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Legacy Content / EARLYBIRD

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The House will vote on taxing AIG-like bonuses, while Obama will visit the Hill. Plus: The Fed and the president push for expanding government's power to seize financial companies.

March 25, 2009

Congress: House To Vote On Taxing Bonuses

• "Looking to put the controversy over bonuses to American International Group employees to rest, the House Financial Services Committee is slated to approve legislation today that would curtail bonuses for certain firms that participate in the Troubled Asset Relief Program," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "The panel will mark up legislation prohibiting any bonus to any employee regardless of when it was entered into, allowing Treasury to go back and get bonuses."

• "Key Democratic leaders were performing major surgery" Tuesday "on President Obama's first budget plan in an effort to bring skyrocketing annual deficits under control, while preserving the option of enacting some of the president's most significant and costly domestic priorities," the Washington Post reports. "They are scheduled to formally unveil" the outline today.

• "While the new Office of Congressional Ethics is finally in operation" a year after its authorization, "the office has little to show for its work and is encumbered by layers of secrecy," Politico reports. "It may be July at the earliest before the office reveals whether it has actually recommended any cases to the House ethics committee, and the specifics of its investigations will remain shrouded from public view."

 

White House: President To Meet With Senate Democrats

• "Obama sought to reassure Americans" during his prime-time press conference Tuesday night "that his administration has made progress in reviving the economy and said his $3.6 trillion budget is 'inseparable from this recovery,'" the Washington Post reports. Obama urged "the country to be patient as he works on issues as divergent as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the malign impact of lobbying in Washington."

• "Obama will arrive on Capitol Hill today for a meeting with Senate Democrats, but White House officials insist the session is not a hastily arranged Hail Mary pass for his increasingly beleaguered budget," the Roll Call (subscription) reports. "White House officials say the session is an effort by Obama to make good on a promise made privately to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that he would attempt to hold monthly meetings with their caucuses."

• "Civil liberties advocates are accusing the Obama administration of forsaking campaign rhetoric and adopting the same expansive arguments that his predecessor used to cloak some of the most sensitive intelligence-gathering programs of the Bush White House," the Washington Post reports. "The first signs have come just weeks into the new administration, in a case filed by an Oregon charity suspected of funding terrorism."

Economy: Obama, Fed Seek Authority To Seize Wobbling Firms

• "The Obama administration and the Federal Reserve, still smarting from the political furor over the" AIG bailout, "began a full-court press on Tuesday to expand the federal government's power to seize control of troubled financial institutions deemed too big to fail," the New York Times reports.

• "Efforts by President Obama and Democratic lawmakers to end tax breaks for 'corporations that ship jobs overseas' are being squeezed by major U.S. multinationals, and a senior Democratic tax-writer said the issue might have to wait for a broader tax reform discussion," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "About 200 companies and trade associations wrote to congressional leaders Tuesday urging them to oppose a move to end the current tax regime where companies are able to indefinitely defer tax on foreign earnings until the money is brought back to" the U.S.

• "Obama will meet with about a dozen top bank chief executives on Friday, including executives from JPMorgan & Co, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, two sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday," Reuters reports. "The meeting will come just days after the U.S. Treasury Department provided details on a government plan to cleanse banks' balance sheets of up to $1 trillion of distressed loans and securities."

National Security: Mexico Border In Spotlight

• "United States-Mexican relations are in the midst of what can be described as a neighborly feud," the New York Times reports. "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrives in Mexico" today "for what will be the first in a parade of visits by top administration officials, including President Obama himself next month, to try to head off a major foreign policy crisis close to home."

• "Senators are preparing to question senior Obama administration officials today over what they are doing to stop illicit cash from reaching Mexican drug cartels, often through U.S. financial reporting loopholes that law enforcement authorities say allow American dollars to fuel the escalating violence along the border," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "Nearing completion of a revamped strategy in Afghanistan, President Obama said Tuesday the United States will stay on the offensive in its determination to dismantle terrorist operations in the country even as it rethinks its goals in trying to end the 7-year-old war," AP reports. "The president did not divulge details of his administration's war review, which he said is not yet complete. It is expected to be unveiled as soon as this week."

Politics: Unions Continue 'Card Check' Battle Despite Losing Specter

• "Unions insisted they would keep fighting for the Employee Free Choice Act even after the deciding vote in the Senate sided with business groups Tuesday, leaving labor interests scrambling to shore up Democratic support and find another Republican defector," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., "was the only Republican to vote to end debate on EFCA when it came to the floor in 2007. He announced Tuesday he will not support it now because of the economy."

• "After suffering through perhaps the worst week of his Senate career, Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) on Tuesday looked to cloak himself in normalcy and move beyond the political drama that has put his re-election in peril," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

• "A rising star in the Republican Party has dimmed over the past week," The Hill reports. "House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), a politically shrewd up-and-comer in the GOP, has broken with his party on two high-profile issues. And the defections on last week's AIG bonus tax bill and the Obama administration's troubled assets plan have exasperated some members in the GOP conference."

World: Czech PM Reassures European Union Of Stable Presidency

• "Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek sought to assure Europe" today "that the fall of his government would have 'no impact' on its running of the EU presidency, before rushing back to Prague" and leaving his vice prime minister at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Agence France-Presse reports. "Topolanek's fragile centre-right government was toppled by a vote of no confidence in the Czech parliament on Tuesday."

• "Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu said" today "his government would be a 'partner for peace' with the Palestinians, but made no mention of their U.S.-backed quest for statehood," Reuters reports. "In a speech a day after enlisting the center-left Labor Party into a broad-based administration that could help him avoid friction with Washington over peacemaking, Netanyahu focused on his plans to shore up the Palestinian economy."

• "Afghanistan is hoping to attract foreign energy companies to look for oil and natural gas in the war-torn country," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The Afghan Ministry of Mines last week announced the first round of bidding to lease three tracts of land near the Turkmenistan border for exploration. The region, by virtue of its location in the far northwest of Afghanistan, is relatively isolated from the security problems that plague much of the country."

Technology: Homeland Security To Invest In Border Monitoring

• "Consumer groups want the Commerce Department to put open-access conditions on the $7 billion in economic stimulus funds for building new broadband networks," Federal Computer Week reports. "However, carriers say such provisions are counterproductive and hurt the goal of building networks quickly."

• "Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced a plan" Tuesday "to spend more than $100 million for technology to help stop the growing drug-related violence near the border between the United States and Mexico," Federal Computer Week reports. "DHS' effort is part of a larger plan the Obama administration announced today to deal with the problem."

Health Care: Electronic Systems Frustrating Military Doctors, Lawmakers Say

• "The electronic military health records system is so unreliable it may be reducing the number of patients seen by doctors and could be driving some health professionals to leave the services, according to key lawmakers," the Army Times reports.

• "Representatives from the insurance industry drew a line in the sand Tuesday on the Obama administration's proposed healthcare plan, after months of meetings and saying all the right things about finding common ground on reform," The Hill reports. "The two trade associations that represent health insurance companies declared in no uncertain terms their opposition to creating a new, government-run health benefits program, in a letter delivered to the top Democratic and Republican senators on the Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committees Tuesday."

• "The health insurance industry said Tuesday that it was willing to end the practice of charging higher premiums to sick people if Congress adopted a comprehensive plan that provided coverage to all Americans," the New York Times reports. "The industry's flexible position on the issue came as a surprise to lawmakers, and could make it easier to reach an agreement in Congress."

Energy: Unions, Businesses Lobby Against Cap-And-Trade

• "A mandate to require electric utilities to produce 25 percent of their power from renewable resources like wind and solar power has more than environmental benefits, according to a new analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), an environmental group," The Hill reports. "UCS's report said a so-called renewable portfolio standard (RPS) would create nearly 300,000 new jobs. What's more, it would save consumers $64.3 billion in lower electricity and natural-gas bills."

• "Union and business group officials on Tuesday warned a House panel against approving a cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gases that could further undermine the international competitiveness of the recession-damaged manufacturing sector in the U.S.," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "The Obama administration moved to block a mountaintop coal-mining project and said it will scrutinize more than a hundred mining permits to review concerns about waste dumped into rivers and streams," the Wall Street Journal reports.

Lobbying: Businesses Oppose Tax Reform On Foreign Earnings

• "Beer, wine and distilled spirits wholesalers are planning a counteroffensive to a White House budget proposal they claim may retroactively tax their businesses $100 billion or more," Roll Call (subscription) reports. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America "and other foes of the administration's budget are dusting off the LIFO Coalition to help beat back" Obama's "proposed repeal of 'last in, first out' accounting."

• "Efforts by President Obama and Democratic lawmakers to end tax breaks for 'corporations that ship jobs overseas' are being squeezed by major U.S. multinationals, and a senior Democratic tax-writer said the issue might have to wait for a broader tax reform discussion," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "About 200 companies and trade associations wrote to congressional leaders Tuesday urging them to oppose a move to end the current tax regime where companies are able to indefinitely defer tax on foreign earnings until the money is brought back to the United States."

Transportation: Rockefeller Likes The View From The Top

• "It took more than 20 years for Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) to rise to the top of one of the most powerful committees in the Senate," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "But just three months after taking the gavel of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Rockefeller is reinvigorating the business-oriented panel -- and increasing his fundraising operation to match his newfound clout on Capitol Hill."

• "The Obama administration is trying to quickly resuscitate a program Congress killed last week allowing some Mexican trucks to operate in the United States but is facing stiff resistance from unions, environmentalists, truckers and their congressional allies," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "Randy Babbitt, a prominent aviation consultant and former head of the largest U.S. commercial-pilot union, is expected to be nominated as the next head of the Federal Aviation Administration, according to industry officials and others familiar with the matter," the Wall Street Journal reports.

Commentary: Moderate Dems Stick Up For Themselves

• Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana, Tom Carper of Delaware and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas take to the Washington Post op-ed page to defend their working group of 16 moderate Democratic senators, in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section.

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