ABC News(NEW YORK) — Even as he deals with a major snowstorm that has walloped the region, New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie is clearly setting his sights on national office.

Last week, Christie filed paperwork to launch the political action committee “Leadership Matters for America,” a major step in running for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

Although no Republican of note has officially declared his candidacy, the field is expected to get crowded very quickly. Despite this, Christie feels he has a legitimate shot at becoming the party’s standard bearer next year.

The PAC will afford Christie the opportunity to travel around the country as he gauges interest in his presumed run while attempting to draw deep-pocketed donors who might fund a possible campaign in 2016.

On his website, Christie declares, “America has been a nation that has always controlled events and yet today events control us Why? Because leadership matters. It matters if we want to restore America’s role in the world, find the political will to take on the entrenched special interests that continually stand in the way of fundamental change, reform entitlement spending at every level of government, and ensure that every child, no matter their zip code, has access to a quality education.”

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Tom Pennington/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The weather and some angry Democrats were responsible Monday for keeping debate on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline alive, quashing the GOP’s hopes of bring the issue up for a quick vote.

Republicans needed 60 votes to end debate on the pipeline, which would bring oil down from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico while purportedly creating tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S. The House has already voted to approve construction of the project.

However, the final tally of 53-39 was seven votes shy, partly because some Republicans’ travel plans were waylaid by the oncoming blizzard in the Northeast.

Although the GOP has enough Democratic support required to pass approval of the pipeline, some of those same lawmakers were still mad at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for tabling a number of their amendments last week. Thus, debate on the bill will continue at least through next week.

Even if the Senate passes a measure, the White House has threatened a veto, contending that it’s still awaiting a final review from the State Department about the environmental feasibility of the pipeline.

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PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images(NEW DELHI) — On his final day in India, President Obama declared U.S. relations with the world’s largest democracy “one of the defining partnerships of this century,” while nudging his Indian counterpart, Narenda Modi, to pursue greater economic equality, women’s rights and religious tolerance.

In a speech to New Delhi youth, Obama sought to leverage three days of back-slapping and bonhomie into a subtle challenge to the right-wing, Hindu nationalist government of his host. One Indian media outlet went so far as to describe Obama’s words as a “snub.”

“India will succeed as long as it’s not splintered along religious lines,” Obama declared, a message some viewed as a direct reference to the anti-Muslim policies of Modi’s ruling party and their efforts to constrain Muslim and Christian groups that do evangelization and religious conversion.

“In our lives, Michelle and I have been strengthened by our Christian faith. Still, as you may know, my faith has at times been questioned — by people who don’t know me — or they’ve said that I adhere to a different religion, as if that were somehow a bad thing,” he said. “Every person has the right to practice their faith how they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do so free from persecution and fear.”

Obama called for celebration of racial diversity, invoking Michelle Obama’s ancestral ties to “slaves and slave owners” and occasions when he was “treated differently because the color of my skin.”

He also upheld Mrs. Obama as a model of women’s rights, calling her a “very strong and talented” wife who “frequently” tells him he’s wrong.

“I’m surrounded by smart women,” the president said. “Every woman should be able to go about her day — to walk the street, or ride the bus — and be safe and be treated with the respect and dignity.”

The president, who was greeted by the crowd of 1,500 at Delhi’s Siri Fort Auditorium with chants of “Obama! Obama!,” leaves India after three days on an upbeat note. He was the first American president to visit twice and the first to be honored as chief guest on Republic Day.

“I am the first American president to come to your country twice. But I predict I will not be the last. Because, as Americans, we believe in the promise of India,” he said.

Ahead of the speech, the Obamas met with three Indian youth who were rescued from child slavery and Kailash Satyarthi, the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner who shared the award with Malala Yousafzai.

Satyarthi is a leading anti-child slavery advocate. He was overheard telling President Obama that there are still five million child slaves around the world.

“Thanks to your administration in America the number of child slaves has gone down,” he said.

Mrs. Obama kept her arms around 12-year-old Payal Jangid the entire time.

President Obama now turns to a much different alliance, making a rare and impromptu visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on his way home.

The president will pay his respects to the Saudi royal family after Friday’s death of Kind Abdullah, mark the transition to King Salman, and discuss the fight against ISIS and the situation in Yemen, White House officials said.

Obama brings with him more than two dozen top dignitaries, including Republican Sen. John McCain, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and former George W. Bush Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

Obama is due back on U.S. soil on Wednesday.

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Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) — The House of Representatives canceled the votes scheduled for Monday night due to the impending blizzard.

The announcement from the House Majority’s office is likely due to the number of lawmakers who were set to travel back to Washington on Monday following a three-day weekend in their districts. The inclement weather which was expected to hit the Northeast from D.C. up through Maine caused weather problems for many.

Instead, the House Majority’s office said, the first votes of the week would occur no earlier than 1 p.m. Tuesday. The House is slated to discuss human trafficking suspensions and the export of liquefied natural gas on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images(TRENTON, N.J.) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spent his Monday night inside, tweeting back and forth with his constituents and followers as a blizzard rocked the Northeast.

At about 8:30 p.m. Monday, Christie announced a travel ban would go into effect at 11 p.m., preventing any vehicles from being on New Jersey roads — excluding emergency vehicles, public safety personnel and utility companies — in an effort to keep New Jersians safe. Shortly thereafter, the governor tweeted, asking his nearly 500,000 followers how they were spending the “Blizzard of 2015.”

Alright, its 9pm New Jersey. What’s everyone doing at home tonight? #blizzardof2015

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) January 27, 2015

It seems most of Christie’s followers were abiding by the travel ban, with many followers saying they were spending time with the families or friends.

awesome. send us a pic when you’re done RT @AmericasMazz: @GovChristie building a Lego batmobile. 3500 pieces. Incredible fun with my boys

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) January 27, 2015

pokemon is still a thing? RT @Americapaldi: @GovChristie playing some pokemon and enjoying your awesome tweets

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) January 27, 2015

looks awesome RT @warren_kruse: @GovChristie pic.twitter.com/IuBrPCS3j6

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) January 27, 2015

me too. Summer cant come soon enough RT @dnj1999: @GovChristie thinking about this summer down the shore

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David Koch (L) Photo Credit: Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/MCT via Getty Images / Charles Koch (R) Photo Credit: Paul Zimmerman/WireImage(WASHINGTON) — They have been called “radical,” “toxic,” and even “un-American,” but over the weekend, three likely Republican presidential contenders defended the billionaire Koch brothers, who are reportedly planning to spend nearly $900 million to support conservative candidates and causes during the 2016 election cycle.

“Let me be very clear, I admire Charles and David Koch,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told ABC’s Jonathan Karl at a forum sponsored by Freedom Partners, a non-profit backed by the brothers. “They are businessmen who’ve created hundreds of thousands of jobs and they have stood up for free market principles and endured vilification with equanimity and grace.”

The Texas senator was joined on stage by Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, at this year’s first 2016 presidential forum held in Palm Springs.

“There are a bunch of Democrats who have taken as their talking point that the Koch brothers are the nexus of all evil in the world,” Cruz continued. “I think that is grotesque and offensive.”

Cruz, who noted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vilifies the Kochs “every week,” added, “There is a reason Harry Reid and the Democrats do that. They cannot defend the record. They can’t defend the Obama economy, it’s a disaster. They can’t defend Obamacare, which is a trainwreck. And they certainly can’t defend the Obama/Clinton foreign policy. So they want to scare people by painting a picture of nefarious billionaires.”

Rubio asserted that some on the left criticize the Kochs for their political spending, but welcome campaign cash from friendlier sources.

“The people who seem to have a problem with it are the ones that only want unions to be able to do it, their friends in Hollywood to be able to do it and their friends in the press to be able to do it,” Rubio said.

Rubio used the example of billionaire Tom Steyer, who donated heavily to Democratic candidates in 2014, arguing that while he doesn’t agree with Steyer’s views, he stands by his right to spend money to promote them.

“There is a gentleman out there who has radical environmental ideas who has spent tens of millions of dollars, lost most of his races,” Rubio said. “But spent tens of millions of dollars attacking Republicans that don’t want to impose his radical environmental agenda. He has a right to do that.”

Rubio added, “I believe in freedom of speech. And I believe that spending on political campaigns is a form of political speech that is protected under the Constitution.”

Paul acknowledged that special interests can have a negative influence on government, but said the only special interests he’s concerned about “are those who do business with government, get government contracts, take the government money and then try to get more contracts.”

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David Koch (L) Photo Credit: Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/MCT via Getty Images / Charles Koch (R) Photo Credit: Paul Zimmerman/WireImage(WASHINGTON) — They have been called “radical,” “toxic,” and even “un-American,” but over the weekend, three likely Republican presidential contenders defended the billionaire Koch brothers, who are reportedly planning to spend nearly $900 million to support conservative candidates and causes during the 2016 election cycle.

“Let me be very clear, I admire Charles and David Koch,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told ABC’s Jonathan Karl at a forum sponsored by Freedom Partners, a non-profit backed by the brothers. “They are businessmen who’ve created hundreds of thousands of jobs and they have stood up for free market principles and endured vilification with equanimity and grace.”

The Texas senator was joined on stage by Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, at this year’s first 2016 presidential forum held in Palm Springs.

“There are a bunch of Democrats who have taken as their talking point that the Koch brothers are the nexus of all evil in the world,” Cruz continued. “I think that is grotesque and offensive.”

Cruz, who noted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vilifies the Kochs “every week,” added, “There is a reason Harry Reid and the Democrats do that. They cannot defend the record. They can’t defend the Obama economy, it’s a disaster. They can’t defend Obamacare, which is a trainwreck. And they certainly can’t defend the Obama/Clinton foreign policy. So they want to scare people by painting a picture of nefarious billionaires.”

Rubio asserted that some on the left criticize the Kochs for their political spending, but welcome campaign cash from friendlier sources.

“The people who seem to have a problem with it are the ones that only want unions to be able to do it, their friends in Hollywood to be able to do it and their friends in the press to be able to do it,” Rubio said.

Rubio used the example of billionaire Tom Steyer, who donated heavily to Democratic candidates in 2014, arguing that while he doesn’t agree with Steyer’s views, he stands by his right to spend money to promote them.

“There is a gentleman out there who has radical environmental ideas who has spent tens of millions of dollars, lost most of his races,” Rubio said. “But spent tens of millions of dollars attacking Republicans that don’t want to impose his radical environmental agenda. He has a right to do that.”

Rubio added, “I believe in freedom of speech. And I believe that spending on political campaigns is a form of political speech that is protected under the Constitution.”

Paul acknowledged that special interests can have a negative influence on government, but said the only special interests he’s concerned about “are those who do business with government, get government contracts, take the government money and then try to get more contracts.”

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ABC News / US Senate(WASHINGTON) — On the heels of a midterm cycle where public ire surged, anti-Washington sentiment is high nationwide – and some pundits have suggested that in 2016, a governor, rather than a legislator, might be more palatable to voters fed up with bickering in Washington.

But at a conservative forum moderated by ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, one senator with possible presidential ambitions made a strong case for senatorial leadership:

“I think the No. 1 obligation of the federal government is the national security of the United States in conducting its foreign policy,” said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who appears to be preparing to mount his own bid for the White House.

“I do think having experience but also a seriousness about the breadth and scope of the challenges we face which are much more difficult than they were 25 years ago” is important for a potential president, he said.

This isn’t the first time Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has touted his foreign policy experience – but as ABC’s Karl pointed out, his potential 2016 rivals remain unconvinced.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, also thought to be contemplating a bid for the presidency in 2016, told Karl in November that the Republican nominee has “got to be an outsider.”

“I think both the presidential and the vice presidential nominee should either be a former or current governor, people who have done successful things in their states, who have taken on big reforms, who are ready to move America forward,” Walker told Karl.

“Well, if I was a governor I’d say the same thing,” Rubio said Sunday night, as laughter rippled through the audience.

“It is important for the next president of the United States to understand the diversity of the challenges, to have a global strategic vision and an understanding of what the U.S.’ role in it,” said Rubio. “Now does that mean that, you, a governor, can’t acquire that? Of course they could. But I would also say that, you know, taking a trip to some foreign city for two days does not make you Henry Kissinger either.”

And Rubio couldn’t resist a jab at the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton:

“I think it would be a mistake to elect as president the architect of the Obama foreign policy,” he said. “That would be a terrible mistake.”

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ABC News / US Senate(WASHINGTON) — On the heels of a midterm cycle where public ire surged, anti-Washington sentiment is high nationwide – and some pundits have suggested that in 2016, a governor, rather than a legislator, might be more palatable to voters fed up with bickering in Washington.

But at a conservative forum moderated by ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, one senator with possible presidential ambitions made a strong case for senatorial leadership:

“I think the No. 1 obligation of the federal government is the national security of the United States in conducting its foreign policy,” said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who appears to be preparing to mount his own bid for the White House.

“I do think having experience but also a seriousness about the breadth and scope of the challenges we face which are much more difficult than they were 25 years ago” is important for a potential president, he said.

This isn’t the first time Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has touted his foreign policy experience – but as ABC’s Karl pointed out, his potential 2016 rivals remain unconvinced.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, also thought to be contemplating a bid for the presidency in 2016, told Karl in November that the Republican nominee has “got to be an outsider.”

“I think both the presidential and the vice presidential nominee should either be a former or current governor, people who have done successful things in their states, who have taken on big reforms, who are ready to move America forward,” Walker told Karl.

“Well, if I was a governor I’d say the same thing,” Rubio said Sunday night, as laughter rippled through the audience.

“It is important for the next president of the United States to understand the diversity of the challenges, to have a global strategic vision and an understanding of what the U.S.’ role in it,” said Rubio. “Now does that mean that, you, a governor, can’t acquire that? Of course they could. But I would also say that, you know, taking a trip to some foreign city for two days does not make you Henry Kissinger either.”

And Rubio couldn’t resist a jab at the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton:

“I think it would be a mistake to elect as president the architect of the Obama foreign policy,” he said. “That would be a terrible mistake.”

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Steve Pope/Getty Images(DES MOINES, Iowa) — Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad “fell ill” at an event Monday, according to his office, requiring an ambulance to take him to a Des Moines hospital.

In a statement, his office said Branstad was “alert and conscious” as he was transported to Methodist hospital in downtown Des Moines.

“During the transport, paramedics took the governor’s vitals and initial tests indicate that the spell was caused by a seasonal illness,” the statement said. “The governor had been suffering from the effects of a cold.”

Branstad, the longest serving governor in United States history, spent a long day Saturday at the Iowa Freedom Summit talking to potential presidential candidates, doing interviews and addressing the large group of activists gathered.

Des Moines Register reporter Jason Noble reported in a tweet that Branstad was at one point lying on the ground “in distress.”

An aide to the governor told ABC News that Branstad, 68, had been battling the cold and flu in recent days. But during an appearance at his weekly press conference on Monday morning in Des Moines, Branstad’s voice was hoarse, but he otherwise seemed fine.

Branstad has a history of heart illness. He had a heart attack in 2000 and 10 years later had a procedure to open a blocked artery. But aides said they did not believe Monday’s incident was anything more than the cold or flu, but would know more after Branstad was admitted to the hospital.

He was holding an event at DuPont Pioneer, an agriculture company.

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