Pres. Barack Obama

A confidential Justice Department memo obtained by NBC News outlines legal theories the Obama administration has used to justify killing American citizens abroad. Here are five key questions and answers about the document:

1) What is it?

(We updated the top of this post at 1:30 p.m. ET.)

Looking to head off deep, automatic spending cuts set to kick in on March 1, President Obama on Tuesday afternoon said that to avoid the negative economic effects that come with "political disfunction," Congress should move quickly to pass "a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms" that won't hurt the economy.

The United States Senate voted today to confirm Sen. John Kerry as the next secretary of state.

Just five days ago, Kerry, a democratic senator from Massachusetts, testified before the committee he chaired. As NPR's Michele Kelemen reported at the time, the hearing was a love fest.

Kerry is decorated Vietnam war veteran and the son of a diplomat. He has served in the Senate since 1985.

Update at 3:06 p.m. ET. 'Now Is The Time':

Talking to an audience in Las Vegas, an upbeat President Obama said that "now is the time" for "common sense comprehensive immigration reform."

While Obama echoed the pillars of immigration reform presented by a bipartisan group of senators on Monday, he also made an emotional plea for reform.

"What makes somebody American," he said, "is not just blood or birth, but allegiance to our founding principles."

Inauguration day is a day of pomp and circumstance. It’s when the president assumes the position of Commander-in-Chief to resounding applause and throngs of admirers. For some presidents it’s a breeze. Yet, even on his second go of an inauguration, President Barack Obama still managed to draw a frenzy of action, insanity, and triviality to accompany his second Oath of Office.

Obama’s speech clocked-in at just over 2,400 words, which was almost equal to his 2008 word count (but nowhere near as brief as George Washington’s second inauguration at 135-words). But for Obama's second inauguration, the weirdness ran long.

Update at 9:05 p.m. ET Michelle Obama's Dress

NBC News is reporting that the first lady is wearing a custom Jason Wu ruby-colored chiffon and velvet gown, Jimmy Choo shoes and a ring by Kimberly McDonald to the Commander in Chief Ball. The White House said that the outfit and accompanying accessories will go to the National Archives at the end of the inaugural events.

Our original post:

President Obama began his second term with an unapologetically liberal inaugural address, calling on Americans to work together to preserve entitlements, address climate change and extend civil rights.

"Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play," the president said. "Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable and protect its people from life's worst hazards and misfortune."

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.

Four years ago, when the nation's first African-American president was inaugurated, even conservative editorial cartoonists marked the moment with reverence.

As Scott Stantis, now of the Chicago Tribune, tells All Things Considered host Audie Cornish: "There are times in our history where we can just take half a step back from our partisanship and revel in the history and wonder of something."

Liang Shi for KUT

President Obama’s call today for a series of stronger gun control measures met with immediate opposition here in Texas.

Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement calling for prayer and said that “guns require a finger to pull the trigger.”

Gun advocates, like Bill Titus of the Texas Concealed Handgun Association, criticized the efficacy and intent of President Obama’s proposals.

At a White House event with children who wrote him letters after the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., President Obama today said the nation cannot wait any longer to do what can be done to reduce gun violence.

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:

Update at 1:25 p.m. ET. Announcement on Wednesday:

The White House says President Obama and Vice President Biden will unveil the steps they intend to take and legislation they recommend to reduce gun violence at 11:45 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

Our original post:

At a news conference dominated by discussion of what's expected to be Washington's next big political battle, President Obama insisted Monday that he will not let Republicans tie an increase in the federal government's borrowing limit to negotiations over cuts in future federal spending.

American and coalition forces will move into a "support" role in Afghanistan starting this spring, President Obama announced Friday afternoon at the White House during a joint news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Obama said Afghan soldiers "are stepping up" and U.S. forces can now step back.

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

After Vice President Biden said Wednesday that the Obama administration might take some executive actions on the issues of guns and gun-related violence, questions naturally arose:

What kinds of things was he talking about? What might the administration do that doesn't require Congressional action?

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.