The Note's Must-Reads for Friday, February 15, 2013

The Note's Must-Reads are a round-up of today's political headlines and stories from ABC News and the top U.S. newspapers. Posted Monday through Friday right here at

Compiled by ABC News' Jayce Henderson, Amanda VanAllen, Carrie Halperin, and Will Cantine

PRESIDENT OBAMA: The Wall Street Journal's Stephanie Banchero: " Preschool Proposal Faces Uncertain Future" President Barack Obama's proposal to significantly expand preschool programs could run into roadblocks as Republican lawmakers and others question the effectiveness of existing early-learning programs. LINK

JOHN KERRY: The Boston Globe's Stephen Braun: " Heinz deal could grow Kerry's portfolio" Secretary of State John Kerry's family financial portfolio could grow by hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of the $23 billion mega-deal between Nebraska billionaire Warren Buffett and a Brazil-owned investment firm to buy out ketchup and food producer H.J. Heinz Co. Kerry, as part of his confirmation last month, agreed to divest holdings in dozens of companies after leaving his Massachusetts Senate seat. LINK

CHUCK HAGEL: ABC News' Sunlen Miller: " Hagel (Temporarily) Blocked In The Senate" Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will have to stay on the job a little bit longer. Senators failed Thursday night to move toward a vote on Chuck Hagel's nomination to be the next Defense Secretary. LINK

The Washington Times' Stephen Dinan: " Chuck Hagel makes history as first to be blocked from Defense" Republicans succeeded Thursday in blocking a vote on Chuck Hagel, President Obama's defense secretary nominee, by launching the first filibuster in history against a president's choice to fill the Pentagon's top civilian post. GOP senators said they are delaying the confirmation in order to have more time to study Mr. Hagel's record and to obtain more information on the White House's handling of the September attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, a matter on which they accuse the administration of stonewalling or providing wrong information. LINK

Bloomberg's Laura Litvan: " Hagel Nomination on Path to Approval After Initial Rebuff" Senators agreed on a path toward confirmation of Chuck Hagel as U.S. defense secretary, after Republicans said they will drop opposition to acting on his nomination once lawmakers return from a weeklong break. An initial effort yesterday to cut off debate fell short of the 60 votes needed because Republicans demanded more time. The vote on the so-called cloture motion was 58-40, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid immediately announced the next roll call would be held Feb. 26. LINK

The New York Times' Jeremy W. Peters: " G.O.P. Blocks Vote in Senate on Hagel for Defense Post" Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked President Obama's nominee to lead the Pentagon in a defiant move likely to further strain partisan tensions while preventing the White House, at least temporarily, from assembling its second-term national security team. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Sara Murray and Julian E. Barnes: " GOP Stalls Vote On Pick For Pentagon" Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked, at least temporarily, Chuck Hagel's nomination to be defense secretary, leaving him damaged and offering the latest example of how fierce the partisan divide has become in Congress. LINK

GUN CONTROL: The Hill's Jonathan Easley: " Obama seeks to allay fears: 'I actually don't think we should ban handguns'" President Obama on Thursday sought to allay the fears of gun advocates by saying he's not looking to ban handguns and would pursue controls that were "respectful of regional differences." During a Google Plus "Fireside Hangout," Obama was asked why he favored a ban on assault weapons, which account for only a small percentage of gun deaths, as opposed to handguns, which are responsible for the majority. LINK

SPENDING: The Los Angeles Times' Lisa Mascaro: " Democrats float plant o avoid automatic slash in spending" Two weeks before deep budget cuts are due to slice across the federal government, Senate Democrats proposed an alternative Thursday that would swap some reductions for a tax on people who make more than $1 million a year. The proposal has little chance of Republican support, even though neither party wants the automatic cuts. But Republicans are increasingly willing to stomach the reductions in defense and domestic spending rather than accept President Obama's call for a "balanced" approach that matches cuts with new revenue. LINK

NATIONAL SECURITY: The Washington Post's Craig Whitlock: " At Pentagon, 'pivot to Asia' becomes 'shift to Africa'" In his first term, President Obama instructed the Pentagon to pivot its forces and reorient its strategy toward fast-growing Asia. Instead, the U.S. military finds itself drawn into a string of messy wars in another, much poorer part of the world: Africa. Over the past two years, the Pentagon has become embroiled in conflicts in Libya, Somalia, Mali and central Africa. Meantime, the Air Force is setting up a fourth African drone base, while Navy warships are increasing their missions along the coastlines of East and West Africa. LINK

CLIMATE: Politico's Donovan Slack: " Obama acknowledges climate-change difficulties" President Obama, asked Thursday how he will get anything done on climate change, hinted at what executive actions he might take and acknowledged that getting anything through Congress will be difficult. "Some of this is ideological, some of it is economic, and it's not all partisan," he said in a Google+ chat. "I have to tell you that there are some Democrats, for example who represent states or districts that are heavily reliant on old power plants and are more heavily manufacturing based. LINK

HEALTH CARE: USA Today's Kelly Kennedy: " States Face Friday Deadline On Health Care Exchanges" As states work to decide by Friday whether they plan to create their own or partner with the federal government to run health exchanges, there has been one last-minute surprise and one skin-of-the teeth agreement. LINK

ABC NEWS VIDEO: " Obama's Pick For Defense Secretary Opposed By GOP" LINK " Chuck Hagel Defense Nomination Hits Speed Bump" LINK " President Obama Hints At Daughter's Dating" LINK

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