The Note’s Must-Reads for Thursday, January 02, 2014

By Jayce Henderson

Jan 2, 2014 3:20am

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 www.abcnews.com

Compiled by ABC News’ Jayce Henderson, Amanda VanAllen, Will Cantine and Jordan Mazza

FOREIGN POLICY
The Boston Globe’s Nicholas Burns: “Obama’s 2014 Foreign-Policy Challenges” There Will be no rest for the weary as President Obama confronts a daunting foreign policy agenda in 2014. Obama had the success of the Iran talks and a deal to remove Syria’s chemical weapons this past autumn. LINK

HEALTH CARE
USA Today’s Kelly Kennedy: “Health Care Changes To Watch For In 2014” Starting Wednesday, the Affordable Care Act was in full force, as millions of uninsured Americans either now have health coverage or will get it this year. But experts say that’s just one of many changes to watch for in 2014, including how the law will affect elections, what the states will decide about Medicaid expansion, and what insurers will do to react to their quickly changing demographics. Already, at least 1.1 million people have gained coverage through the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, and the federal and state exchanges stand to enroll millions more through the cut-off date at the end of March. Beginning Jan. 1, insurers may no longer preclude people from buying insurance because of pre-existing conditions; they may not charge older people much-higher premiums than younger people; they may not charge women more than men; and they must share pricing and benefits information to their consumers in an apples-to-apples way. LINK

The Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Weaver: “Health Law’s Uneasy Launch” Nearly four years after President Barack Obama signed his health initiative into law, the Affordable Care Act is officially reshaping America’s $2.75 trillion health-care system. A survivor of bare-knuckle political fights, a U.S. Supreme Court challenge and a technologically disastrous rollout, the law now faces a fundamental test: Can its mix of government subsidies and market-based competition extend health insurance to millions of people whose medical conditions, income level or personal choice left them without it? So far, there are some troubling signs. A high proportion of people signing up for new plans are older or have existing health problems—and not enough younger, healthier people may be joining the plans to balance them out and make the plans profitable. LINK

The Washington Post’s Sandhya Somashekhar, Robert Barnes, and Michelle BoorsteinSupreme Court temporarily allows religious groups not to cover birth control” The Obama administration faced a fresh challenge to its health-care law just as many of its key provisions took effect Wednesday, after an eleventh-hour Supreme Court ruling temporarily allowed some Catholic groups not to cover birth control in their employee health plans.  The requirement that employers cover contraception and related medications and procedures has been one of the most controversial parts of the Affordable Care Act, leading to dozens of lawsuits from groups that say it violates their religious freedom. LINK

Politico’s Jonathan Allen: “W.H. stands by birth control rule” The Obama administration Wednesday said the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage regulations are fair – and they don’t really hurt the Denver-based religious organization that got a temporary New Year’s Eve reprieve from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.  “We defer to the Department of Justice on litigation matters, but remain confident that our final rules strike the balance of providing women with free contraceptive coverage while preventing non-profit religious employers with religious objections to contraceptive coverage from having to contract, arrange, pay, or refer for such coverage,” a White House official said. LINK

Bloomberg’s Alex Wayne: “Obamacare Rallies From Botched Debut as 2 Million Enroll” About 2.1 million people will have medical coverage today through Obamacare after a late surge in enrollment helped regain ground lost to the botched debut of insurance exchanges created by the U.S. health-care overhaul. More than 1.6 million Americans signed up through state and federal exchanges in December alone, according to calculations from data released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. LINK

The Washington Times’ Meredith Somers: “Gearing Up for the Next Obamacare Battle” Advocates for a Denver-based congregation of Catholic nuns on Wednesday applauded an eleventh-hour order by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to temporarily block a requirement under the Affordable Care Act to insure birth control procedures, but attorneys and analysts agreed the fight is far from over. The complicated politics of Obamacare were on full display on the first day of the year as a key component of President Obama’s health care law was put on indefinite hold at the last moment by a Catholic court justice whom Mr. Obama himself named to the high court. LINK

CONGRESS
The Hill’s Erik Wasson: “$1T spending bill nears unveiling” Congress is set to unveil a giant spending bill next week that staff for appropriators have been preparing on a near daily basis throughout the holiday break. Aides say progress on the $1 trillion, 12-part omnibus legislation has been better than expected at the subcommittee level, and that their goal remains to pass the bill through both chambers by Jan. 16 to prevent a government shutdown. The secretive process has members anticipating rushed votes when they return next week, as congressional leaders race the clock. It’s unclear whether top leaders of the House and Senate spending panels will return to Washington to negotiate final details of the deal before Monday. Aides say that decision depends on how much progress staff can make. LINK

The Los Angeles Times’ Mark Barabak: “A keep-the-bums-in mood may prevail in midterm election” After a highly contentious, hugely unproductive session, members of the most unpopular Congress in history will face voters this year and, very likely, win reelection in overwhelming numbers. It is a paradox of these discontented times. Participants in a Cincinnati focus group led by Democratic pollster Peter Hart expressed their feelings toward lawmakers by drawing tombstones and broken hearts. Public opinion surveys show contempt for Congress reaching unprecedented levels. LINK

NYC MAYOR DE BLASIO
ABC News’ Abby D. Phillip: “NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio, Clintons Make Political Marriage Official” New York City’s newest mayor, Bill de Blasio, was sworn into office in the first moments of the new year with the blessing of some very important friends seated in the front row: Bill and Hillary Clinton. The former president and the Democrats’ greatest hope to run for president in 2016 have a long history with de Blasio. And they’ve drawn upon that history to help pave the way for New York City’s first Democratic, and most progressive, mayor in more than 20 years. LINK

The Wall Street Journal’s Michael Howard Saul: “De Blasio Vows To Shape A Liberal New York” Mayor Bill de Blasio was sworn in Wednesday, promising to usher in a sweeping agenda that would remake the nation’s largest city as a foundry for liberal ideas. Among the Democrat’s early priorities are higher taxes on city residents making more than $500,000 a year, universal prekindergarten, de-emphasizing standardized testing in public schools and reining in aggressive street stops by the police. The new mayor, whose campaign theme was ending a “tale of two cities,” has made clear that he would like to be a national leader in trying to combat income inequality. Scott Stringer, the city’s new comptroller, said the 52-year-old Mr. de Blasio would tackle the income gap “in a way that hasn’t been a priority since Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty.” LINK

The New York Daily News’ Jennifer Fermino, Erin Durkin and Corky Siemaszko: “Mayor de Blasio, first Democrat in 20 years, takes oath of office at City Hall” Bill de Blasio took office Wednesday as the city’s 109th mayor, vowing to chart “a new progressive direction” for New York and make it “a fairer, more just” place. In an 81-minute outdoor ceremony on a frigid New Year’s Day, de Blasio promised swift action on his centerpiece campaign pledge to attack the “inequality crisis” — the divide between the haves and have-nots. LINK

IMMIGRATION
The New York Times’ Michael D. Shear and Ashley Parker: “Boehner Is Said to Back Change on Immigration Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio has signaled he may embrace a series of limited changes to the nation’s immigration laws in the coming months, giving advocates for change new hope that 2014 might be the year that a bitterly divided Congress reaches a political compromise to overhaul the sprawling system.  Mr. Boehner has in recent weeks hired Rebecca Tallent, a longtime immigration adviser to Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who has long backed broad immigration changes. LINK

FIRST LADY BARBARA BUSH HOSPITALIZED
ABC News’ Abby Phillip: “President Obama Sends Well Wishes To Barbara Bush” President Obama wished former first lady Barbara Bush, 88, a swift recovery today, after Bush was hospitalized in Houston, Texas yesterday. Bush suffered from early signs of pneumonia. “Michelle and I send our best wishes to Mrs. Bush for a speedy recovery,” President Obama said in a statement from Hawaii where he and his family are on their winter vacation. “Barbara is blessed to have both a loving, supportive family by her side and a vibrant spirit that we hope will have her feeling better soon.” LINK

The Wall Street Journal’s Ryan Tracy: “Barbara Bush Gets Well-Wishes On New Year’s Day” Former First Lady Barbara Bush received well-wishes from President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton Wednesday after she was hospitalized in Texas earlier this week with respiratory problems. Mrs. Bush, the wife of former President George H.W. Bush, was admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital on Monday “for treatment on a respiratory related issue,” according to a statement distributed by Jim McGrath, a Bush family spokesman. LINK

BOOKMARKS
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