Technology: Digital TV Transition Hampered By Budget Snafu
"A last-minute funding snag could leave hundreds of thousands of residents permanently on hold when they try to reach operators at an FCC hotline intended to provide assistance with the June 12 transition to digital television signals," Nextgov reports. "With only nine days to go before the remaining 974 TV stations operating in analog go all-digital, the FCC disclosed today that it needs $10 million to ensure that 4,000 operators are available to handle inquiries through June 22."
"Public interest groups praised Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) decision Wednesday to put Members' official expenditures online, but they cautioned that the usability of such a system remains to be seen," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "For years, that information has been available only in large books, and each quarter produces thousands of pages of information. Though the books are open to the public, anyone interested in their contents has to trek to the Capitol complex or place an order with the Government Printing Office."
"A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed lawsuits targeting the nation's telecommunication companies for their participation in President George W. Bush's once-secret electronic eavesdropping program," Wired reports. "In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker upheld summer legislation protecting the companies from the lawsuits. The legislation, which then-Sen. Barack Obama voted for, also granted the government the authority to monitor American's telecommunications without warrants if the subject was communicating with somebody overseas suspected of terrorism."
Lobbying: Tech Companies Snapping Up Republican Talent
"Google's recruitment of Seth Webb, the House Financial Services Committee's second-most senior Republican aide, is the latest in a string of recent GOP hires by major high-tech companies in Washington," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "The trend, some policy watchers believe, demonstrates the tech lobby hasn't shied away from wooing Republicans even as much of K Street has augmented its Democratic workforce since Obama took office."
"As the Obama administration works to put the finishing touches on plans for a major revamp of financial services regulations, a who's who of the sector's top lobbyists and high-level representatives are making the rounds this week at Treasury and the White House," Roll Call (subscription) reports.
"The U.S. House approved by a wide margin an effort to force the ethics committee to report within 45 days on what actions, if any, it has taken to examine an escalating federal investigation involving at least one senior House Democrat and a defunct defense lobbying firm," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Democrats are under increasing political pressure to respond following a series of subpoenas issued last Friday to employees in both the congressional and campaign offices of Rep. Peter Visclosky (D., Ind.) regarding the lawmaker's relationship with the defunct lobbying firm, PMA Group."
Energy: Chu Learned Of Nuclear Leak In Press
"Energy Secretary Steven Chu conceded on Wednesday he was caught off guard by the unauthorized dissemination of 'highly confidential' documents showing the whereabouts of stockpiles of nuclear weapons and fuel," Government Executive reports. "At a House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Chu acknowledged that he learned about Monday's release of 'highly confidential material' on a Web site devoted to federal secrecy issues from media reports."
Pelosi "on Wednesday issued an ultimatum to her committee chairmen: move climate change legislation by June 19 or risk losing jurisdiction over the bill," The Hill reports. "By imposing the deadline, Pelosi (D-Calif.) is asserting her authority over Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), among others, in an effort to unhinge her signature issue, which has been mired in intra-party politics."
Health Care: Obama Pushes For Public Plan Option
"The push for health care reform continued Wednesday, with" Obama "making his biggest stand yet in favor of a public plan as battle lines continued to sharpen between Democrats and Republicans on both sides of Capitol Hill," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "In a letter to Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) sent late Tuesday following a series of meetings on health care at the White House, Obama made clear he expects to see a reform bill on his desk this year and stepped up his demand that a government-run, public plan option be included in the legislation."
"In the 2008 cycle, pharmaceutical companies gave the two parties about $14.5 million each, and this year the industry has given $714,000 to Republicans and $721,000 to Democrats," The Hill reports. "But the industry's main lobbying arm in Washington is now going beyond writing a check. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, better known as PhRMA, spent the congressional recess running advertisements thanking four vulnerable Democratic freshmen for their early work in Congress."
"Margaret A. Hamburg, the new commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, plunged on Wednesday into the contentious debate over how to fix the nation's food safety system," the New York Times reports. "In her first appearance before Congress as commissioner, Dr. Hamburg told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health that a safety overhaul sponsored by several leading Democrats was 'a major step in the right direction,' but that her agency would need more money to carry it out."