The Note's Must-Reads for Thursday, December 19, 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

AMBASSADOR TO CHINA ABC News' Arlette Saenz and Jeff Zeleny: " White House To Nominate Max Baucus As Ambassador To China" Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat who has served in the Senate for more than three decades, is President Obama's choice to be the next U.S. ambassador to China, ABC News has learned. Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, had already announced his plans to step down from the Senate next year. When he announced his decision not to run in 2014, Baucus, 72, said he looked forward to returning to "the Montana public lands we've fought hard to keep open and untarnished." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Janet Hook and Adam Entous: " U.S. To Nominate Sen. Baucus As Ambassador To China" President Barack Obama plans to nominate Sen. Max Baucus, (D., Mont.) to be the U.S. ambassador to China, people familiar with the decision said Wednesday. Mr. Baucus, who is 72 years old and in his sixth Senate term, has said he won't seek re-election next year. His post requires Senate confirmation and he isn't likely to quit his Senate seat before he is confirmed. The White House declined to comment on the matter. LINK

USA Today's Susan Davis and Malia Rulon: " Obama To Nominate Sen. Baucus Ambassador To China" President Obama plans to nominate Sen. Max Baucus to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to China. A Democratic official confirmed Obama's intention to nominate the Montana Democrat, who has served since 2007 as chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over the tax code, health care, and trade. The official requested anonymity because the president has not made an official announcement. LINK

BUDGET The Hill's Ramsey Cox and Erik Wasson: " Senate sends budget to Obama" The Senate on Wednesday gave final passage to a two-year budget plan in a 64-36 vote. Nine Republican senators voted with 55 Democrats and Independents to pass the budget deal, which sets top-line spending levels for 2014 and 2015, allowing appropriators to get to work on an omnibus spending bill for the current fiscal year. While Congress will have to approve that package to prevent another government shutdown after Jan. 15, the bipartisan votes in the House and Senate have raised hopes that Washington is moving on from years of budgetary showdowns. LINK

The Washington Post's Lori Montgomery: " Senate passes bipartisan budget agreement" Congress declared a holiday truce in the budget wars Wednesday, sending President Obama a blueprint for funding the government through 2015. But the next skirmish was already on the horizon: an election-year fight over the national debt. LINK

Politico's Austin Wright: " Patty Murray backs off pension cut" Sen. Patty Murray is distancing herself from a cut in military pensions in the budget deal she brokered with Rep. Paul Ryan. Her unease about a key element of her own deal, which passed the Senate on Wednesday and is now headed to President Barack Obama, comes amid a backlash from veterans groups and Senate defense hawks that has put her and her colleagues in a tough spot going into an election year. LINK

NSA The Washington Times' Stephen Dinan: " Obama's NSA Review Panel Calls Phone-Snooping an Abuse of Patriot Act" President Obama's internal review panel has accused the government of abusing the Patriot Act and said many of the intelligence community's key tools should be reined in, including the NSA's phone-snooping program and the FBI's use of national security letters to demand secret information from private businesses, according to the stunning report released Wednesday. The panel told Mr. Obama to scrap the National Security Agency's phone-records collection program, saying it's an infringement of privacy, and said the government instead should ask phone companies to store the records. LINK

The Los Angeles' Times' Ken Dilanian and Christi Parsons: " Presidential panel recommends limits on NSA spying" A presidential task force has urged President Obama to impose significant curbs on National Security Agency operations, including an end to bulk collection of domestic telephone records, reform of a secret surveillance court and limits to spying on close foreign allies. The independent five-member panel said its 46 recommendations were designed to add transparency and accountability at the NSA, which has vastly expanded its ability to secretly intercept Internet traffic and other communications since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. LINK

The New York Times' David E. Sanger and Charlie Savage: " Obama Panel Recommends New Limits on N.S.A. Spying" A panel of outside advisers urged President Obama on Wednesday to impose major oversight and some restrictions on the National Security Agency, arguing that in the past dozen years its powers had been enhanced at the expense of personal privacy. The panel recommended changes in the way the agency collects the telephone data of Americans, spies on foreign leaders and prepares for cyber attacks abroad. LINK

CHINA Bloomberg's Tony Capacio and Larry Liebert: " Pentagon Less Dependent on China Rare Earths, Report Says" China's virtual monopoly on rare earth elements used in high-technology applications has been loosened, decreasing the risk that supplies to U.S. defense contractors could be disrupted, according to the Pentagon's latest assessment of the nation's industrial base. "Global market forces are leading to positive changes in rare earth supply chains, and a sufficient supply of most of these materials likely will be available to the defense industrial base," said the Pentagon report by Elana Broitman, the Defense Department's top official on the U.S. industrial base. LINK

ABC NEWS VIDEO " Government Panel Recommends Changes To NSA Spy Program" LINK " Rob Ford Shows Off Dance Moves In Toronto City Hall" LINK " Federal Reserve Announces Reduction In Bond buying Program" 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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