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

-- The Senate on Wednesday blocked a Democratic bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, a vote Democrats made clear they would use against Republican candidates this fall. It's the first in a series of votes aimed at forcing Republicans to vote against popular measures; later votes will include bills to close the wage gap between men and women and a bill that would make college more affordable. (New York Times)

-- PK's Take: The contours of the Senate map mean Wednesday's vote will reverberate more in 2016 than in 2014. No matter how much the White House and Harry Reid try, Democrats up this year haven't made the wage issue central to their re-elects. In 2016, raising the minimum wage will be a more popular wedge issue for Democrats in GOP-held states like Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Florida and Indiana.

-- The White House denied an email from deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes sent three days after the attack on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi was actually about the attack. At his briefing Wednesday, press secretary Jay Carney said the email described the broader situation in the Arab world a few days before then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice went on Sunday shows to discuss the attack. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) still thinks the email is a "smoking gun." (Associated Press)

-- Shot: "Look, she hates you. Period. That's never going to change," an advisor told Politico Magazine when asked why Hillary Clinton hasn't done more to reach out to the media. Chaser: 58 percent of White House correspondents think Hillary Clinton will be the next president. (Politico) There's no way anyone takes that presidential survey out of context and accuses the White House press corps of pro-Clinton bias, right? Right? Uh oh.

-- The top two Defense Intelligence Agency officials said Wednesday they will retire in coming months, part of a leadership shakeup pushed by National Intelligence Director James Clapper. DIA Director Michael Flynn clashed with Defense Undersecretary for Intelligence Michael Vickers. Clapper told Flynn earlier this year a leadership change was necessary. Deputy DIA chief David Shedd will retire as well. (Washington Post)

-- Reports of sexual assaults by members of the military rose 50 percent after the Pentagon began encouraging victims to come forward. Alcohol was a factor in about two-thirds of cases, the Pentagon will report on Thursday. The military took at least some action against 73 percent of those accused of assault, up from 66 percent the year before. (Associated Press)

-- Front Pages: WaPo leads with anemic economic growth while WSJ heralds a new Dow record high. NYT takes a look at new definitions of poverty. USA Today tops with rainfall totals in the South and leads with a follow-up on the botched Oklahoma execution, and the L.A. Times keeps tabs on efforts to buy the Clippers.

National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.

-- WH'16: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) will host two fundraisers for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) this year, one in New Jersey in late May and one in Iowa, probably in July. Christie also has two fundraisers scheduled for South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. (Des Moines Register, RealClearPolitics)

-- Michigan: Rep. John Conyers (D) relied on two volunteers who were not registered to vote to gather signatures for his re-election bid, a violation of state rules. That means potentially hundreds of Conyers signatures could be thrown out. Conyers submitted 1,193 valid signatures, barely over the 1,000-signature mark, making it entirely plausible that he'll miss the August 5 primary ballot. Conyers says an investigation will keep him on the ballot. (Detroit News)

-- South Carolina: RedState blogger Erick Erickson has endorsed Columbia pastor Det Bowers (R) in the race against Sen. Lindsey Graham (R). Bowers has raised far more than the five other candidates running; Graham has to hit 50 percent in the June 10 primary to avoid a runoff. (The State) Reid's Take: Graham raises conservative ire from time to time, but he takes care never to get on the wrong side of gun issues and Christian conservative issues. He knows where South Carolina GOP voters' bread is buttered.

-- Kentucky: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will pledge to support the Republican nominee if he loses the May 20 primary, a spokeswoman said in response to a letter from the Kentucky Republican Party urging party unity after an ugly primary with businessman Matt Bevin. (Lexington Herald-Leader) McConnell's not going to have to hold up that end of the bargain. Bevin has been perhaps the biggest disappointment for a Tea Party crowd looking for an establishment incumbent to bump off.

-- North Carolina: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) made waves earlier this year when he endorsed physician Greg Brannon, who helped Paul's father Ron's 2012 presidential campaign. Now Paul says he'll travel to Charlotte to campaign with Brannon on Monday. (Politico) Brannon also has support from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), FreedomWorks and Gun Owners of America, but he doesn't have much cash: Brannon hasn't been on the air since mid-April, when he ran a small flight of radio ads.

-- Missouri: Gov. Jay Nixon (D) can breathe easy. A House committee holding hearings over articles of impeachment adjourned Wednesday without voting on the two resolutions. Judiciary Committee chairman Stanley Cox (R) said he wasn't sure whether the panel would return to vote on the resolutions before the legislature leaves on May 16. (Associated Press)

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

-- President Obama and Vice President Biden have their weekly lunch today in the private dining room. Later, Obama welcomes the National Teacher of the Year finalists along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Dr. Jill Biden. The Vice President joins a DCCC fundraiser at DNC headquarters this afternoon, then visits with Shigeru Ishiba, Secretary General of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, back at the White House.

-- The House meets at 9 a.m., with first and last votes scheduled between 11:30 and 12:30 a.m. The House debates a legislative branch appropriations bill today, along with eight amendments. The Senate will hold votes on two U.S. District Court judges and a Circuit Court judge, and on the new U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland, Suzan LeVine. (Fun fact: LeVine will also be the ambassador to Liechtenstein)

-- House Speaker John Boehner had what his office called a minor back procedure Wednesday at a D.C. hospital. His office declined to offer details. (Washington Post) Former Rick Perry strategist Liz Mair (@LizMair) offers some advice: "DO. NOT. DEBATE." (Twitter)

-- Everyone stay calm: The D.C. DMV says you don't have to crowd into their offices to get a new driver's license that complies with federal REAL ID laws. What you will need, once you go to the DMV, is more documentation -- including proof of identity, proof of social security number and proof of residence. You can still get on planes with your current D.C. ID. (Washington Post)

-- RNC chief technology officer Andy Barkett, hired less than a year ago to oversee the GOP's efforts to catch up with Democrats on the tech front, is taking a diminished role at the committee after spearheading a new voter database that's been delayed several times. The new database has been in beta testing, but sources said its progress has been slower than officials would like. (Huffington Post)

-- Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) will lead the DCCC's "Red to Blue" program for top challengers. Reps. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) and Denny Heck (D-Wash.) will serve as vice chairs. (Roll Call)

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

-- Arkansas: Last week, we told you about the Government Integrity Fund Action Network, the latest alphabet soup group to dump money onto television in Arkansas. Well, they're proving to be a big player already: GIFAN has bought a total of $391,000 in television time between Tuesday and May 18, making them the fourth-largest spender on behalf of Rep. Tom Cotton (R), behind Americans for Prosperity, Concerned Vets for America and Cotton's campaign.

-- Colorado: Sen. Mark Udall (D) is buying more TV time. He's got about $560,000 in ad time purchased between now and May 20, a rate of between $170,000 and $200,000 a week. Udall had $5.9 million cash on hand at the end of March, and he's spent $770,000 of it on television so far; he may not be coming down for the rest of the cycle.

The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.

-- Ten House conservatives dropped by Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) office on Tuesday night for an hour-and-a-half long chat over candy bars, crackers and soda. Boehner's comments on immigration came up; Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) said the comments were "astonishing." (Roll Call) The rumblers are still rumbling.

B1: Business, politics and the business of politics

-- The Fed on Wednesday said it would cut back on purchases of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities by another $10 billion, down to $45 billion a month starting in May. The Fed has reduced the size of its monthly purchases for months; the next big market-rattling step: Deciding when to raise short-term interest rates, which have been near zero for six years. (New York Times)

-- Premarket trading is mixed this morning a day after the Dow hit its first record high of the year. The Nikkei gained more than one percent today, and most European markets are up. (CNN)

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

-- Oral arguments in a pair of Fourth Amendment cases before the Supreme Court present justices with the chance to look ahead and forecast what new technology is coming, and how law enforcement will interact with it. Dahlia Lithwick writes:

-- "The question in each case: Can the police search your phone, without a warrant, any time they arrest you? The problem for the court today is that they don’t much like the prospect of allowing the cops to search jaywalkers’ cellphones for evidence of anything bad they’ve ever engaged in." Justices "seem to be leaning toward door No. 3: some rule that lets the cops search cellphones in serious cases but not for jaywalking." (Slate)

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

-- Toronto Mayor Rob Ford will step away from his re-election bid to go to rehab after new video surfaced showing him smoking "what has been described as crack-cocaine" and making lewd comments about one of his opponents. Ford also allegedly got into an altercation with Justin Bieber after the tween sensation asked the mayor if he'd brought any crack to smoke. (Toronto Star, Toronto Sun) Rob Ford: The Justin Bieber of mayors.

-- Speaking of Canada: "Dead whale stinks up Canadian town, spurs explosion fears." (Associated Press)

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

-- Oh, did we mention that 58 percent of the White House press corps thinks Hillary Clinton will be the next president? (Politico)

Attn HuffPo: What outrages liberals today

-- The last-minute surge of health care enrollees meant a spike in younger participants, the insurance giant WellPoint said this month. That means the company won't have to raise insurance premiums by as much as they had initially planned. WellPoint, which is selling Affordable Care Act plans in 14 states, is expected to add about 600,000 new customers to its rolls. (Indianapolis Star)