The Note's Must-Reads for Monday, December 30, 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, Will Cantine and Jordan Mazza

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN ABC News' Benjamin Bell: " Sen. Ted Cruz Blames Obama, Reid For Government Shutdown; Talks Coloring Book" Firebrand conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, expressed no regrets over his role in this fall's government shutdown today in an exclusive interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl for "This Week," placing the blame for the 16-day closure squarely on the shoulders of Democratic leaders. "I think it was absolutely a mistake for President Obama and Harry Reid to force a government shutdown," the freshman senator said when asked if pushing the strategy linking funding the government to the funding of Obamacare was a mistake. LINK

HEALTH CARE The Los Angeles Times' Noam Levey and Chad Terhune: " Obama's healthcare law takes full effect this week" Nearly four years after it was signed and after months of scrambling and uncertainty, President Obama's landmark bid to guarantee Americans health security takes full effect Wednesday as the Affordable Care Act begins delivering healthcare coverage to millions nationwide. Administration officials reported Sunday that about 1.1 million people had enrolled in health plans using the federal website,, the main entry point for coverage in 36 states. Nearly all the enrollents came in the last couple of weeks as the deadline approached for coverage that would take effect Jan. 1. LINK

The Washington Times' Jaqueline Kilmas: " Obamacare Woes Propel GOP to Preferred Status in Polls for 2014 Elections " With less than a year left until voters cast ballots, Republicans have staged a comeback and pulled slightly ahead in the midterm election races, according to a series of generic party preference polls in December. The 10 polls are divided on which party will come out on top in the November elections, but the averages show Republicans top Democrats by about 0.3 percentage points, according to Real Clear Politics. LINK

The Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin and Sarah Kliff: " Health-insurance sign-ups on U.S. exchange top 1.1 million in initial enrollment period" More than 1.1 million Americans signed up for an insurance plan through the federal health-care marketplace during its initial enrollment period, with more than 975,000 enrolling in December alone, the Obama administration announced Sunday. The new figures, which came as the administration reworked its computer system to extend the deadline for an extra day, until midnight on Dec. 24, suggest that federal officials are making up some ground after glitches and processing errors made difficult to access and navigate during its first two months of operation. LINK

Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown and Jonathan Allen: " White House looks to spread good Obamacare news" If Democrats get their way, the next phase of the Obamacare wars will see something unusual: a flood of success stories. The White House, Democratic lawmakers and advocacy organizations will launch a campaign this week to highlight real-life experiences under the Affordable Care Act - tales so compelling that they help drive up enrollment, marginalize Republican repeal efforts and erase memories of this fall's debacle. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Timothy W. Martin: " Patients Cram In Tests Before Health-Law Start" Thousands of people are cramming in tests, elective procedures and specialist visits before year's end, seeking out top research hospitals and physician groups that will be left out of some 2014 insurance plans under the new health law, health-care providers say. Many insurers offering plans under the law are slimming down their networks of doctors and hospitals in a bid to lower the cost of policies, which begin coverage Wednesday. LINK

USA Today's Kelly Kennedy: " Health Law May Not Broaden Access To Mental Treatment" The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover mental health care just as they do physical care, but a new study shows only half of psychiatrists accept insurance. That means access to care for the millions of people with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues may be limited to those who can pay for treatment out of their own pockets, despite the law. From 2009 to 2010, 53% of psychiatrists accepted insurance, compared with 89% of all other physicians who did, said Tara Bishop, associate professor of public health and medicine at Cornell Medical College. She looked at data from the National Center for Health Statistics and released her team's findings in The Journal of the American Medical Association. LINK

ENVIRONMENT The Hill's Julian Hattem and Ben Goad: " Regulatory fights loom large" Battles lines are being drawn for a series of upcoming clashes over new regulations on the horizon in 2014. The year promises to be chock full of contentious fights over scores of new rules stemming from ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank and a host of other laws. Many of the provisions have already drawn fire, and opposition to high profile measures on the environment and healthcare is sure to increase ahead of the midterm elections. Republicans will point to the efforts as "job killing" overreach from President Obama, and some Democrats have already begun to distance themselves from controversial regulatory efforts. LINK

REGIONAL The New York Daily News' Rich Schapiro: " Hooker says ex-NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer tried to choke her, was 'beyond scary'" She was a high-priced call girl who claims she got choked out by Eliot Spitzer and pimped out by the Manhattan district attorney's office. And she shared her bombshell story exclusively with the Daily News. Over several wildly turbulent years, Rebecca Woodard went from making thousands of dollars a day working for two of the city's most notorious madams to wearing a wire to help bring down one of them, she told The News, speaking out for the first time in a wide-ranging, one-on-one interview. Manhattan prosecutors insisted she continue seeing clients while working undercover - and then forced her to turn over all of her earnings and gifts, the sultry blond said in her talk with The News. LINK

MINIMUM WAGE The New York Times' Jonathan Martin and Michael D. Shear: " Democrats Turn to Minimum Wage as 2014 Strategy" Democratic Party leaders, bruised by months of attacks on the new health care program, have found an issue they believe can lift their fortunes both locally and nationally in 2014: an increase in the minimum wage. The effort to take advantage of growing populism among voters in both parties is being coordinated by officials from the White House, labor unions and liberal advocacy groups. LINK

BOOKMARKS The Note: LINK ABC News Politics: LINK George Stephanopoulos' Blog: LINK ABC News on Twitter: @ThisWeekABC | @ABCPolitics ABC News Mobile: LINK ABC News Apps: LINK ABC News YouTube: LINK

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