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Obama agenda: Brennan in spotlight; Hagel vote delayed

AP: President Barack Obama's choice to head the CIA faces a Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing just hours after lawmakers are expected to receive a classified report providing the rationale for drone strikes targeting Americans working with al-Qaida overseas. John Brennan, the White House counterterrorism chief and Obama's nominee to run the nation's spy agency, helped manage the drone program. The confirmation hearing Thursday sets the stage for a public airing of some of the most controversial programs in the covert war on al-Qaida, from the deadly drone strikes to the CIA's use of interrogation techniques like waterboarding during President George W. Bush's administration.”

NBC’s Tom Curry reports “President Obama directed the Justice Department to give congressional intelligence committees access to the classified memos justifying the targeted killings policy on Wednesday. Until now the administration had refused to do this.”  

Reuters: “The Senate Armed Services Committee delayed a vote on Chuck Hagel's confirmation as secretary of defense, the panel's chairman said on Wednesday, amid Republican demands for more information from President Barack Obama's nominee. ‘The committee's vote on Senator Hagel's nomination has not been scheduled,’ Senator Carl Levin said in a statement. ‘I had hoped to hold a vote on the nomination this week, but the committee's review of the nomination is not yet complete.’”

List of the cabinet picks to come including Commerce Secretary, Energy Secretary, EPA Administrator, Labor Secretary, per National Journal.

The Atlantic Wire: “As he continues to fill out his cabinet, a report emerged late Wednesday that President Obama is "close to choosing" Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker as America's next Secretary of Commerce. There's only one problem. She and her secretive family have been caught up in some pretty dodgy commercial ventures including but not limited to dodging taxes and running a bank that specialized in subprime mortgages.”

“Palestinian officials said Thursday they hope President Barack Obama's upcoming visit to the region signals readiness to re-engage in Mideast peace efforts, but that negotiations can only resume if Washington is ready to get tough with Israel,” The Associated Press reports. “The Palestinians have long been anxious for the U.S. to revive serious talks with Israel. Their expectations were dampened following a White House statement that Obama will not pursue any new peace initiatives on his visit, expected in late March.”

Haaretz: “Palestinian Authority officials reacted cooly to the White House announcement of President Barack Obama's plan to visit Israel and the PA in March. Perhaps the brief, laconic response of PA President Mahmoud Abbas reflects the Palestinians' sense of hopelessness about the possibility of renewed negotiations leading eventually to a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.”

“President Obama on Wednesday nominated Sally Jewell, the chief executive of Recreational Equipment Inc., to lead the Interior Department, with a vow that she will balance the agency’s sometimes conflicting mandates to promote resource development and preserve the nation’s natural heritage,” the New York Times writes. “If confirmed, Ms. Jewell, a former oil company engineer and longtime advocate for conservation and outdoor recreation, will take over a department that has been embroiled in controversy over the regulation of oil and gas on public lands and in the Gulf of Mexico and Arctic Ocean. She also will be the steward of hundreds of millions of acres of public lands, from the Everglades of Florida to the Cascades of Washington State.”