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The Note's Must-Reads for Thursday, September 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 www.abcnews.com

Compiled by ABC News' Jayce Henderson, Amanda VanAllen, Carrie Halperin and Will Cantine

SYRIA ABC News' Chris Good: " Combative Assad Says He Could Provide List of Weapons 'Tomorrow':" Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues to deny that Syria used chemical weapons against its own people, says he is fully committed to handing over Syrian chemical weapons to international control, and that he could provide a list of his chemical weapons stockpile "tomorrow," as Russia and the United States said they would expect him to do under their agreement reached last weekend. LINK

The Washington Post's Karen DeYoung: " Assad insists rebels, not his government, used chemical weapons" Syrian President Bashar al-Assad again accused rebel fighters of using chemical weapons and said his government had handed over proof to Russia to present to the U.N. Security Council. "In one word, we didn't use any chemical weapons," Assad said in an interview with Fox News that was conducted Tuesday and broadcast Wednesday. LINK

ECONOMY / FEDERAL RESERVE: The New York Times' Binyamin Applebaum: " In Surprise, Fed Decides to Maintain Pace of Stimulus" It turns out that the Federal Reserve is not quite ready to let go of its extra efforts to help the economy grow. All summer, Federal Reserve officials said flattering things about the economy's performance: how strong it looked, how well it was recovering, how eager they were to step back and watch it walk on its own. LINK

Politico's Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan: " Forget shutdown, debt hike is real problem" Everyone in Washington and on Wall Street is fixated on the potential for a government shutdown in less than two weeks. But those in power and closest to the situation say a debt default is a bigger threat. That's the thinking at the highest levels of Congress as Washington dives headfirst into a contentious fall. LINK

Bloomberg's Kathleen Hunter and Richard Rubin: " Senate Republicans Resisting Obama Lack Debt Cap Plan" U.S. Senate Republicans want to extract something from President Barack Obama in exchange for raising the federal debt ceiling. They just don't know what. With at least five of their votes needed to pass legislation in the Democratic-led Senate, Republicans are poised to make demands shaping an agreement to raise the $16.7 trillion federal debt ceiling. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Jon Hilsenrath and Victoria McGrane: " Fed Stays The Course On Easy Money" Seeing a more uneven economic climate than they expected and the potential for fiscal discord in Washington, Federal Reserve officials got cold feet Wednesday and decided to keep their signature easy-money program in place for the time being. The move, coming after Fed officials spent months alerting the public that they might begin to pare their $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program at the September policy meeting, marks the latest in a string of striking turnabouts from Washington policy makers that have whipsawed markets in recent days. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Damian Paletta and Peter Nicholas: " White House Signals Yellen Will Be Nominee For Fed Chief" The White House is sending signals that President Barack Obama is close to nominating Janet Yellen to be the next head of the Federal Reserve. Administration officials have begun discussing the process for nominating the next chairman with Senate officials, people familiar with the matter said. Two Democratic aides said Ms. Yellen's name has come up in at least two of those conversations, and a White House official confirmed the Fed vice chairwoman is the front-runner for the post. LINK

OBAMACARE: The Hill's Russell Berman and Erik Wasson: " Boehner bows to conservative demands on ObamaCare defunding" House Republican leaders bowed to conservative demands and announced plans Wednesday to strip out money for ObamaCare from a stopgap spending bill to keep the government running after Sept. 30. The reversal by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) raises the stakes in a fiscal fight that could shutter much of the federal government. The continuing resolution (CR), which the House plans to vote on as soon as Thursday, is likely to be dead on arrival in the Senate, where Democratic leaders have vowed to reject any attempt to unravel President Obama's signature domestic policy achievement. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Lisa Mascaro: " 'This is the line in the sand,' House Republicans say" House Republicans united Wednesday around a plan to use the threat of a government shutdown as leverage to repeal President Obama's healthcare law, confident the American people are on their side. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) yielded to his right flank by agreeing to attach the healthcare law repeal to a must-pass bill to keep the government funded past Sept. 30. A vote is expected Friday on a bill that would allow the government to stay open for the next few months. LINK

The Washington Times' Tom Howell Jr.: " With Obamacare in place, annual health spending to jump in 2014: report" Growth in health care spending will remain slow through 2013 as the economy slogs along in its recovery, but improving fiscal conditions, an aging population and expanded coverage under President Obama's health care law will drive up health spending next year by about two percentage points, government analysts said Wednesday. Actuaries for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said annual health spending grew by slightly less than 4 percent from 2010 to 2013 - a historically low level attributable to the recession that hit in 2008. LINK

GUN CONTROL: The Boston Globe's Noah Bierman: " Gun control advocates lament lack of progress" They introduce one another by the tragedies. He was shot four times at Virginia Tech. Their daughter died watching a movie in Aurora, Colo. His neighbors were killed going to school in Newtown, Conn. This gathering of dozens of survivors on Tuesday, at a Methodist meeting room across the street from the Capitol's lawn, had been planned for weeks. LINK

ENERGY: The USA Today's Deidre Shesgreen: " Energy Bill Debate Shows Congress' Dysfunction" Forget the high-stakes showdown over a spending bill to keep the federal government from shutting down. When it comes to political dysfunction of this Congress, Exhibit A is unfolding in the Senate over a modest, bipartisan energy-efficiency bill. Sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the legislation has become entangled in a nasty debate over completely unrelated issues - including "Obamacare" and prostitution allegations. LINK

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