READ IN: Wednesday, May 14, 2014: Sasse, Ricketts win in Nebraska, Conyers booted off ballot, tax cut extenders bill expected to pass today, and social conservatives don’t like GOP’s Oregon front-runner

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A1: The stories you need to read before your first conference call.

-- French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Tuesday there were "indications" that the Syrian army had used chemical weapons against rebels 14 times since the U.S. called off military strikes last summer. Fabius expressed regret that a Western coalition didn't use military force last year. France and Human Rights Watch accused the Syrian government of deploying chlorine bombs. (New York Times)

-- Six federal agencies are expected to finalize rules for mortgages incorporated into securities in coming weeks that back off earlier Obama administration proposals to require larger down payments on mortgages, part of an effort to boost a housing market that's still struggling to turn around. FHFA head Mel Watt said Tuesday that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae should try to make more credit available to homeowners. (Wall Street Journal)

-- U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale on Tuesday struck down Idaho's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, marking the twelfth time since last year's Supreme Court decision that a federal judge has invalidated a state ban. Gov. Butch Otter (R) filed a motion for an immediate stay, though the courts have not acted on it; Dale's ruling makes marriages legal as of 9 a.m. Pacific Time today. (Idaho Statesman) The other 11 states: Utah, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Arkansas.

-- Nebraska college president Ben Sasse (R) took 49 percent of the vote on Tuesday to easily win the Republican nomination to replace retiring Sen. Mike Johanns (R). Businessman Sid Dinsdale finished in second place with just 22 percent of the vote. (Omaha World Herald, Washington Post) Conservative groups have fought behind the scenes for months to claim credit for his win; they needed a victory after slumping all cycle. Check out our 14 things to know about the senator-in-waiting; he hired Fred Davis for ads and Dave Sackett for polling.

-- Other primary results: Former Ameritrade executive Pete Ricketts (R) won the Nebraska gubernatorial primary, outlasting Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) by just 2,000 votes, about 1 percent. (Lincoln Journal Star) Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) beat businessman Dan Frei by a nail-biting 53 percent to 47 percent margin. (Omaha World Herald)

-- West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) will face off for Sen. Jay Rockefeller's (D) seat after uncompetitive primaries. (Washington Post) And former Maryland Republican Party chairman Alex Mooney beat a crowded field for the GOP nomination for Capito's House seat. He'll face former West Virginia Democratic chairman Nick Casey in November. (Charleston Gazette)

-- The Pentagon is trying to transfer convicted WikiLeaks leaker Chelsea Manning to a civilian prison so she can get treatment for her gender disorder. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel gave the Army permission to work with the Federal Bureau of Prisons to transfer Manning. A military doctor approved a treatment plan for Manning that included hormone therapy in November. (Associated Press)

-- Front Pages: WaPo and NYT lead with an EU court's decision requiring Google to delete links in the name of privacy. USA Today fronts a disastrous mine explosion in Turkey that's killed at least 200 people. And WSJ leads with the Obama administration's new approach to mortgage rules.

National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.

-- Michigan: Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett on Tuesday ruled Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) didn't turn in enough signatures to qualify for the ballot after a primary challenger questioned the validity of 640 signatures that were ultimately tossed. Conyers turned in just 592 signatures, fewer than the 1,000 required to appear on the ballot. He said he would appeal the decision. (Detroit News) He and ex-Rep. Thad McCotter can commiserate together.

-- Virginia: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) faces the first real primary challenge of his career from David Brat, a Randolph-Macon economics professor who will attend Grover Norquist's Wednesday meeting in D.C. this week. Cantor was booed at his own district GOP meeting, and his candidate for party chairman lost, despite Cantor's actively campaigning for him. (Washington Post) Former Rep. Thomas Bliley (R): "This is the first time Eric has had a serious or semi-serious primary opponent. You have people who are frankly disgusted with Washington, and he is the visible symbol."

-- Pennsylvania: Rep. Bill Shuster (R) will debate businessmen Art Halverson (R) and Travis Schooley (R) at Wilson College in Chambersburg. It's their fourth and final meeting in advance of the May 20 primary. (Chambersburg Public Opinion) Shuster's taking the challenge seriously: He's spent $690,000 on television ads so far this year. Halverson has run $56,000 in advertisements, too.

-- Maryland: Bill Clinton attended a fundraiser Tuesday that pulled in $1 million for Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown's (D) gubernatorial campaign in Montgomery County, the single best fundraising day the campaign has had. Brown backed Hillary Clinton in 2008, while Attorney General Doug Gansler (D) backed President Obama. Check out this Gansler statement: "Let me make clear that when I am governor, I will be strongly supporting Hillary Clinton for president." (Washington Post)

-- Wisconsin: Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R) has appealed a federal judge's ruling striking down the state's voter identification law. Van Hollen asked Judge Lynn Adelman to suspend his ruling while the 7th Circuit takes action on his appeal. Adelman said he would review any changes to voter ID laws the Republican-led legislature makes; Van Hollen's office says Adelman doesn't have that authority. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

DC Digest: What's on tap today in DC.

-- President Obama heads to New York today where he will deliver remarks at the Tappan Zee Bridge on transportation funding. Then he hits fundraisers for the DNC and the DSCC. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama stay overnight in New York. Vice President Biden meets Croatian President Ivo Josipovic at the White House this morning, then heads to Cleveland for another event on transportation.

-- The Senate continues debate on the tax cut extenders bill this morning, interrupted by roll call votes on five nominations. Three Arizona District Court nominees, an Assistant Secretary of Commerce and the new ambassador to Belize are up for votes today. The tax cut extenders bill is expected to pass by voice vote.

-- Secretary of State John Kerry is in London meeting foreign ministers who back the Syrian opposition.

-- Building a streetcar on Columbia Pike will cost an estimated $358 million, Arlington County officials said Tuesday, far more than the $250 million officials estimated last year. The streetcar would run 4.5 miles from the Skyline area of Fairfax County to Pentagon City and Crystal City. (Washington Post)

TV Time Out: Our exclusive look at who's advertising, and where

-- Mississippi: State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) is beginning to place his final ad buys in advance of his June 3 primary matchup against Sen. Thad Cochran (R). McDaniel's campaign bought $170,000 in ads that began running Tuesday through June 2. The pro-McDaniel Club for Growth is spending $81,000 on spots that run for a week beginning today.

-- Colorado: Senate Majority PAC is still hammering away at Rep. Cory Gardner (R). The Democratic group bought $425,000 in new broadcast time for ads slated to begin Thursday and run through June 5 in Denver and Colorado Springs. Meanwhile, the American Energy Alliance will start running $405,000 in ads on the Keystone XL pipeline, which Sen. Mark Udall (D) has voted against.

-- Oregon: Just when national Republicans were getting interested in surgeon Monica Wehby (R), a wealthy hedge fund manager is stepping in to try to squash her candidacy. The American Principles Fund, fueled largely by Equinox co-founder Sean Fieler, is running $115,000 in ads against Wehby. Fieler has a long track record of funding socially conservative causes. (Background on Fieler here, from Bloomberg)

-- New Hampshire: Americans for Prosperity cares about House races, too. AFP just bought about $260,000 in cable television spots in Boston and Burlington aimed at Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D). The ads will run on USA, TNT, Lifetime, A&E, the Food Network, HGTV and the Discovery Channel, today through June 3.

-- Idaho: Sometimes, not spending is news. The Club for Growth hasn't run any ads against Rep. Mike Simpson (R) in recent weeks, a sign they don't believe they can oust him in next week's primary. (Wall Street Journal)

The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.

-- The number of federal food stamp recipients has dropped to 46.2 million, the lowest level since August 2011, and the pace at which recipients are moving out of the SNAP program is speeding up. The government has paid out $5.8 billion in SNAP benefits since February, the lowest level since 2010. (Wall Street Journal) Accompanying chart of meteoric rise of SNAP participation during the recession is worth the click.

B1: Business, politics and the business of politics

-- Russian officials said Tuesday they would no longer supply the U.S. with rockets used to launch military satellites and suspend operation of GPS ground stations in Russian territory in response to U.S. sanctions. (NPR) Short term: Bad news for satellite launches. Long term: Great news for aerospace companies like Pratt and Whitney, ATK and SpaceX that are developing rockets and trying to get in on the Pentagon action.

-- Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday announced $97 million in fines against Sallie Mae and former subsidiary Navient Solutions for charging active-duty military members high interest rates and late fees on student loans. DoJ alleges illegal practices impacted about 60,000 service members, dating back to 2005. (Washington Post)

-- Markets are down a hair in pre-market trading. The Dow closed at another record high on Tuesday. Most international markets are trading slightly lower, but the Hang Seng in Hong Kong added more than 1 percent today. (CNN)

C1: The long reads you'll need to check out before tonight's cocktail party.

-- The Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board said in a report published Tuesday that climate change is causing droughts in the Middle East and Africa that lead to conflicts over access to food and water, heightening long-simmering ethnic tensions and putting millions at risk. Secretary of State John Kerry plans a major address this summer on the links between climate change and national security. (New York Times)

-- Former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao can recite the names of donors to husband Mitch McConnell's campaign, and how much they gave. McConnell's campaign says they'll use Chao to combat Democratic efforts to cast him as anti-woman. Chao helped break ground last month on a new building at Harvard Business School, endowed with $40 million of her family's fortune. (New York Times)

C4: The comics page, fun things to read when you're bored at work

-- The average American thinks they're smarter than the average American, according to a new YouGov study. Just 34 percent say they're about as smart as everyone else, while 4 percent call themselves less intelligent than average. Men are more likely than women to call themselves much more intelligent, and the more one makes, the more likely that person is to think his or her fellow citizens aren't too bright. (National Journal)

Attn Matt Drudge: Things conservatives will get outraged by today.

-- ICE released 36,000 undocumented immigrants from custody last year, including hundreds who had been convicted of crimes in the past, unrelated to their immigration status, according to data released by the Center for Immigration Studies. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) called it "the worst prison break in American history." (Washington Times)

-- The National Institute of Health is funding studies aimed at getting more kids to stop riding the bus to school. One doctor has received $405,000 for a study on "bicycle trains," and almost $1.2 million for a study on encouraging walking to school. (Washington Free Beacon) Maybe we need a new section: "Attn Jeff Flake."

Attn HuffPo: What outrages liberals today

-- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says sensitivity training is a form of "repression," and that Mizzou linebacker Michael Sam "manipulated the system brilliantly" to get drafted in the 7th round. (Crossfire via BuzzFeed)

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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