-- 30,000 Feet, from Robert Costa: "After more than a decade bearing the political burden of Iraq, Republicans are making a dogged effort to shed it by arguing that the Islamic State’s gruesome ascent is a symptom of Obama’s foreign policy, rather than a byproduct of the 2003 invasion they once championed. ... The rapid move to shift responsibility is at the core of the GOP’s plan to define 2016 as a foreign-policy election. Anxious about demographic trends and the leftward drift of the electorate on social issues, many Republicans hope to seize on global unrest and offer voters a steady hand."

-- "At the least, it is an attempt to have Iraq seen as a shared failure, begun by a Republican president and a Republican-controlled Congress but inherited and fumbled by Democrats." (Washington Post)

The Pulse

-- The Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Wednesday released a list of 39 English-language books that U.S. forces found on Osama bin Laden's shelf in Abbottabad four years ago, including volumes on current events and conspiracy theories, several histories and guides to Islam, and guidebooks on modern and guerrilla warfare. (Washington Post) Bin Laden considered leaving the Abbottabad compound where he was eventually killed, according to a letter he wrote six months before the U.S. raid. (Washington Post)

-- Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) kind-of-filibuster against the NSA's bulk collection of data ended just before midnight Wednesday after nearly 11 hours. Throughout the day, Paul got help from Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Steve Daines (D-Mont.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chris Coons (D-Conn.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.). (Washington Post)

-- California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) declared a state of emergency in Santa Barbara County on Wednesday after more than 100,000 gallons of oil spilled into a culvert and a storm drain, 21,000 gallons of which made it to the Pacific Ocean. Two oil slicks span nine miles along the coast. Fishing and shellfish harvesting have been canceled, and several beaches are closed. Plains All American Pipeline, the company that owns the pipeline that ruptured, said it had last been inspected in 2012. (Washington Post)

-- U.S. and Cuban officials meet today in Washington for a new round of talks aimed at finishing up final details and finding a date to fully restore diplomatic relations and reopen embassies. The Treasury Department helped Cuba find a bank willing to handle their accounts for the first time since 2013, and the State Department is expected to take Cuba off its list of state sponsors of terrorism next week, when a 45-day review period ends. (New York Times)

-- The Pentagon is sending 1,000 antitank rockets to the Iraqi military to help combat suicide vehicle bombs the Islamic State used to capture Ramadi. The weapons, requested by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, are expected to arrive in early June. American and Iraqi officials are working to reconstitute Iraqi forces that retreated from Ramadi, where the Islamic State used car bombs roughly the size of those used in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. (New York Times) In Libya, Islamic State militants have effectively taken control of Sirte, Muammar Gaddafi's home town. (Reuters)

-- The Chinese navy issued eight warnings to a U.S. surveillance plane keeping an eye on China's man-made islands in the South China Sea on Wednesday. A CNN crew was aboard the plane, part of the military's efforts to bring more attention to China's growing influence in the region. The U.S. is considering flying even closer to the man-made islands. China has expanded the islands by 2,000 acres, or 1,500 football fields, creating runways long enough to handle every aircraft in their fleet. (CNN)

-- Front Pages: WaPo leads with a warrant issued in the murders of four people at a home in upper Northwest, with a report on bin Laden's isolation in the second lead. NYT gives two columns to the Islamic State's advances in Palmyra. USA Today leads with the battle against Islamic State on the Ramadi front. WSJ reads Fed tea leaves on rate hikes, which probably won't come in June. LA Times four column center: "Echoes of 1969 spill."

White House 2016

-- Clinton: The pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC Priorities USA Action has hired Anne Caprara, a top EMILY's List official, to serve as executive director. She replaces Buffy Wicks, who will leave the PAC; Wicks is in talks to join Clinton's official operation. And Clinton confidante David Brock is rejoining Priorities' board of directors after publicly splitting with the group in February. (Washington Post, BuzzFeed, Politico) Priorities is struggling to raise money; it expects to collect just $15 million through the end of June. (Wall Street Journal) Clinton will be in Albuquerque for a breakfast fundraiser on June 3. (Albuquerque Journal)

-- Huckabee: Count another one out of the Iowa straw poll. In an editorial in today's Des Moines Register, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) says he'll skip the state GOP's quadrennial straw poll. Huckabee's second-place showing in 2007 vaulted him into contention months before he eventually won the caucuses. (Des Moines Register) Blind item: At that 2007 straw poll, which prominent national reporter ate five barbeque sandwiches? You know who you are.

-- Bush: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) says the climate is changing, but "I don't think the science is clear on what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural." (Washington Post) Bush also said the U.S. relationship with Canada is in need of serious repair. "It's hard to imagine how we could have a bad relationship with Canada, but under this administration we've managed to do it," Bush said. Bush hasn't elaborated on the rift beyond mentioning the Keystone XL pipeline. (Washington Post)

-- Debates: Fox News will require participants in the first GOP primary debate to place in the top ten in the five most recent national polls before the Aug. 6 event in Cleveland. CNN said it will split the field in two for the second debate, which it will host on Sept. 16; one half will feature the top 10 candidates, while the second half will include any candidate who notches at least 1 percent in recent polling. The CNN forum, in Simi Valley, Calif., will require candidates to have one paid campaign worker in two of the four early voting states. (Washington Post)

-- Veeps: Did Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper just become the first candidate to float himself as a possible veep? "I think there is an opportunity there for whether it’s me or someone else, to have a vice president and make them like a chief operating officer," Hickenlooper told Bloomberg in a story about business development in Colorado. (Bloomberg) HUD Secretary Julian Castro said he's "flattered" to be mentioned as a possible Clinton running mate. (Dallas Morning News)

Outside The Beltway:

-- Maryland: Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake spent two hours meeting with members of the state's Congressional delegation and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett on Wednesday seeking support after riots caused millions in damage earlier this month. The White House didn't offer explicit promises of support. Also attending the meeting: Secretaries of education and HUD, OMB director Shaun Donovan and representatives from HHS, Justice and Labor. The Small Business Administration is offering assistance to 285 Baltimore businesses. (Washington Post)

-- Florida: Rep. Alan Grayson (D) allegedly tried to have his wife arrested after she used a marital credit card account to purchase groceries and gas, according to court records filed during the couple's divorce proceedings. Grayson disputed the claims through his lawyer. Earlier this week, Grayson accused Lolita Grayson of being a "gold digger" after she withdrew from a plan to annul their marriage. (Politico)

-- Arizona: At least 1,600 families will lose welfare benefits in Arizona next year after the Republican-led legislature reduced the lifetime limit for recipients to 12 months, the shortest limit in the nation. Thirteen states limit welfare benefits to two years; most other states put five-year limits on welfare benefits. The limits will cut costs by at least $4 million. (Arizona Republic)

-- Nebraska: State lawmakers approved a measure on Wednesday ending the death penalty, with enough votes to override a promised veto from Gov. Pete Ricketts (R). The 32-15 vote in Nebraska's officially nonpartisan, unicameral legislature makes it likely the state will be the first conservative state to end the death penalty since North Dakota in 1973. Nebraska hasn't executed a prisoner since 1997. (Associated Press)

-- New Jersey: Since Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop (D) took office in 2013, the city has awarded contracts to at least nine politically-connected firms and hired Democratic elected officials who are tight with powerful county party organizations. Fulop has made no secret of his interest in running for governor in 2017. Some of those hired to do work for the city have close ties to Democratic organizations in Bergen, Somerset and Passaic counties. (NJ Advance Media) Ah, Jersey. Never change.

DC Digest

-- President Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi this morning. This afternoon, he'll hold a Cabinet meeting in, not surprisingly, the Cabinet room. Hey, you think they call it that because...

-- Vice President Biden attends both the bilateral meeting and the Cabinet meeting. Tonight, he'll deliver remarks at the Center for American Progress's annual gala at the Mellon Auditorium. Biden's got a big day ahead tomorrow: He'll be delivering the commencement address at the Naval Academy's graduation ceremony in Annapolis.

-- The House meets at 10 a.m. for a quick debate on the SPACE Act, including votes on seven amendments. They expect last votes by 1 p.m., and then it's a race to the airport.

-- The Senate continues considering trade legislation, with a cloture vote on Sen. Orrin Hatch's (R-Utah) substitute amendment scheduled at 10 a.m. If cloture is invoked, they'll have up to 30 hours of debate. Without cloture, they'll hold a roll call vote on the entire bill. The Senate doesn't plan to leave for Memorial Day recess without dealing with expiring sections of the Patriot Act and the highway trust fund.

-- Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine told lawmakers Wednesday he is considering increasing the penalty for an officer who leaves his or her firearm unattended around the Capitol from five days to 30 days after three officers forgot their weapons over the last few months. Dine said officers involved in two incidents are still on protective details that guard Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (Roll Call)

Business, Politics and the Business of Politics

-- Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Barclays Plc and Royal Bank of Scotland agreed to plead guilty to felony charges of conspiring to manipulate currency prices, while UBS Group AG agreed to plead guilty to a wire-fraud charge, the Justice Department said Wednesday. Those banks will pay $5.8 billion to settle the probes into currency manipulation, including $1.6 billion to the Federal Reserve and $1.3 billion to three other regulatory bodies. (Bloomberg)

-- Stock futures are down this morning after a mixed day on Wall Street Wednesday. Asian and European shares are mixed. (CNN)

Long Reads

-- Seven House Democrats met in secret earlier this year to strategize over how to position Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) to take over for Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. But when Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) announced her retirement, Van Hollen strongly considered moving up to the Senate. Pelosi asked Van Hollen to stay in the House, but she didn't offer to endorse him as her successor. Without that guarantee, Van Hollen decided to run. (New York Times) One of those helping Van Hollen plot his campaign: Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.).