The Note's Must-Reads for Friday, December 17, 2010

The Note's Must-Reads are a round-up of today's political headlines and stories from ABC News and the top U.S. newspapers. Posted Monday through Friday right here at Compiled by ABC News Digital News Associates and Desk Assistants JACQUELINE NG FERNANDEZ, JAYCE HENDERSON, CLAUDIA MORALES and KATY CONRAD

TAX-CUT COMPROMISE The New York Times' Helene Cooper and David Sanger: " Obama Cites Afghan Gains as Report Says Exit Is on Track" The Obama administration plans to further step up attacks on Al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents in the tribal areas of Pakistan, to address one of the fundamental weaknesses uncovered in its year-end review of its Afghanistan war strategy. LINK

L.A. Times’ Paul West and Christi Parsons: “ Obama's tax-cut strategy may falter on other fronts” President Obama's year-end deal-cutting with Republicans, has come to represent what White House officials see as a successful template for the president's role on other issues heading into a contentious 2011. But as the tax deal was wrapping up , there were few indications that Washington's partisan divide has eased. If anything, the gulf is likely to widen as a new, more conservative Congress is sworn in. LINK

The Washington Post's Lori Montgomery and Shailagh Murray: " Congress passes extension of Bush-era tax cuts" Congress approved the most significant tax bill in nearly a decade late Thursday, overcoming liberal resistance to continue for two more years tax breaks enacted under president George W. Bush and to provide a fresh boost of federal support to the tepid economic recovery. LINK

Bloomberg’s Ryan J. Donmoyer and Peter Cohn: “ U.S. House Passes Tax-Cut Extension, Sends to Obama The U.S. Congress passed an $858 billion bill extending for two years all Bush-era tax cuts, sending the measure to President Barack Obama for his signature. LINK

The Wall Street Journal’s Janet Hook and John McKinnon: “ Congress Passes Tax Deal” Congress passed the most far-reaching tax bill in a decade late Thursday, averting across-the-board tax increases, enacting new breaks for individuals and businesses and laying a marker for how Washington might work in an era of divided government. LINK

USA Today: “ House sends tax cut bill to Obama” The House has given final approval to a bipartisan bill that will avoid a scheduled rise in income taxes for millions on Jan. 1. LINK

OMNIBUS BILL ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe: “ Reid Abandons Omnibus Bill Amid GOP Opposition” With Senate Republicans uniting against a massive $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill and threatening to demand a time-consuming oral reading of the 1,924-page measure, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tonight elected to ditch the controversial bill. In recent days, Republicans blasted the $8.3 billion of earmarks in the measure and vowed to force an oral reading of it on the Senate floor. That process could have taken up to 50 hours of the precious time left before Christmas. LINK

ETHICS PROBE The Washington Posts’ R. Jeffrey Smith and Carol D. Leonig: “ Ethics probe of Rep. Waters derailed by infighting, sources say” A lengthy House investigation of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has been derailed by infighting within the politically charged ethics committee over errors in building a case against her, according to congressional sources. The probe, opened in 2009, dissolved this fall and most likely will fall to a newly composed committee and possibly a new investigative staff. LINK

ELECTION 2012 Politico’s Alexander Burns: “ Spring start looms for 2012 race” Republican presidential hopefuls are increasingly looking toward the end of March and beginning of April as the right moment to announce their intentions for the 2012 campaign, signaling that the GOP nomination fight could be well underway by the time spring rolls around. Republicans say the campaign is still starting far more gradually than it did last cycle, when multiple candidates launched their bids shortly the November midterms. LINK

OVERSIGHT PANEL The Hill’s Susan Crabtree: “ Cummings gets nod from caucus to take top Dem spot on Oversight panel” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) faces the demanding and nearly impossible task of trying to rein in GOP plans to unleash hundreds of fresh investigations of Obama administration policies and programs. House Democrats chose Cummings as their ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee Thursday over Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) in a vote of 119-61, according to a Democratic source. LINK

DON’T ASK DON’T TELL The Boston Globe’s Matt Viser: “ Brown vows to support repeal of ‘don’t ask’ law” Senator Scott Brown said yesterday that he will support renewed efforts to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ policy, helping supporters secure the 60 Senate votes they would need to block a filibuster and pass a bill to allow gays to serve openly. LINK

ABC News Video: “Harry Reid Vows to Fight GOP and Obama on Earmarks” LINK “Judd Gregg: 'It's About Time' for Bipartisanship” LINK

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