The Note’s Must-Reads for Tuesday, January 14, 2014

By Will Cantine

Jan 14, 2014 3:28am

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, Jordan Mazza  and Janine Elliot

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE
ABC News’ Shushannah Walshe: “Preview Of Chris Christie’s State Of The State Address” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has kept a low profile since his nearly two-hour press conference last week where he apologized and denied having any knowledge of close aides plotting the politically motivated lane closures leading to the George Washington Bridge. But he can’t lay low any longer as he’s scheduled to deliver his State of the State address today to both bodies of the state legislature. All eyes will be on how much, if any, of his speech is spent addressing the unfolding scandal now known as “bridgegate,” but one theme of the speech will be working together over politics. LINK

ABC News’ Shushannah Walshe: “Gov. Chris Christie Faces Yet Another Controversy Over Sandy Ads” It hasn’t been a good week for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. On the heels of damaging revelations about politically motivated lane closures on the George Washington Bridge — a scandal dubbed bridgegate — Christie faced another controversy today. Christie was hailed as a hero for the way he dealt with Superstorm Sandy, but the ads that ran across the state and the country last summer featuring him and his family welcoming visitors back to the Jersey Shore are now part of a federal investigation, and the advertising firm that didn’t get the bid is questioning why — especially since their offer was cheaper. The feds are looking into whether money intended for Sandy relief was inappropriately used for the TV ads, sources said. The winning bid, by advertising firm MWW Group, for the controversial “Stronger than the Storm” ads that featured Christie and his family, was more than $2 million more than the runner up, Sigma Group, the largest advertising firm in the state of New Jersey. LINK

The Wall Street Journal’s Ted Mann and Heather Haddon: “Two New Jersey Legislative Panels To Probe Christie Bridge Scandal” As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie prepared for his Tuesday “state of the state” address, Democratic lawmakers announced the formation of two investigative committees that threaten to prolong the scandal over his aides’ closings of bridge lanes last year, allegedly for political retribution. Meanwhile, a Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll showed the Republican governor’s approval rating in New Jersey had dropped since the scandal escalated last week, but remained a robust 59%. Still, more than two-thirds of respondents said they thought the lane closures were politically motivated, and 80% said they believed more members of the Christie administration would be implicated. LINK

The New York Daily News’ Leslie Larson and Dan Friedman: “Gov. Chris Christie Faces Federal Investigation Over Sandy Recovery Ads Featuring His Family During Re-Election Campaign” Chris Christie now faces a federal investigation into whether he improperly used Hurricane Sandy relief aid to pay for tourism ads that featured his family when he was running for reelection. The probe is the latest bit of bad news for the New Jersey governor, who fired a top staffer last Wednesday for instigating a lane closure on the George Washington Bridge in September to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., Democrat Mark Sokolich, for not supporting Christie’s reelection bid. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) had alleged in August that Christie’s office used the state’s Sandy rebuilding efforts as a platform to showcase Christie during his campaign, requesting in a letter to the inspector general for the Department of Housing and Urban Development that the agency look the perceived self-interest of the spending. LINK

The Washington Post’s Robert Costa, Matea Gold and Carol D. Leonnig: “Bridge Controversy Expands Into New Areas For Gov. Chris Christie” A roiling political scandal involving the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie expanded into new areas Monday, ratcheting up the pressure on the embattled Republican on the eve of his annual address to state legislators. As Christie spent the day finalizing his State of the State speech, Democratic lawmakers announced the creation of special investigative committees with subpoena power to further scrutinize a scheme in which top aides to the governor worked to paralyze traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., in an apparent plot against the town’s Democratic mayor. LINK

SPENDING BILL
USA Today’s Susan Davis: “Lawmakers Release $1 Trillion Spending Bill” House and Senate negotiators unveiled a $1.012 trillion spending bill late Monday to fund the government until October and eliminate the threat of another shutdown during that time. The “omnibus” spending bill is a sweeping piece of legislation that includes all 12 of the annual bills that provide funding for all discretionary federal spending. It does not include mandatory spending on entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. Some $520.5 billion will be spent on defense while the remaining $491.7 billion covers a broad swath of domestic programs including early education, cancer research and federal law enforcement agencies. LINK

The New York Times’ Jonathan Weisman: “House And Senate Negotiators Agree On Spending Bill” House and Senate negotiators reached accord on a trillion-dollar spending plan that will finance the government through September, reversing some cuts to military veterans’ pensions that were included in a broader budget agreement last month and defeating efforts to rein in President Obama’s health care law. The hefty bill, filed in the House on Monday night, neutralized almost all of the 134 policy provisions that House Republicans had hoped to include, with negotiators opting for cooperation over confrontation after the 16-day government shutdown in October. LINK

The Washington Times’ Stephen Dinan: “Spending Bill Bans IRS Targeting, Preserves Incandescent Light Bulbs” Congressional negotiators reached a deal late Monday on a massive spending bill to fund the government for the rest of 2014, agreeing to undo last year’s cut to military retirement benefits and a list of other GOP demands in exchange for the higher spending levels. But some of the most interesting action happened on the sidelines, where negotiators agreed to strict rules to prevent the Internal Revenue Service from targeting groups for ideological scrutiny, and specifically banning the agency from targeting citizens “for exercising any right guaranteed under the First Amendment.” LINK

The Hill’s Erik Wasson: “$1T Ominous Spending Bill Unveiled” Lawmakers Monday night revealed a giant $1.012 trillion omnibus spending bill, contained in a 1,582-page document, that leaders plan to bring to a House vote on Wednesday and before the Senate by the weekend. The bill covers the entire federal discretionary budget for fiscal 2014 and fleshes out the details of December’s budget agreement between Democrats and Republicans. By passing the bill, Congress would ensure the government stays open until Oct. 1. ”This is a bill that has all 12 subcommittees on it. There will be no shutdown,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said Monday, predicting a strong bipartisan vote. LINK

The Washington Post’s Lori Montgomery and Ed O’Keefe: “Lawmakers Unveil Massive $1 Trillion Spending Bill In Bipartisan Compromise” Congressional negotiators unveiled a $1.1 trillion funding bill late Monday that would ease sharp spending cuts known as the sequester while providing fresh cash for new priorities, including President Obama’s push to expand early-childhood education. The 1,582-page bill would fully restore cuts to Head Start, partially restore cuts to medical research and job training programs, and finance new programs to combat sexual assault in the military. It would also give all federal workers a 1 percent raise. LINK

The Wall Street Journal’s Janet Hook: “House, Senate Negotiators Seal $1 Trillion Spending Deal” House and Senate negotiators Monday unveiled a $1.012 trillion bill to fund the federal government for the next 8½ months, a compromise that marks a temporary ceasefire in the budget wars that have rocked Congress and the economy in recent years. The compromise restores some of the funding cut last year from domestic programs such as the National Institutes of Health and Head Start, but keeps overall discretionary spending lower than when President Barack Obama took office in 2009, when it totaled $1.013 trillion. LINK

Politico’s David Rogers: “$1.1 Trillion Spending Bill Unveiled” House-Senate negotiators rolled out a $1.1 trillion spending bill Monday night — a giant package that fills in the blanks of the December budget agreement and promises to restore some order to government funding over the next year. Under pressure from Republicans, the measure keeps a tight rein on new funding for Wall Street regulators and effectively freezes appropriations for President Barack Obama’s health care program at the reduced, post-sequester level. But the White House retains the flexibility to find the financing it needs to implement the health exchanges and appears satisfied to have avoided the most contentious restrictions proposed by conservatives. LINK

IRAN
ABC News’ Arlette Sans: “Obama Asks Congress To Hold Off On New Iran Sanctions” President Obama reiterated his call today for Congress to hold off on imposing any new sanctions against Iran, just one day after a final deal for Iran to curb its nuclear program was announced. “It’s going to be difficult. It’s going to be challenging, but ultimately, this is how diplomacy should work,” Obama said at the end of a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of Spain Mariano Rajoy. “My preference is for peace and diplomacy, and this is one of the reasons why I’ve sent a message to Congress that now is not the time for us to impose new sanctions; now is the time for us to allow diplomats and technical experts to do their work,” he later added. LINK

The Los Angeles Times’ Paul Richter: “New Iran Agreement Includes Secret Side Deal, Tehran Official Says” Key elements of a new nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers are contained in an informal, 30-page text not yet publicly acknowledged by Western officials, Iran’s chief negotiator said Monday. Abbas Araqchi disclosed the existence of the document in a Persian-language interview with the semiofficial Iranian Students News Agency. The new agreement, announced over the weekend, sets out a timetable for how Iran and the six nations, led by the United States, will implement a deal reached in November that is aimed at restraining Iran’s nuclear ambitions. LINK

The New York Times’ Mark Landler and Jonathan Weisman: “Obama Fights A Push To Add Iran Sanctions” With the United States and Iran about to embark on a critical phase of nuclear talks, President Obama is waging an intense rear-guard action to prevent Senate Democrats from supporting strict new sanctions that could upend his diplomatic efforts. Sponsors of the bill, which would aim to drive Iran’s oil exports down to zero, have secured the backing of 59 senators, putting them within striking distance of a two-thirds majority that could override Mr. Obama’s threatened veto. Republicans overwhelmingly support the bill. So far 16 Democrats have broken with the president, and the bill’s sponsors hope to get more. LINK

HEALTH CARE
Bloomberg’s Alex Wayne and Mike Dorning: “Obamacare Customers Skew Older As Young Wait For Pitch” The U.S. government said it would ramp up Obamacare outreach in 25 cities to lure younger people to the program after a report showed about 70 percent of the initial customers are 35 years of age or older. The effort by the Obama administration and allied interest groups will focus on a Feb. 15 target to sign up people for coverage beginning March 1, said White House officials, who spoke to reporters on the condition they not be identified. LINK

The Hill’s Jonathan Easley: “ObamaCare Has Youth Problem” Too few young people are signing up for ObamaCare to stop premiums from rising, new data released by the administration on Monday show. Only 24 percent of Obama-Care’s enrollees are young people, well below the 40 percent benchmark set by the administration for the critical 18- to 34-year-old age group. Older people, who are typically more expensive to cover, made up the single largest group of Obama-Care enrollees. Thirty-three percent of the 2.2 million who had selected a plan through the exchanges as of December were between the ages of 55 and 64, the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department said Monday. LINK

Politico’s Seung Min Kim: “No Appetite For Another Obamacare Fiscal Battle” Hill Republicans are starting to whip up their wish lists for the debt limit battle later this year. Missing from many of those lists: Obamacare. The debt limit will have to be hiked sometime between late February and early June, depending on various government estimates. But congressional Republicans from across the ideological spectrum are already skeptical of trying to extract concessions from Democrats on the Affordable Care Act — a dynamic that triggered an unpopular government shutdown last fall. “You could do that. I don’t think that will work,” a chuckling Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) said about tying changes to the health care law to the debt limit fight. “I think we’ve had a dress rehearsal for that comedy.” LINK

ABC NEWS VIDEO
Chris Christie Faces Potential New Probe as ‘Bridge-Gate’ IntensifiesLINK
John Kerry Gives Potatoes to His Russian CounterpartLINK

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