morning Clips

<p>A roundup of the day’s most important political stories</p>

OBAMA AGENDA: My Brother’s Keeper program

A senior administration official tells NBC’s Kristen Welker that, on Thursday, President Obama will announce a new initiative, aimed at helping boys and young men of color. The President first announced his intentions to start such a program during this year's State of the Union Address. The announcement comes after Mr. Obama has received criticism by some within the black community who say he has not done enough to help African Americans, particularly men.

The Washington Post first reported the initiative and describes the program in this way: "Obama on Thursday will announce a new White House initiative called ‘My Brother's Keeper,’ which will bring foundations and companies together to test a range of strategies across the country to support young male minorities, taking steps to keep them in school and out of the criminal justice system, a White House official said. He will also announce that his administration will launch a more vigorous evaluation of what policies work best and publicize results to school systems and others across the country."

“The Obama administration Monday announced another delay in the implementation of the requirement that employers provide health insurance for their employees,” USA Today writes. “Businesses with more than 50 employees but fewer than 100 will have an extra year to phase in health care coverage of employees who work more than 30 hours a week, Treasury Department officials said. Employers with more than 100 employers will be subject to employee-coverage rules under the Affordable Care Act beginning in January 2015. The mandate to provide insurance had already been delayed one year.”

It’s the state dinner for France at the White House. Obama and French President Hollande will hold a bilateral news conference as well. AP points out this irony: “The partnership between the longtime allies has slowly improved after hitting a low point a decade ago, when the French public and politicians alike bitterly opposed the U.S-led conflict in Iraq. Now, with Americans weary of war, it's France that has been staking out a more muscular military posture in parts of the world, with the White House gladly playing a supportive role.”

Yellen’s first test… “Janet Yellen, who on Tuesday faces her first grilling by Congress since she became the Federal Reserve chair this month, is expected to reiterate central bank plans to taper its stimulus despite recent weakness in the economy,” USA Today writes.

“Investors this week will try to determine whether Yellen will embrace all the policies of her predecessor, Ben Bernanke. They will also look for any clues that she is worried about the economy or the stock market's turbulence,” AP writes.

CONGRESS: Boehner unveils his debt-ceiling plan

The New York Times: “The House is likely to vote Wednesday on a plan to extend the government’s borrowing authority into 2015 in exchange for reversing a cut to the pensions of working-age military veterans that Congress approved just two months ago to try to trim the budget deficit. The plan, presented to House Republicans on Monday evening by their leaders, represents a dramatic reversal for the House after three years of using the debt ceiling to extract major spending cuts and conservative policy changes. In this instance, the debt ceiling deadline — looming at the end of this month — will be used to reverse the only difficult spending cut included in a budget and deficit-reduction deal reached in December.”

National Journal says the deal is a “slap” at Paul Ryan since he negotiated the budget deal in the first place.

And, by the way, “Repealing the cut would cost $7 billion. Republicans would pay for it by extending certain mandatory spending cuts, known as the sequester, through 2024,” USA Today notes.

Ted Cruz is still messing with the House, “and some of Boehner’s allies think the tea party Texan should mind his own business,” Roll Call writes. “Cruz in recent weeks has undermined Boehner’s approach on both immigration and the debt limit — the two biggest issues the Ohio Republican has been trying to navigate through his conference.”

Mike McCaul: "I think there is a higher degree [of] probability that something is going to - something will detonate, something will go off."

“Police investigated a ‘suspicious substance’ in the office of Sen. Ron Wyden early Monday evening. The initial investigation is now clear, and there are no further threats on the office,” National Journal writes.

OFF TO THE RACES: Rubio’s non-answer

“The Republican Party establishment, chastened by the realization that a string of unpredictable and unseasoned candidates cost them seats in Congress two elections in a row, is trying to head off potential political hazards wherever it can this year,” The New York Times writes, leading with a Virginia state senator who wanted to run for Congress, but “felt a distinct chill.” The Times notes that the power players are Citizens United, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Koch Brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Charlie Cook on immigration and the GOP argument of not being able to “trust” Obama: “Although a certain amount of paranoia is natural for any elected ​official, it is particularly prevalent now among Republicans, who are enmeshed in a civil war between the Republican Party establishment and the GOP’s tea-party/most conservative elements.”

He looks at the calendar and wonders if the odds for adding immigration reform in the House are more likely after some tough primaries: “But the fear of a primary also has a calendar component. As of now, only seven states (Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Texas, and West Virginia) are past their candidate filing deadlines. Two more (Maryland and North Carolina) have deadlines between now and the end of February. The biggest number of filing deadlines, 19, fall in March (Nebraska has a Feb. 18 deadline for incumbents, March 3 for nonincumbents). So, 26 states will pass their deadlines by the end of March, five more each in April and May, and nine in June; the last two are Delaware in July and Louisiana in August. As each month goes by, the filing deadlines in more states and for more members will have passed, thus leaving many home free from a 2014 primary challenge.”

Hillary Clinton allies began plotting her 2016 campaign on the night Obama was reelected, per a new book. Buzzfeed looks at how Jeffrey Katzenberg is positioning himself to be Clinton’s top money man.

Joe Biden makes the case for his presidency in an interview with Time, boasting of how he knows world leaders by their first names, touting his role in the U.S.’s efforts in Ukraine, noting that the Recovery Act, which he oversaw, was one of the “best-run federal government programs,” and that he is a powerful vice president, spending “between four and seven hours a day with the president.”

Marco Rubio won’t say if he smoked pot: “I’ll tell you why I never answer that question. If I tell you that I haven’t, you won’t believe me. And if I tell you that I did, then kids will look up to me and say, ‘well, I can smoke marijuana because look how he made it.’”

Rubio, by the way, laid out some policy principles on how to make college more affordable.

It’s cold outside, so there’s no global warming, according to Ted Cruz: "It is really freezing in D.C. I have to admit I was surprised. Al Gore told us this wouldn't happen!"

National Journal looks at how trade splits Democrats.

RHODE ISLAND: While working as an Olympics analyst, Michelle Kwan’s trying to get notables to hold a pin in support of her husband, Clay Pell’s, gubernatorial bid.

LOUISIANA: “Tuesday will bring a new job for Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, and that could be good news for her re-election bid this fall, considered one of the Democrats’ toughest challenges,” USA Today notes. “Landrieu, running for a fourth term from gas- and oil-heavy Louisiana, is poised to become chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in a reshuffle caused by Montana Sen. Max Baucus becoming U.S. ambassador to China. Senate Democrats will vote on chairmanships Tuesday at their weekly caucus meeting.”

PROGRAMMING NOTES. *** Tuesday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: NBC’s Chuck Todd interviews The Washington Post’s Diplomatic Correspondent Anne Gearan and French Analyst Christian Malarad. Then Chuck takes a Deep Dive into a new poll on US-Cuba relations with Pollsters Glen Bolger and Paul Maslin. Plus, Chuck interviews the US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul on US-Russia Relations.

*** Tuesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Peter Alexander, filling in for Andrea Mitchell, interviews Olympic champion Brian Boitano, Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Brian Moulton, BBC’s Katty Kay and the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Ruth Marcus.

*** Tuesday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: MSNBC’s Craig Melvin, subbing in for Tamron Hall, interviews NBC News legal analyst Lisa Bloom about the Michael Dunn trial, Nia-Malika Henderson from the Washington Post, social justice advocate Sandra Fluke, and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA).