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First Read's Morning Clips

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day.

OBAMA AGENDA: Saudi Arabia, here we come

A 30-member delegation will join Obama to meet with new King Salman of Saudi Arabia today.

What does the new power structure in Saudi Arabia mean for counterterrorism? The New York Times has more.

In India, Obama warned of divisions over religion. "The president exhorted Indians to uphold the ideal of freedom of religion, which was laid out in the country’s founding documents, saying that in both India and the U.S., diversity is a strength. Mr. Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has faced criticism for pushing a religious agenda and chipping away at secularism in India. And the prime minister himself was cited for “severe violations of religious freedom” by the U.S. State Department. For a decade, Mr. Modi was prohibited from setting foot on U.S. soil—a decision that followed his failure to stop deadly Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002."

The New York Times: "The Obama administration on Tuesday will announce a proposal to open up coastal waters from Virginia to Georgia for oil and gas drilling, according to a person briefed on the plan. At the same time, in Alaska, the administration will ban drilling in some portions of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, according to the personal familiar with the plans, who could not speak publicly about them until the announcement."

The Congressional Budget Office said yesterday “that the deficit would fall to $468 billion this year and $467 billion in 2016, or 2.5 percent of the economy, from $483 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. It would be the lowest level since 2007. Then it is projected to rise steadily, to $489 billion in 2017 and $953 billion by 2023. By 2025, the annual deficit will be back over $1 trillion. The budget office forecasts that under current policy, the government will add $7.6 trillion to the $18 trillion federal debt over the coming decade,” per the New York Times.

And the fight against 'Superbugs:' "The Obama administration wants to double the amount of federal funding dedicated to combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a mounting problem that causes an estimated 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths annually in the United States," writes the Washington Post.

CONGRESS: Stalled and delayed

A measure to approve the Keystone XL pipeline stalled last night in the Senate.

Consideration of a House border security bill has been kicked to next month, with lawmakers blaming the weather but some admitting that it may not have had enough backing to pass at all.

Harry Reid's eye surgery was successful at removing a blood clot from his eye, but it's still not confirmed that his vision will be fully restored.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman testifies on the free-trade measures before the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. Per an administration official, “Ambassador Froman will emphasize the administration-wide effort underway to advocate for TPA, TPP, and T-TIP both on the Hill and across the country, as well as the indispensable contributions trade made to our economic recovery from the Great Recession. Ambassador Froman will also highlight that the President’s historic trade agenda is a bright spot for bipartisanship going into the 114th Congress, and that trade represents a significant opportunity for both parties to work together in strengthening our economy as it gains momentum.”

OFF TO THE RACES: $889 million!

First from the Washington Post: "A network of conservative advocacy groups backed by Charles and David Koch aims to spend a staggering $889 million in advance of the next White House election, part of an expansive strategy to build on its 2014 victories that may involve jumping into the Republican primaries."

Longtime McCain aide and Iowan Mark Salter rips the Iowa caucuses in an article on Real Clear Politics. “The most well-attended GOP caucus draws fewer than one-fifth of registered Republican voters. Many of the voters who do participate are not, I venture to say, typically Iowan in outlook or even manners.”

“Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will announce today that Katie Walsh, who led the party committee's fundraising efforts in the 2014 election, will serve as chief of staff in the 2016 cycle,” the Washington Post says.

CHRISTIE: He's reaching out to NH Rep. Frank Guinta, NH1 reports.

EHRLICH: The former Maryland governor is eyeing a run.

PENCE: From the Indy Star: “Gov. Mike Pence is starting a state-run taxpayer-funded news outlet that will make pre-written news stories available to Indiana media, as well as sometimes break news about his administration, according to documents obtained by The Indianapolis Star.” (WHAT????)

ROMNEY: Kiss of death? Nancy Pelosi's rooting for him to win the GOP nomination, per The Hill.

RUBIO: Bloomberg writes that supporters and donors are newly bullish about a Rubio run.

SANDERS: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is headed back to New Hampshire, via NH1.

And around the country...

CALIFORNIA: The LA Times reports on the shadowboxing between Kamala Harris and Antonio Villaraigosa.

IOWA: Gov. Terry Branstad remained in the hospital overnight after collapsing from what his staff called "a flu-like illness."

KENTUCKY: Alison Lundergan Grimes is running for reelection as Secretary of State.

NEW YORK: Now, Democrats are calling for Sheldon Silver to step down as the speaker of the State Assembly.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Don't miss NBC's Leigh Ann Caldwell's take on South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley -- and whether the moment is ripe for her national comeback


*** Tuesday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Tamron Hall will have all the latest on the Blizzard that affected the Eastern seaboard specifically areas that were hit the hardest: Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Mayor of Warwick Rhode Island Scott Avedisian, and NBC Correspondents John Yang, Mike Seidel and Chris Pallone .

*** Tuesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, Logan International Airport CEO Thomas Glynn, Portland, ME Mayor Michael Brennan, Nantucket Police Chief William Pittman, AAA Managing Director John Nielsen, Massachusetts Red Cross Communications Director Jessica Emond and NBC Meteorologist Bill Karins.