Update at 1:40 p.m. ET: Saying that American men and women are "fighting and dying together and the time has come for our policies to recognize that reality," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta confirmed Thursday afternoon that the Pentagon's rule banning women from combat positions is being rescinded.

Panetta said that as the Pentagon works through how to implement the change, the goal will be to "eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service."

Update at 1:25 p.m. ET: By a vote of 285-144, the House just passed a Republican plan that postpones for three months the federal government's next bump up against the so-called debt ceiling.

As we said earlier, the measure would head off another big battle over raising the government's borrowing authority — such as the one in 2011 that almost led to a government shutdown.

Update at 3:30 p.m. ET. Clinton Testifies Before House Committee:

One of the defining moments of Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state was her strong advocacy for U.S. military intervention that helped oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

But as she prepared to step down from the post, she faced a grilling from Republicans in both the House and the Senate over what went wrong in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, when four Americans were killed, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Map Data @2013 Google

There's been a lot of confusion in the aftermath of the four-day long hostage crisis at a remote Algerian natural gas production facility. KUT News takes a look at the information and tries to sort out the information relevant to Texas.

The siege ended in a violent standoff Saturday, after security forces stormed the natural gas production facility, leaving a preliminary count of 58 hostages dead. That number is likely to go up as more information becomes available. The New York Times reports “there are a good 20 bodies,” some badly burned, left to be identified.

Details are murky about who survived and who was lost during the siege, but what is known is that out of the reported 685 Algerian and 107 foreign workers at the plant, at least four Texans have been linked to the crisis.

Good morning.

Though he and the vice president have already taken their oaths of office, President Obama is due this noon to stand outside the Capitol for his ceremonial swearing in and then to deliver his second inaugural address.

States aren't likely to prevent many shootings by requiring mental health professionals to report potentially violent patients, psychiatrists and psychologists say.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar intends to step down at the end of March, his office confirms to NPR's Jeff Brady.

Word of Salazar's plan broke over night. According to The Denver Post, the former senator from Colorado intends to "return to Colorado to spend time with his family."

As the Post writes:

After nearly two months in a Houston hospital, where he spent some of the time in intensive care for treatment of complications related to bronchitis, an infection and a stubborn fever, former President George H.W. Bush was sent home today.

Vice President Joe Biden is getting ready to make recommendations on how to reduce gun violence in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

But he says his task force is facing an unexpected obstacle: slim or outdated research on weapons.

Public health research dried up more than a decade ago after Congress restricted the use of some federal money to pay for those studies.

A Researcher Under Fire

If you've gotten the "Death Spiral" email that's apparently been arriving in many inboxes, here's the verdict from two major, nonpartisan fact checkers:

It is NOT true, as the email claims, that in 11 states there are more people on welfare than there are working.

The debunkers: both PolitiFact.com and FactCheck.org.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has sent President Obama the invitation that precedes each year's State of the Union address:

Attorney General Eric Holder, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki plan to remain with President Obama's administration as his second term begins, according to a White House official. The news that the three will remain in their current posts comes amid the departure of other Cabinet officials, including Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who submitted her resignation today.

Update: At 6 a.m. ET. Jan. 10, White House Announcement:

The White House has officially confirmed that President Obama will nominate his chief of staff, Jacob "Jack" Lew, to be the next Treasury secretary. According to a statement, the announcement is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET today (Thursday).

NPR's Scott Horsley had more about the nomination on Morning Edition.

After nearly a month of health problems that culminated with a stay in a New York City hospital for treatment of a blood clot in a vein between her brain and her skull, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was back in her office Monday morning.

The State Department released a photo of the 65-year-old, soon-to-be-retired Clinton chairing a weekly meeting of assistant secretaries.

President Obama this afternoon nominated former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., to be his next defense secretary and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

In those two, the president said, he has chosen men with experience in the field and who "understand the consequences of decisions we make in this town" on the men and women who serve America around the world,

President Obama will announce today that he plans to nominate John Brennan to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, an administration official with knowledge of the decision tells NPR's Tom Bowman.

This week saw both a frantic finale to the much-unloved 112th Congress and, hours later, the swearing in of the new 113th. The cast of lawmakers and their leaders is mostly unchanged. The same can be said for Capitol Hill's never-ending drama over taxes, deficits and spending.

What was arguably this week's most sensational congressional moment did not even take place in Washington. On Wednesday in Trenton, N.J., Republican Gov. Chris Christie blasted the GOP-led House for closing down the last Congress without even considering a Superstorm Sandy disaster relief bill.

Update at 1:30 p.m. ET: The counting is done and as expected, President Obama and Vice President Biden collected all 332 Electoral College votes they earned on Election Day. Their Republican opponents, Mitt Romney and running mate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, received 206 votes each.

Since it takes 270 Electoral College votes to be elected, the president and vice president have indeed been returned to office.

Update at 2:17 p.m. ET. Passage In The Senate:

The Senate just passed, by unanimous agreement, a bill that injects more than $9 billion into the insurance program that will assist those hit hard by Superstorm Sandy last October.

President Obama had urged passage and is expected to quickly sign the bill.

Our original post:

Todd Wiseman via Texas Tribune

The political action committee for Waste Control Specialists, which is owned by Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, was fined Wednesday by the Texas Ethics Commission over illegal political contributions. 

The PAC illegally donated nearly $65,000 to 18 state lawmakers — 15 Republicans and 3 Democrats — in 2011, shortly after the organization was formed. At the time, Simmons was the only contributor to the PAC. Texas elections code requires a PAC to have at least 10 donors before it makes a political contribution.