-- House and Senate Republicans are divided over how to keep the Department of Homeland Security operating, and there is little sign they're coming together for a compromise. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) told Republican senators on Wednesday they should not expect the House to send them another funding bill. (New York Times) Congress has seven legislative days left, and 15 days overall, before DHS funding runs out. (Washington Post)
-- The House voted by a 270 to 152 margin to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, adopting the Senate version of the bill and sending it to President Obama. Twenty-nine Democrats joined with all but one Republican in voting for the bill, which Obama has promised to veto. (Washington Post)
-- The CIA has significantly scaled back its counterterrorism presence in Yemen after the U.S. closed its embassy this week, a big setback for operations against al Qaeda's most prominent, most dangerous affiliate. The agency has pulled dozens of operatives and analysts out of Yemen. Pentagon officials said U.S. Special Operations teams are still in Yemen. U.S. Embassy staffers left Wednesday on private jets bound for Oman, before flying on to Washington. (Washington Post)
-- Senior NBC officials seriously considered firing Brian Williams over lies he told about riding in a helicopter hit with an RPG. The decision to suspend him for six months came after other exaggerations were revealed. Williams did not secure a promise he can return to the anchor chair when his six-month suspension is up. (Washington Post) Tom Brokaw cancelled a Caribbean vacation at the request of NBC chief executive Steve Burke, who needed advice. (New Yorker)
-- Hey, D.C. residents: The rest of the week isn't going to be a lot of fun. The first of two powerful cold fronts will hit us today, bringing snow showers, high winds and low temperatures. Tomorrow's temperatures will be below freezing, and Saturday brings the second cold front, with lows in the single digits or mid-teens. (Capital Weather Gang)
-- Front Pages: WaPo leads with an NTSB investigation into last month's deadly incident at L'Enfant Plaza. LA Times and WSJ highlight the coming debate over the White House's request for a new AUMF. NYT leads with a Peter Baker analysis of that request. USA Today full-page banner: "Obama Seeks War Power."
National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.
-- WH'16: Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) will travel to South Carolina next week for two days of meetings and events. He will meet with legislative leaders and hold a news conference while in town. (Washington Post)
-- Oregon: Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) decided to resign Tuesday but changed his mind on Wednesday, after conversations with his private lawyer and First Lady Cylvia Hayes. Kitzhaber met with Senate President Peter Courtney (D) and House Speaker Tina Kotek (D) to discuss his legislative agenda and its prospects, and he asked Secretary of State Kate Brown (D) to return from a meeting in D.C. His attorney, Jim McDermott, and Hayes talked him out of resigning before he met with Brown on Wednesday afternoon. (The Oregonian)
-- California: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Wednesday he's opening a campaign account that will allow him to raise money to run for governor in 2018. Newsom will be able to raise $56,400 per donor through the committee. Most observers expect the next gubernatorial race to cost $30 million to $50 million. (Sacramento Bee, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times) Newsom's move isn't unexpected, but it will force former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) to choose a race. Villaraigosa has hemmed and hawed about running against Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) for Sen. Barbara Boxer's (D) seat.
-- Nevada: The state legislature will not take up voter-submitted ballot initiatives on gun control or marijuana legalization, meaning both measures will be on the ballot in 2016. Initiative backers turned in more than twice the number of signatures required to send each initiative to the legislature, which must either pass them or give voters the chance. The marijuana initiative would allow possession of one ounce or less and set up 80 stores in Clark County and 20 in Washoe County. (Las Vegas Sun)
-- Virginia: The House and Senate passed different ethics bills in the wake of former Gov. Bob McDonnell's (R) conviction, though they stop short of what Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) had called for. The three sides have agreed on a $100 gift limit and a bipartisan ethics panel, but they haven't agreed yet on how much authority the panel should have. Legislators griped about the ethics reform even as they passed it by overwhelming majorities. (Washington Post)
-- Indiana: Spotted in D.C. by a loyal Read In reader: Former state House Speaker John Gregg (D), the 2012 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, hanging out with former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.). Bayh said in September he wouldn't run for governor, and Gregg is giving it another go in 2016. Bayh is, however, selling his house in D.C., a 14-room Georgian-style home, for almost $2.6 million. (Indianapolis Star)
DC Digest: What's on tap today in DC.
-- President Obama delivers remarks this afternoon in the East Room as he signs the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, which passed the Senate unanimously last week. He departs this afternoon for San Francisco, where he'll spend the next few days.
-- Vice President Biden travels to Des Moines (!!!) this morning to speak on the administration's economic policies at Drake University. This afternoon, he participates in a roundtable discussion at the Des Moines Area Community College's Ankeny campus, on helping more people go to college. He's back in D.C. this evening.
-- The House meets at 10 a.m. for morning business and noon for legislative business. They'll consider the Fighting Hunger Incentive Act, sponsored by Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), which would permanently extend tax breaks on some donations to needy families. The Obama administration has threatened to veto the bill, which the White House says gives tax breaks to the wealthy, rather than the needy.
-- The Senate will meet for morning business at 9:30 a.m. before proceeding to executive session to consider Ash Carter's nomination as Secretary of Defense. They'll hold a roll call vote on Carter's nomination at 2 p.m.
-- White House counterterrorism advisor Rand Beers is retiring after a year in the Obama administration. He'll be replaced by Amy Pope, who came to the White House from the Justice Department in 2012. (Washington Post)
-- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech next month to a joint session of Congress has become the dominant issue in Israeli elections, which take place two weeks after Netanyahu is scheduled to visit D.C. Polls show a tight race between Netanyahu's Likud party and the Labor Party, headed by Isaac Herzog and his running mate Tzipi Livni. (Washington Post) The political CW: The greater the focus on national security, the better Netanyahu's chances.
B1: Business, politics and the business of politics
-- The Natural Resources Conservation Service will commit about $200 million to sage grouse conservation projects across 11 Western states, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will announce today. The service plans to improve a total of eight million acres over nine years; about 4.4 million acres have already been restored. (Casper Star-Tribune) Big, big deal to Western states, which are still trying to keep the sage grouse off the endangered species list.
-- Stock futures are up about half a percentage point this morning after a relatively flat day on Wednesday. Global markets are almost all trading higher, boosted by diplomatic news out of Ukraine. (CNN)
C1: Take time to digest the long reads
-- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) withdrew from Marquette University in 1990, a year before he graduated, to run for state assembly. But while at school, he ran for student body president. When newspapers endorsing his opponent came out, they disappeared from campus, though no one was ever blamed. He spearheaded an investigation into $1,000 in misspent student funds that led to the resignation of several fellow student senators. (Boston Globe)
-- Walker's friends weren't entirely sure why he quit college. He has said he meant to go back, but he never found the time, and he wasn't terribly good at French. One friend remembered him taking her to the hospital four different times in emergencies. And, yes, he kept a photo of Ronald Reagan on his desk. (Washington Post)
-- CBS News correspondent Bob Simon was killed Wednesday in a car accident in New York City, CBS said in a statement. Simon was riding in a hired town car when the driver lost control and ran into a median. Simon was unconscious and unresponsive when police arrived at the scene. He was 73. Simon covered war zones beginning in Vietnam, Cyprus, Portugal, the Falkland Islands and Yugoslavia. He and his camera crew were held captive by Iraqi forces for 40 days during the Persian Gulf War. (Washington Post)
C4: Fun things to read when you're bored at work
-- The U.S. beer industry is growing, and fast. There were 869 establishments making beer in 2012, according to Census Bureau figures, up from 398 establishments in 2007. Industry revenue has grown at the same time, though not at the same pace, from $21.2 billion to $28.3 billion. We're still importing a lot more than we export: In 2012, the U.S. imported $3.7 billion worth of beer, compared with about $450 million in exports. (Census Bureau)
Attn Matt Drudge: What outrages conservatives today
-- Democratic appointees to the Federal Election Commission said at a Wednesday FEC meeting they are open to new regulations on donors, bloggers and others using the internet for politics. Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said about three-quarters of the 32,000 public comments to the commission advocated doing more to limit donations, though Republican commissioners say FEC controls on the internet would sweep up websites like the Drudge Report. (Washington Examiner) The art of Drudge-bait.
Attn HuffPo: What outrages liberals today
-- Montana State Rep. David Moore (R) has introduced legislation to strengthen indecent exposure laws to ban clothing that "gives the appearance or simulates" someone's genitals, pelvic area or butt. Tight-fitting beige clothing could be considered indecent under his bill, said Moore. He added that he doesn't have a problem with people being arrested for wearing provocative clothing, and he thinks yoga pants and Speedos should be illegal in public. (Associated Press) We're chasing down rumors that Moore will introduce legislation outlawing fun and happiness, too.