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Legacy Content / EARLYBIRD

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House leaders release omnibus package, Obama to meet with Japanese PM, Locke rumored as Commerce nominee, AIG expected to see biggest quarterly loss in corporate history, North Korea says it will launch satellite.

February 24, 2009

• "House Democratic leaders Monday released a $410 billion omnibus package that, if approved, would wrap up appropriations for FY09, which started Oct. 1," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "It includes the nine spending bills Congress has not approved" as well as "thousands of member-directed spending earmarks... and would extend authorization through the end of the fiscal year for the Homeland Security Department's E-Verify program, which allows employers to check the citizenship status of employees."

• "In a town where dogs are offered as the best substitute for friends, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer and House Minority Whip Roy Blunt always appeared to be the rare exception," the Politico reports. "No one is saying the same about Hoyer and Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, Blunt's successor."

• "Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., is set to return to the Senate today the way he arrived last month: unwelcome," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "But now, as in those early days when there was talk that the Senate might not seat him, Burris insists he is sticking around. According to aides, he has no plans to resign and will attend the Democratic Caucus lunch today and President Obama's address to Congress tonight."

 

White House: Aso To Be First Foreign Leader Hosted By Obama

• "Barreling ahead on a mammoth agenda," Obama "is ready to offer a detailed sketch of the first year of his presidency, casting the nation's bleeding economy as a tangle of tough, neglected problems," AP reports. "In a prime-time speech from the House of Representatives, Obama will make his case Tuesday that much more has to be done to turn around the economy -- a message he knows he must explain."

• "While Obama enjoys worldwide popularity," Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso "is struggling to stay in power," AP reports. But "in selecting Aso as the first foreign leader to visit the Obama White House" today, "the new administration is interested less in giving him a boost than in sending a message... that Japan, a sometimes-neglected ally, remains a vital partner in addressing global economic and security crises."

• "After a four-hour 'fiscal responsibility summit' with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers," Obama "said he was paying attention to fiscal matters large and small," the Wall Street Journal reports. "He also announced a summit on health care next week at the White House, to follow the unveiling of a budget Thursday that will make room for his proposal to offer Americans near-universal health care."

Politics: Locke Rumored As Commerce Secretary Nominee

• "Republicans who made the trek to" Obama's summit "remained openly skeptical that the cooperative message promoted inside the White House would translate into actual policy under the Dome," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

• "If former Gov. Gary Locke" of Washington "is formally nominated as U.S. commerce secretary, he would bring a squeaky-clean image and experience with global trade to a job that President Obama has found difficult to fill," the Seattle Times reports.

• "Obama named Wall Street deal maker Steven Rattner to lead the team advising the White House on rescuing the U.S. car industry," the Wall Street Journal reports. "In recent weeks, the administration tamped down emphasis on a single" car czar, "deciding to instead create a panel called the Presidential Task Force on Autos led by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers."

Economy: AIG Expected To See $60 Billion Loss

• "American International Group, rescued twice last year by the U.S. government, is asking for more aid and bracing for a fourth-quarter loss of roughly $60 billion, a source familiar with the matter said," Reuters reports. "It would be the biggest loss in a quarter in corporate history."

• "The Obama administration" Monday "revamped the terms of its emergency aid to troubled financial firms, setting a course that could culminate with the government nationalizing some of the country's largest banks by taking a controlling ownership stake," the Washington Post reports.

• "General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC may need additional U.S. loans if they adopt terms similar to a proposed United Auto Workers agreement with Ford Motor Co. that cuts cash payments into a retiree health-care fund," Bloomberg News reports.

National Security: North Korea Says It Will Launch Satellite

• "North Korea said" today "it is preparing to shoot a satellite into orbit, its clearest reference yet to an impending launch that neighbors and the U.S. suspect will be a provocative test of a long-range missile," AP reports. "The statement from the North's space technology agency comes amid growing international concern that the communist nation is gearing up to fire a version of its most advanced missile -- capable of reaching the U.S. -- in coming days, in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution."

• "The first Guantanamo detainee released since" Obama "took office returned to Britain on Monday, saying his seven years of captivity and torture at an alleged CIA covert site in Morocco went beyond his 'darkest nightmares,'" AP reports.

• "Anybody want some top-secret seagoing vessels? The Navy has a pair it doesn't need anymore," the Wall Street Journal reports. "It has been trying to give them away since 2006, and they're headed for the scrap yard if somebody doesn't speak up soon."

World: Development Market In Eastern Europe Faltering

• "Well over half the exhibition halls in Iraq's National Museum are closed, darkened and in disrepair. And yet the museum, whose looting in 2003 became a symbol of the chaos that followed the American invasion, officially reopened on Monday," the New York Times reports. "Symbol it was, and symbol it remains -- not only of how much Iraq has improved, but of how far it has to go."

• "The development boom that turned Poland, Hungary and other former Soviet satellites into some of Europe's hottest markets is on the verge of going bust, raising worrisome new risks for the global financial system that may ricochet back to the United States," the New York Times reports.

• "Several hundred" Hutu rebels went home to Rwanda this month, the Washington Post reports. "Their decisions amount to fragile acts of faith that they will be able to let go of the divisive creed of the bush and find a place in a nation struggling to overcome the legacy of genocide. The effort also reflects a broader struggle within Rwandan society to forge a national identity stronger than the ethnic ones that pulled it apart."

Technology: Justice Pushes For Dismissal Of E-mail Suit

• "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is not out of the woods on one pending legal matter involving his presidential campaign. A federal district court in Los Angeles over the weekend declined to dismiss singer Jackson Browne's lawsuit against the senator and the Republican National Committee for the unauthorized use of his song 'Running On Empty' in a political Web video," the Washington Post reports.

• "The legal battle over the Bush administration's alleged failure to archive millions of e-mail messages has spilled over into the Obama administration, as the Justice Department continues to argue that the ongoing litigation should be dismissed," Federal Computer Weekly reports.

Transportation: Obama Set To Nationalize Auto Emissions Regulations

• "The Obama administration is considering establishing national rules for regulating greenhouse gas emissions for automobiles, according to White House officials, a move backed by both auto manufacturers and some environmentalists," the Washington Post reports. On Monday, "a White House official, who asked not to be identified because the policy has yet to be finalized, said" climate czar Carol Browner's "comments did not mean the administration was seeking to usurp Congress's role in regulating carbon dioxide and other emissions linked to global warming."

• "The chairmen of two House transportation panels Monday unloaded on the White House for its quick dismissal of Transportation Secretary" Ray LaHood's "suggestion that the federal gas tax be replaced with a miles-traveled levy as the main funding mechanism for road and bridge construction," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

Health Care: Annual Costs Top $8,000 Per Person, HHS Reports

• "Obama will make reforming the U.S. health-care system his top fiscal priority this year, administration officials said" Monday, "contending that reining in skyrocketing medical costs is critical to saving the nation from bankruptcy," the Washington Post reports. "The White House budget director, Peter Orszag, delivered a forceful argument for keeping Washington's focus, for now, on slowing 'the growth rate in health-care costs.'"

• "A new government report on medical costs paints a stark picture for Obama, who is expected to call for a health care overhaul in a speech Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress," AP reports. "Health care costs will top $8,000 per person this year, consuming an ever-bigger slice of a shrinking economic pie, says the report by the Department of Health and Human Services, due out Tuesday."

• "As President Obama rolls out his budget, and with it insight into his plans to overhaul the nation's healthcare system, House Democrats are plotting hearings and shaping their vision for providing universal health coverage -- which at least one House healthcare leader envisions will move incrementally rather than all at once," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

Energy: Reid Wants Feds To Direct Power Lines

• "Democrats' eagerness to boost the use of green energy appears set to collide with one of Washington's oldest maxims -- that all politics are local," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday that he plans to introduce legislation giving federal regulators greater power to approve the routes of transmission lines needed to convey electricity generated in remote rural areas to coastal population centers."

Lobbying: Embattled Firm Continues To Win Earmarks

• "Several clients of The PMA Group, which was raided by the FBI in November, are slated to receive earmarks worth at least $8 million in the omnibus spending bill funding the federal government through the rest of fiscal 2009, according to a list of projects put together by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)," The Hill reports.

• "Battered on Capitol Hill and skewered by the public, banks that took federal bailout dollars now face another obstacle: They can't make political action committee contributions to the chairmen of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and House Financial Services Committee," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

Commentary: Nationalization Talk

• Commentators in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section insist the administration address whether banks will be nationalized, while one senator hopes banks on Main Street are distinguished from those on Wall Street.

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