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Legacy Content / EARLYBIRD

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Obama travels to Europe, while Fed rescue spending amount approaches GDP. Plus: Pakistani Taliban claim police attack, say D.C. attack in plans.

March 31, 2009

White House: Obama Heads To Europe

• "In his first presidential trip across the Atlantic, Barack Obama hopes to convince European allies that his young administration can improve the global economy and the United States' image," AP reports. "Obama's eight-day, five-country trip begins early" today, "sending him to meet with European leaders who split with the United States over the war in Iraq and the treatment of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay under President George W. Bush."

• "Making a last pitch for his budget," Obama "came to the Capitol to meet with House Democrats late Monday, even as the administration acknowledged it had been overly optimistic in its assessment of domestic funding under the Senate plan," Politico reports. "Obama appears to be making a calculated gamble that by blurring the lines with fellow Democrats, especially in the Senate, he can salvage what the White House seems to want most: a clear path to health care reform in this Congress."

Congress: Dodd Moves Fast On Credit Card Bill

• "Embattled Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) caught trade associations and fellow Democrats flat-footed by unexpectedly scheduling a markup of his credit card reform bill for" today -- "jumping a House markup on similar legislation by a day," Politico reports.

 

• "The House will vote this week to give its main investigative arm one of the smallest funding increases of any committee -- a sign that oversight of a Democratic administration isn't a leading priority for the Democratic Congress," The Hill reports. "The Oversight Committee, where Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) has pledged to bird-dog the $700 billion Wall Street bailout and the $787 billion economic stimulus plan, is getting a 3 percent increase."

• "The Congressional Black Caucus has some tough talk for the nation's first black president when it comes to rescuing the financial system: Don't forget minority-owned companies," Politico reports. "The CBC is trying to raise concerns about the barriers minority- and women-owned firms face in winning federal contracts to administer financial rescue programs."

National Security: Pakistani Taliban Claim Responsibility For Police Academy Attack

• "The commander of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility" today "for a deadly assault on a Pakistani police academy and said the group was planning a terrorist attack on Washington that would 'amaze' the world," AP reports. "Baitullah Mehsud, who has a $5 million bounty on his head from the U.S., said Monday's attack outside the eastern city of Lahore was in retaliation for U.S. missile strikes against militants along the Afghan border."

• "Four countries designated by the U.S. as terrorism sponsors, including Iran and Syria, received $55 million from a U.S.-supported program promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy, according to a report by Congress's investigative arm," the Wall Street Journal reports.

• "Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Obama administration has stopped using 'war on terror,' breaking with the Bush administration's terminology in describing the conflict with al Qaeda and militant Islam," the Wall Street Journal also reports. "Looking ahead to the one-day" U.N.-led conference on Afghanistan today, "Clinton said she expects Iran to work more closely with the international community in combating Central Asia's spiraling narcotics trade as a result of Tehran's participation in the meeting."

• "As the Pentagon's internal budget negotiations begin to wind down, the future looks bleak for the Army's Future Combat Systems, the service's ambitious $160 billion modernization effort that is widely expected to become a casualty of the FY10 budget," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

Economy: Fed Rescue Spending Approaches GDP

• "The U.S. government and the Federal Reserve have spent, lent or guaranteed $12.8 trillion, an amount that approaches the value of everything produced in the country last year, to stem the longest recession since the 1930s," Bloomberg News reports. "New pledges from the Fed, the Treasury Department and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. include $1 trillion for the Public-Private Investment Program, designed to help investors buy distressed loans and other assets from U.S. banks."

• "The U.S. recession may be easing, but the economy has not hit bottom yet and mounting unemployment looks likely to keep demand sluggish for a while," Reuters reports. "A slew of recent data -- including stronger-than-expected reports on orders for big-ticket manufactured goods, housing and retail sales -- has led many economists to declare that the worst of the 15-month, housing-led recession is over."

• "American International Group Inc., the company rescued four times by the U.S. government, is being probed by 50 state insurance regulators examining whether the firm violated rules governing workers' compensation sales," Bloomberg News also reports. "The watchdogs may decide to fine New York-based AIG or impose other penalties after the investigation is finished in June."

Politics: New York Special Election Expected To Reverberate

• "The outcome of" today's "special-election race in upstate New York will have major ramifications on party leaders inside the Washington Beltway," The Hill reports. "The party that wins the election to fill the House seat vacated by now-Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) will seize political momentum. But it will also inflate -- or puncture -- the power base of high-profile politicians on both sides of the aisle, including" Obama.

• "The number of Americans who believe that the nation is headed in the right direction has roughly tripled since" Obama's "election, and the public overwhelmingly blames the excesses of the financial industry, rather than the new president, for turmoil in the economy, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll."

• "Republicans begin the 2010 election cycle in a remarkably similar position to where they were in 1993 -- just one year before the GOP's historic sweep of Congress. At least on paper," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "But while on the surface the landscape is similar, a closer examination of today's Republican Party reveals significant weaknesses and a steeper climb back to the majority."

World: World Bank Announces New Trade Program

• "The World Bank announced a $50 billion program" today "to counter a decline in global trade and Britain called on G20 leaders to supply 'the oxygen of confidence' to save the world economy from recession," Reuters reports. "Leaders of the world's largest and developing economies meet in London on Wednesday and Thursday."

• "Two American journalists suspected of committing 'hostile acts' against North Korea and entering the country illegally will be indicted and put on trial, Pyongyang's state-run agency said" today, AP reports. "Euna Lee and Laura Ling, reporters for former Vice President Al Gore's San Francisco-based Current TV media venture, were detained by North Korean border guards March 17 during a reporting trip to China."

Technology: GAO Creates Online System To Report Fraud

• "The Government Accountability Office is seeking the public's help in ferreting out waste, fraud and abuse in Recovery Act spending," Nextgov reports. "On Monday, the watchdog agency urged citizens, government employees and federal contractors to use its FraudNet system to report potential mismanagement of stimulus funds. FraudNet is an e-mail, phone and fax hot line that processes allegations of waste at federal agencies and in government-funded programs."

• "Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. may have this response to the U.S. government's offer of $7.2 billion for high-speed Internet projects: Keep it," Bloomberg News reports. "Unlike the businesses that welcomed the $787 billion stimulus package approved by Congress last month, the two biggest U.S. phone companies have reservations. They're urging the government not to help other companies compete with them through broadband grants or to set new conditions on how Internet access should be provided."

Lobbying: War Over Card Check Continues

• "Republicans are still trying to kill it," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Democrats are still hoping to revive it. And forces on both sides of the debate over controversial union organizing legislation are still pressing ahead with multimillion dollar lobbying campaigns."

• "When Democrats acted last month to give the District of Columbia long-denied voting rights in Congress, the powerful gun lobby saw a target too good not to take a shot at," AP reports. "The result showed the strong sway the" National Rifle Association "has even over a Congress dominated by liberal Democrats who mostly disagree with the organization's positions. The Senate voted overwhelmingly to add the gun-rights proposal. House Democratic leaders, fearing a tough vote on the issue, swiftly scrapped plans to consider the D.C. voting legislation."

• "Two prominent watchdog groups are joining with a lobbyists trade association in asking the Obama administration to rescind lobbying restrictions surrounding stimulus funds," The Hill reports. "On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the American League of Lobbyists will release a letter they are sending to White House Counsel Gregory Craig asking him to rewrite new rules for the stimulus package."

Energy & Environment: Obama Pushes Jalopies-For-Hybrids Swap Plan

• "A concept embraced by President Obama on Monday as part his effort to save General Motors and Chrysler from collapse would provide cash to buyers of new fuel-efficient cars -- if they traded in a clunker," the New York Times reports.

• "The Environmental Protection Agency moved Monday to sharply curtail pollution from ships, proposing new emissions limits for large vessels in U.S. waters," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The EPA requested that the U.N.'s International Maritime Organization create a 230-mile buffer zone along the U.S. coasts, within which oil tankers and other large ships would face stricter regulations on air pollutants blamed for health problems. The new requirements would force shipping companies to switch to cleaner-burning fuels and make changes to their onboard engine systems."

• "After two years of campaign rhetoric and months of hearings, Congress is set this week to begin testing whether it can turn the push for renewable energy sought by President Obama into reality," the Washington Times reports. "But the result is likely to fall short of Mr. Obama's goals and, ironically, preserve the primacy of the most abundant and dirtiest fossil fuel: coal."

Health Care: Sebelius Hits The Hill For Confirmation Hearing

• "Obama's second choice for Health and Human Services secretary is getting ready to make her Senate debut," AP reports. "Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius [D] is expected to get a friendly reception from the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday."

• "The Obama administration set new terms for private Medicare plans that are aimed at protecting sick patients from paying high charges and giving consumers a clearer idea of what the plans cover," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The changes, announced Monday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that manages Medicare, are part of conditions that insurance companies must meet if they want to bid on Medicare insurance business this year."

• "The ban on lead in children's toys that Congress enacted last year is causing a partisan and personal fight among business groups, congressional Democrats and the leadership of the Consumer Product Safety Commission," CongressDailyPM (subscription) reports. "Business groups want Congress to re-evaluate the new consumer safety law... because the lead provision applies to an unexpectedly wide range of products."

Transportation: New FAA Chief Has Broad Support

• "Employee and industry groups have expressed support for Randy Babbitt, President Obama's choice to head the Federal Aviation Administration," Government Executive reports. "An aviation consultant and former head of the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA), Babbitt has worked for unions and company management -- experience that has won him the trust of both employee groups and management organizations."

• With Obama "showing the ailing U.S. auto industry some tough love Monday, Politico wondered -- what's in the driveways of White House aides? A lot of foreign cars, as it turns out. A survey of West Executive Drive, where White House staffers park, revealed only five American cars out of 23 --a Dodge Grand Caravan, two Ford Escapes, a Jeep Cherokee and a Cadillac."

Commentary: Obama's Car Talk

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, commentators debate the government's new role with the auto industry and debate the value of bankruptcy for General Motors and Chrysler.

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