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First Read's Morning Clips

OBAMA AGENDA: Administration’s latest gay-rights move

The Washington Post: “The Labor Department will issue a proposed rule Friday stating that any employee is eligible for leave to care for a same-sex spouse under the Family and Medical Leave Act, according to White House officials, regardless of whether they live in a state that recognizes their marital status.”

From the AP, more pressure on al-Maliki: " The spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiite majority called for a new, "effective" government Friday, increasing pressure on the country's prime minister as an offensive by Sunni militants rages on."

In Iraq, there could be a silver lining for Kurds despite the bloodshed, writes the New York Times. "If they can defend their borders and not get dragged into a bloody stalemate between the Iraqi Army, along with its Shiite militia allies, and the Sunni militants, the Kurds could emerge empowered, even, perhaps, with their centuries-old dream of their own state fulfilled."

The Wall Street Journal: "Before the U.S. agreed to release five Taliban detainees in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, two groups of U.S. military personnel worked for more than year on alternative plans to secure his freedom—including one proposal to pay off militants and another to release an Afghan warlord."

Benghazi suspect Ahmed Abu Khattala is "talking freely" with U.S. interrogators, the New York Times reports.

CONGRESS: McCarthy and Scalise win

Here's our quick profiles of newly-elected Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

And a wrap of the elections, which both only required a first ballot.

The Washington Post writes that Scalise won "by selling himself as a hard-edged conservative, and by employing the low-tech political stagecraft of a college student-council election."

National Journal reports that Jeb Hensarling "the popular Texan who passed on the chance to challenge Rep. Kevin McCarthy in Thursday's special election, appears poised to run for one of the top two leadership positions – either speaker or majority leader – in November, according to multiple sources close to the congressman."

OFF TO THE RACES: Schweitzer apologizes

Brian Schweitzer has apologized for his remarks about his "gaydar" and Eric Cantor as well as derogatory statements about Sen. Dianne Feinstein. In a Facebook post, he writes "I recently made a number of stupid and insensitive remarks to a reporter from the National Journal. I am deeply sorry and sincerely apologize for my carelessness and disregard."

Speaking of people who are floating 2016 runs and apologies.. Gov. Rick Perry says he "stepped right in it" with his comments comparing homosexuality to alcoholism, one of us(!) writes.

ARKANSAS: In a new ad, the Senate Majority PAC is hitting Tom Cotton for votes against disaster relief.

COLORADO: Birth control access is becoming a big factor in the Colorado Senate race, with Mark Udall's campaign accusing Cory Gardner of flip-flopping on the issue. After Gardner wrote an op-ed in the Denver Post advocating for over-the-counter access to the pill, Udall and women's groups hit back, noting Gardner's conservative past votes on women's issues as a state lawmaker, including support for a "personhood" ballot measure.

Now, Planned Parenthood is up with this web ad accusing Gardner of trying to "erase part of his record."

Here's more from the Denver Post.

LOUISIANA: The Times-Picayune folo on the Jindal/Common Core story: "When other governors around the country have backpedaled on the Common Core academic standards and testing, they have had the support of top-ranking education officials or the legislature in their state. Jindal had no such backing Wednesday when he launched his efforts to remove the national education standards from Louisiana schools."

MISSISSIPPI: "In tough times, you’ve got to do some unusual things." Black voters could come to Thad Cochran's rescue in Tuesday's runoff, writes the New York Times. Noted: “For its part, Mr. Cochran’s campaign denies paying any “walking-around money” to black community leaders.”

Sen. John McCain will stump for Cochran this weekend, NBC's Kasie Hunt reports.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen leads Scott Brown by 10 in New Hampshire, a new Suffolk poll says.

The same poll also finds that Mitt Romney would still be a popular presidential choice among NH Republicans.

WISCONSIN: One of us(!) wrote yesterday about the campaign finance troubles Gov. Scott Walker is in after newly released documents appear to show him working with outside groups to fundraise for recall elections.

Here’s more takeaways from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

PROGRAMMING NOTES.

*** Friday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: NBC’s Chuck Todd interviews NBC’s Richard Engel, Brooking Institute’s Ken Pollack, NBC’s Perry Bacon, Cook Report’s Amy Walter, Politico’s Manu Raju, Fmr. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Fmr. Sen. Jim Webb

*** Friday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Alex Witt interviews Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) on Iraq; Politico’s Roger Simon & conservative radio host Alice Stewart on the House Majority Leader vote; Religion Reporter for Detroit Free Press, Niraj Warikoo on Presbyterians vote for same-sex marriage making them one of the biggest Christian groups in the U.S. to allow same-sex marriages; and Actor Eric Dane on “The Last Ship.”

*** Friday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Peter Alexander fills in for Andrea Mitchell and will interview Rep. Ed Royce, (Ret.) Gen. Barry McCaffrey, NBC’s Richard Engel and Luke Russert, NBC Counterterror Analyst Michael Leiter, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, Nigerian Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons’ Executive Secretary Beatrice Jedy-Agba.

*** Friday’s “The Reid Report” line-up: We’ll discuss the latest U.S. plans for Iraq with NBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin and U.S. Marine veteran Goldie Taylor. Plus the Iran factor with Aaron David Miller from the Woodrow Wilson Center. The executive director of One Wisconsin Now joins us to discuss the investigation surrounding WI Gov. Scott Walker. Filmmaker Eric Byler covers the complexities facing DHS over what to do with the undocumented children arriving in the U.S. And don’t miss Joy’s interview with Prop 8 legal team, David Boies and Ted Olson as they discuss the advancement of LGBT rights, one year after the landmark supreme court decision.