The Note’s Must-Reads for Thursday, January 16, 2014

By Will Cantine

Jan 16, 2014 3:47am

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’ Will Cantine, Jayce Henderson and Jordan Mazza  

SPENDING BILL
ABC News’ John Parkinson: “House Passes $1 Trillion Spending Bill” The House voted in bipartisan fashion today to approve a massive spending package to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year, passing the measure by a vote of 359-67 and likely taking the prospect of another government shutdown off the table until at least this fall. Just three House Democrats opposed the vote on the omnibus; 64 Republicans voted against it. LINK

The Hill’s Pete Kasperowicz and Erik Wasson: “House Easily Passes $1T Ominous Spending Bill With 359-67 Vote” The House on Wednesday easily approved a $1 trillion omnibus spending bill that would fund the government for the rest of fiscal 2014 and let Congress avoid the risk of a shutdown until the end of September. Members voted 359-67 to pass the bill, which was opposed by 64 Republicans and three Democrats. The three Democrats who voted “no” were Reps. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), Rush Holt (N.J.) and Mike McIntyre (N.C.), a centrist Democrat who is retiring at the end of this Congress. LINK

The New York Times’ Jonathan Weisman: “In Defeat For Tea Party, House Passes $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill” The House voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday, 359 to 67, to approve a $1.1 trillion spending bill for the current fiscal year, shrugging off the angry threats of Tea Party activists and conservative groups whose power has ebbed as Congress has moved toward fiscal cooperation. The legislation, 1,582 pages in length and unveiled only two nights ago, embodies precisely what many House Republicans have railed against since the Tea Party movement began, a huge bill dropped in the cover of darkness and voted on before lawmakers could possibly have read it. LINK

NSA
Bloomberg’s Julianna Goldman, Margaret Talev and Chris Strohm: “Obama Said To Keep NSA In Charge Of Phone Records For Now” President Barack Obama will leave bulk telephone records with the National Security Agency for now and will ask Congress to decide whether the data should instead be held by telecommunications companies or transferred to a third party, a person familiar with the matter said. While a White House advisory panel recommended last year that the phone metadata should be held by companies such as Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ), AT&T Inc. (T) or some other private entity, Obama isn’t ready to announce an immediate shift when he releases his proposal to limit NSA surveillance programs on Jan. 17, according to the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plans haven’t been announced. LINK

The Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima and David Nakamura: “Obama Expected To Turn To Congress To Help Decide Fate Of NSA Phone Data Collection” President Obama on Friday is expected to announce some new limits on the National Security Agency program that collects billions of Americans’ phone records, but he will call on Congress to help determine the program’s future, according to current and former officials familiar with the administration’s plans. Obama has concluded that the program has value as a counterterrorism tool, the officials said, but is also confronting difficult political realities. The program’s sweeping nature has prompted serious privacy concerns, and a divided Congress is unlikely to renew it when the law underpinning the program expires next year. LINK

The Los Angeles Times’ Ken Dilanian and Christi Parsons: “Obama To Seek Only Modest Reforms In Government Surveillance” President Obama plans to announce new guidelines for government surveillance operations but will not end or order strict limits on the most controversial domestic programs exposed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, including the bulk collection of American telephone records. White House aides said reforms proved far more difficult than they initially appeared, and Obama has struggled to find middle ground between those who warn that government surveillance is excessive and could lead to abuses and national security officials who contend that the programs are critical for counter-terrorism and already have passed congressional and judicial review. LINK

BENGHAZI
The Washington Times’ Rowan Scarborough: “State Department Security Chose Flight Over Fight In Benghazi, Senate Report Says” Armed State Department security agents retreated rather than fired on terrorists who were invading the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, according to a report released Wednesday by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The Senate report says that as Islamist militants broke through the compound’s gate and began setting buildings on fire, diplomatic security agents retrieved their M4 carbine assault rifles. The agents then moved toward Building C to protect U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, who had holed up inside. LINK

The Hill’s Julian Pecquet and Jeremy Herb: “Benghazi Attack Could have Been Prevented, Senate Probe Finds” The deadly terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, could have been averted, but the State Department failed to take measures necessary to stop it, a bipartisan congressional panel concluded Wednesday. Republicans immediately seized on a Senate Intelligence Committee finding that the killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens was “preventable,” seeing it as damaging to the reputation of Hillary Clinton, front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. LINK

The Los Angeles Times’ David S. Cloud: “Senate Panel Issues Harsh Report On Benghazi Attack” The deadly 2012 assault on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, was caused by the failure of the State Department to adequately protect the facility and poor intelligence-gathering by the CIA and other agencies, according to a harsh assessment by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The panel’s findings, contained in a declassified 78-page report released Wednesday, criticize the State Department for failing to increase security at the isolated, undermanned compound. That failure came despite “hundreds” of intelligence reports in the months before the Sept. 11, 2012, attack warning that militias and terrorist groups were seeking to strike U.S. facilities and personnel. LINK

The Wall Street Journal’s Siobahn Gorman: “Senate Benghazi Report Spreads Blame” A long-awaited Senate report on the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, sharply criticized American diplomats and spies, saying the assault that killed four Americans was “likely preventable” with better security and intelligence operations. The bipartisan report released Wednesday by the Senate intelligence committee represents the most comprehensive analysis to date of the U.S. government’s actions in the lead-up to the attacks on the diplomatic compound, and their aftermath. It reinforced conclusions of previous reviews that the State Department, in particular, gave security in Benghazi inadequate attention. LINK

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE
Politico’s Kenneth Vogel: “Chris Christie’s High-Stakes Weekend” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has apologized to his constituents for the George Washington Bridge scandal. Now, he’ll face his base. Christie is headed to Florida for a series of events with some of the GOP’s deepest pockets — three Saturday fundraisers and a Sunday dinner with major donors from around the country. The weekend could provide the first sign of whether Christie will be able to maintain his superstar status among the rich Republicans who have backed him in the past and figure to play an outsize role in deciding the party’s 2016 nominee. It won’t be easy. LINK

The Washington Times’ Tom Howell Jr.: “Chris Christie Favorability Remains High Despite ‘Bridgegate’” New Jersey voters are giving Gov. Chris Christie the benefit of the doubt as he fights for his political life over a traffic-jam scandal, according to new polling that says more residents see him as a leader than as a bully who takes swipes at political foes. Mr. Christie’s favorability rating still tops 50 percent, and even Democratic voters don’t think the Republican governor was involved in closing off toll lanes to the George Washington Bridge last September, according to a new survey released Wednesday by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. LINK

The Washington Post’s Robert Costa: “Christie Aides Plan Comeback Campaign After Bridge Flap” After a week of apologies, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his allies began laying the groundwork Wednesday for a comeback campaign. In the days ahead, the embattled Republican governor and 2016 presidential hopeful will visit the Jersey Shore to focus on rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Sandy, jet to Florida to raise money from admiring donors, and hold a splashy inaugural party at Ellis Island. The moves signal that Christie and his aides hope he has weathered the worst of the political squall after some of his top advisers were caught causing a days-long traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge. Some believe the maneuver may have been retaliation against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, N.J. LINK

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
The New York Times’ Matt Apuzzo: “U.S. To Expand Rules Limiting Use Of Profiling By Federal Agents” The Justice Department will significantly expand its definition of racial profiling to prohibit federal agents from considering religion, national origin, gender and sexual orientation in their investigations, a government official said Wednesday. The move addresses a decade of criticism from civil rights groups that say federal authorities have in particular singled out Muslims in counterterrorism investigations and Latinos for immigration investigations. LINK

ABC NEWS VIDEO
President Obama Chooses Founder Of Latino-Owned Bank To Head SBALINK
Pres. Obama: U.S. Companies Must Resume Innovating To ‘Stay On The Cutting Edge’LINK
New NSA Spying Spark Call For More Congressional OversightLINK
Senate Panel: Benghazi Consulate ‘Attack Could Have Been Prevented’LINK

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