-- Taliban militants stormed an army high school in Peshawar in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, killing at least 126 students and teachers and holding others hostage. Another 120 students and teachers were wounded. The Taliban said six militants, three of whom were suicide bombers, carried out the attack, which it said was in response to the Pakistani military's operations against militants in North Waziristan. (Washington Post)
-- The Russian Central Bank imposed a massive interest rate hike overnight in a move intended to prop up the plummeting ruble. The ruble has lost more than half its value against the dollar this year. The Russian government expects inflation to top 10 percent by the end of the year and for the economy to shrink by 4.7 percent next year if oil stays at $60 a barrel. (Washington Post) The ruble is still falling against the dollar today. (Associated Press)
-- The Senate voted 51 to 43 to confirm Vivek Murthy, a doctor at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, as Surgeon General, despite opposition from the NRA and Republicans who said he was too inexperienced. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) voted against Murthy's nomination, citing his political activism. (Washington Post)
-- The main health insurance industry trade group said it will give customers extra time to pay their premiums in January, highlighting behind-the-scenes problems between the HealthCare.gov exchange and insurers who receive consumer data. America's Health Insurance Plans says its members will quickly refund anyone who gets double-billed after switching plans. Monday marked the first open enrollment deadline of the year, with the second deadline coming Feb. 15. (Associated Press)
-- Front Pages: WaPo leads with immigration activists and opponents pressuring the White House from both sides, with a great David Fahrenthold look at a $349 million NASA boondoggle on the left front. NYT fronts an analysis of the CIA's torture techniques and the legal questions overlooked. WSJ spotlights Russia's desperate moves to save the ruble. LA Times leads with the city's bid for the 2024 Olympics, opposite a one-column look at the threat falling oil prices present to the Keystone XL pipeline. Philadelphia Inquirer leads with a rampage that left six dead in Montgomery County. The suspect is still at large.
National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.
-- WH'16: Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) will host his biggest supporters in Annapolis today for political briefings and a private reception. He's likely to wait until April to formally make a decision on a White House bid. O'Malley plans to move his family back to Baltimore after eight years in the governor's mansion. (Washington Post) Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) will host more than 100 big donors at a two-day strategy session in Miami starting on Jan. 23. (New York Times)
-- Arizona: A hand recount of the nail-biter between Rep. Ron Barber (D) and Air Force veteran Martha McSally (R) is finished in Pima and Cochise Counties. McSally led the first round of counting by just 161 votes. Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R) will announce the results on Wednesday, after a judge certifies the final numbers. Local reports suggest the recount didn't change the final outcome. (Arizona Republic)
-- Tennessee: Gov. Bill Haslam (R) said Monday he will present the legislature with a new two-year pilot program that would provide health care coverage for up to 160,000 state residents who don't currently have care. Haslam's alternative to Medicaid expansion has been in the works for a year; he said he'll call a special session in January to address the plan, which would include a voucher system for employer health plans. (Tennessean)
-- Virginia: Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) will include a plan to expand Medicaid to 400,000 uninsured residents when he presents legislators with his budget this week. The Republican-dominated House is vehemently against Medicaid expansion, making McAuliffe's path all the more difficult. McAuliffe's proposal estimates the expansion would generate $100 million in savings. The mid-cycle budget is aimed at closing a $322 million shortfall. (Washington Post)
-- New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) says he expects the state Department of Health to release a report on hydraulic fracturing, and to make a decision on fracking for natural gas, by year's end. The department has been reviewing the health impacts of fracking since September 2012, while the Department of Environmental Conservation has been conducting its review since 2008. (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle)
-- Arkansas: Republican legislators are considering new restrictions on abortions, including a ban on the use of telemedicine to prescribe abortion drugs, ending funding to Planned Parenthood and so-called "informed consent" laws. Gov.-elect Asa Hutchinson (R) said during the campaign he would have signed strict abortion rules vetoed last year by outgoing Gov. Mike Beebe (D); the GOP-led legislature overrode both vetoes. (Associated Press)
-- New Hampshire: State Republicans are considering a resolution to censure House Speaker-designate Shawn Jasper (R), who bested former Speaker Bill O'Brien (R) with the help of a handful of Republicans and the Democratic minority. Party rules already forbid Jasper from sitting on the state executive committee because he wasn't the House Republican caucus's nominee. (NH Journal)
-- Montana: State House Speaker Austin Knudsen (R) says he's talking with Democratic leaders about modifying the House dress code after women members said the new code singled them out. Democratic whip Jenny Eck had criticized provisions asking women to "be sensitive to skirt lengths and necklines." The state House has never had a formal dress code before. (Helena Independent Record)
DC Digest: What's on tap today in DC.
-- President Obama hosts Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in the Oval Office this morning. He has lunch with Vice President Biden, then sits down with members of the National Security Council in the Situation Room this afternoon to go over possible threats to U.S. interests during the holidays.
-- Vice President Biden attends the meeting with Archbishop Kurtz. He'll give remarks at the annual National Menorah Lighting at 4 p.m. at President's Park before attending the NSC meeting in the Situation Roomn.
-- The Senate continues its long march of nomination votes when it convenes at 10 a.m. today. Early votes are expected on Assistant Secretary of State nominee Frank Rose and Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board nominee Daniel Santos. The Senate will continue considering an Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security nominee before taking up the nomination of Tony Blinken to take the number two slot at the State Department. Majority Leader Harry Reid has filed cloture on 18 more nominees before they leave for the year.
-- Five representatives from the group advocating D.C. as the host city for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games will make their pitch to the 16-member board of directors of the U.S. Olympic Committee today in Redwood City, Calif. A decision on the U.S. nominee for 2024 could come as early as this afternoon; D.C. is competing with Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston. Businessman Russ Ramsey, Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky, a Bethesda native, are giving D.C.'s pitch. (Washington Post)
-- A provision in the 1,603-page spending bill passed by Congress last week prohibits federal agents from raiding retail marijuana operations in states where medical marijuana is legal, marking the first time Congress has approved legislation backed by legalization advocates. The Obama administration has prevented such raids as a matter of policy, but the spending bill actually codifies that rule. Thirty two states and D.C. have legalized marijuana for medical use. (Los Angeles Times)
Committee Assignments: Who's calling you for a contribution.
-- Senate Republicans and Democrats released their committee assignment lists for the 114th Congress. Here's who's on the top panels, in order of seniority, Republicans listed first (Note: Republicans haven't formally picked committee chairs yet):
-- Appropriations: Cochran, McConnell, Shelby, Alexander, Collins, Murkowski, Graham, Kirk, Blunt, Moran, Hoeven, Boozman, Capito, Cassidy, Lankford, Daines. Leahy, Mikulski (ranking), Murray, Feinstein, Durbin, Reed, Tester, Udall, Shaheen, Merkley, Coons, Schatz, Baldwin, Murphy.
-- Armed Services: McCain, Inhofe, Sessions, Wicker, Ayotte, Fischer, Cotton, Rounds, Ernst, Tillis, Sullivan, Lee, Graham, Cruz. Reed (ranking), Nelson, McCaskill, Manchin, Shaheen, Gillibrand, Blumenthal, Donnelly, Hirono, Kaine, King, Heinrich.
-- Banking: Shelby, Crapo, Corker, Vitter, Toomey, Kirk, Moran, Scott, Cotton, Rounds, Sasse, Heller. Reed, Schumer, Menendez, Brown (ranking), Tester, Warner, Merkley, Warren, Heitkamp, Donnelly.
-- Energy: Murkowski, Barrasso, Risch, Lee, Flake, Cassidy, Gardner, Daines, Portman, Hoeven, Alexander, Capito. Wyden, Cantwell (ranking), Sanders, Stabenow, Franken, Manchin, Heinrich, Hirono, King, Warren.
-- Finance: Hatch, Grassley, Crapo, Roberts, Enzi, Cornyn, Thune, Burr, Isakson, Portman, Toomey, Coats, Heller, Scott. Wyden (ranking), Schumer, Cantwell, Nelson, Menendez, Carper, Cardin, Brown, Bennet, Casey, Warner.
-- Foreign Relations: Corker, Risch, Rubio, Johnson, Flake, Gardner, Perdue, Isakson, Paul, Barrasso. Boxer, Menendez (ranking), Cardin, Shaheen, Coons, Udall, Murphy, Kaine, Markey.
-- Full list of Republican committee assignments here. We'll post the full list of Democratic committee assignments when we find a link.
B1: Business, politics and the business of politics
-- Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) says he's "had discussions" with state Republican leaders about killing the straw poll held quadrennially at Iowa State University in Ames. Branstad wants to see a series of regional events replace the straw poll. It'll be up to state GOP leaders to make the final call. (WHO-TV) State Party chairman Jeff Kaufmann said the straw poll has to comply with RNC rules, and that the party has to make money on the event. A final decision is coming Jan. 10. (Des Moines Register) But who will feed us irresponsible amounts of barbecue and hot dogs?!?!?
-- In 2002, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) kicked his predecessor, Roy Barnes (D), out of office. In 2014, Perdue hired Barnes for legal work. Perdue turned to Barnes's law firm when he filed suit against a North Carolina bank that owes more than $1.5 million to a company Perdue owns. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
-- Stock futures are lower before the bell after a down day on Wall Street on Monday. Asian markets dropped more than 1.5 percentage points on Tuesday, and European markets are trading lower too. Light crude is down more than 3 percent in early trading. (CNN)
C1: The long reads you'll need to check out before tonight's cocktail party.
-- NIH's annual National Institute on Drug Abuse survey, to be released today, finds more teenagers are trying e-cigarettes than actual cigarettes. The survey found 16 percent of 10th graders had tried an e-cigarette in the past month, and just 7 percent had smoked a cigarette. Abuse of synthetic marijuana and prescription painkillers is down, and so is binge drinking. (Associated Press)
-- David Garth, one of the fathers of the modern political television advertisement, died Monday at home in Manhattan. He was 84. Garth was the first to superimpose text over candidate-to-camera ads, a technique he said was originally intended to cover a scratched tape. He worked with New York City Mayors John Lindsay, Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, New Jersey Gov. Brendan Byrne, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and John Heinz (R-Pa.). (New York Times)
C4: The comics page, fun things to read when you're bored at work
-- A new Benenson Strategy Group/SKDKnickerbocker poll to be released today shows 42 percent of Americans have a favorable view of fictional President Frank Underwood, compared with just 28 percent who have a favorable opinion of Congress. (Twitter) That's some high quality trolling, BSG/SKD. Full poll will be available later today here.
Attn Matt Drudge: Things conservatives will get outraged by today.
-- Undocumented immigrants already collect up to $4 billion a year in payments through the Additional Child Tax Credit, according to a 2011 IRS Inspector General's report. If President Obama's executive actions on immigration are fully implemented, those same people will be eligible for a much larger pot of money: The Earned Income Tax Credit. The IRS can't give EITC funds to anyone without a Social Security number, but the executive actions will grant millions of undocumented immigrants an SSN. (Townhall)
Attn HuffPo: What outrages liberals today
-- Veterans groups are furious with outgoing Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who they say is single-handedly blocking a measure that would reduce suicides among veterans. Coburn said Congress should hold the Veterans Affairs Department accountable rather than passing the new $22 million bill, which would require independent reviews of DOD and VA suicide prevention programs. The Republican-led House passed the bill last week. (Associated Press)