* What’s next in the battle over the debt ceiling? With the House Speaker demanding trillions in cuts in exchange for a debt ceiling hike, John Boehner’s aides are declining to specify over what time frame those cuts would have to take hold, which would seem to open the door a crack to the possibility of negotiations.

The real question, as Ezra Klein notes this morning, is whether any kind of deal involving multi-trillions in cuts can be achieved within the extremely tight time frame involved. What remains remarkable about this story is that everyone has already agreed that the debt ceiling must be raised, period, full stop. Yet Boehner, by drawing a harder line than the White House and Democrats, has all but ensured that a deal will be reached that involves major concessions by Dems in exchange for something that was seen as inevitable from the outset.

* Inside Boehner’s debt ceiling strategy: Politico asks: If Boehner doesn’t win over the trillions in cuts he’s seeking, then how will he explain it to the Tea Party and to conservatives who are demanding no surrender?

My quick answer: Just as during the brinkmanship over spending cuts, Boehner will drag us as close to the brink as possible right now on the debt ceiling, in order to make it easier to sell House conservatives on the eventual compromise later, by arguing he did everything humanly possible to extract maximum concessions.

* How Obama could call Boehner’s bluff: Jon Chait suggests that Obama ask Boehner to spell out how he would achieve those trillions in cuts:

It seems to me that Obama’s play here is clear: He needs to ask Boehner to spell out his demands. What’s the exact bill that Boehner demands as a condition for not crippling the U.S. economy? If he wants to make demands, he needs to write out those demands.

* Senate GOP won’t take the Medicare plunge: Relatedly, it’s becoming clearer that real Medicare cuts — which Boeher would have to push in order to get those trillions — are politically toxic. Evidence? The Hill has the scoop on the widening GOP rift over Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposal:

Senate Republicans have decided to avoid jeopardizing their chances of capturing the upper chamber in next year’s elections and will not echo the House GOP’s call for a major overhaul of the popular health entitlement for seniors.

This is the first major difference between Senate and House Republicans, and suggests the Dem efforts to render the Ryan plan politically toxic may be paying off.

* Obama to take credit for cracking down on border security: Immigration reform doesn’t have a chance of passing this Congress, but Obama’s speech today on the topic represents an effort to appeal to independents and swing voters by touting his border security record, even as he showcases a commitment to reform designed to boost Latino turnout in 2012.

* What to watch today: Senate Dems are set to hold a press conference this morning unveiling their push to roll back oil industry subsidies and divert saving towards reining in the deficit. Dems hope the move will redirect public anger over high gas prices and call the GOP’s bluff on the deficit by revealing that Republicans don’t care about deficit reduction if it means increasing revenues.

The question is whether any moderate GOP Senators will feel pressure to support the measure, given that the public blames oil companies for gas prices, or whether Republicans will feel confident that they can respond with the usual accusation that Dems are raising taxes.

* Can Dems take back the House? Alex Altman spells out the Dem case, noting that the GOP’s overreach on Medicare, and Obama’s presence on the 2012 ticket, could shift the picture significantly from 2010, a lower turnout midterm election.

* National players enter special House race: With the special election in New York’s 26th district suddenly up for grabs, both national parties are now viewing the race as an early, high-stakes referendum on GOP vulnerability, particularly since Democrat Kathy Hochul has surged by making Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan a major issue.

* Republicans blocking a national security nominee: At a time of heightened terror threat, Senator Chuck Grassley is holding up the nomination of the deputy attorney general, a key national security position, because of a piece he wrote nearly 10 years ago arguing for civilian trials of terror suspects and describing the 9/11 attacks as “criminal acts of terrorism.” More on this later.

* No, Bin Laden’s death was not a vindication of torture: The Post editorial board makes a critical point: Even if you accept that torture may have produced some useful information, there are a host of reasons why Obama was right to dismantle the torture program.

* Legal battle over health reform enters critical stage: Today, an appeals court will begin hearing two cases that could help determine how the Supreme Court ultimately rules on the individual mandate. Health reform proponents hope the court rules that states don’t have a fair claim of injury, which would weaken the status of GOP attorneys general trying to overturn the law.

* Health reform already benefitting milllions: Ethan Rome of Health Care for America Now has lots more context and analysis on how the court battles getting underway today could represent a major setback for the GOP’s repeal drive.

* And the Beltway media head spinner of the day: We’re now being asked to believe that Newt Gingrich’s wife — the woman with whom he had an affair while impeaching Bill Clinton for adultery — holds the key to Newt’s political salvation as he prepares to run for president in 2012. Whatever.

What else is happening?