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EARLYBIRD

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House Democrats release mammoth energy policy bill while Obama and Medvedev prepare to reopen discussion on nuclear warheads. Plus: How much is left in TARP?

Politics: Coleman Pledges To Appeal Judges' Ballot Ruling

• "Norm Coleman's lawyers all but conceded defeat Tuesday and promised to appeal after a panel of three judges ordered no more than 400 new absentee ballots opened and counted, far fewer than the Republican had sought to overcome the lead held by DFLer Al Franken," the Star Tribune reports on the continuing Minnesota Senate recount.

• "Tuesday's special election in New York's 20th Congressional district" to replace Kirsten Gillibrand (D) "is too close to call and isn't likely to be resolved any time soon -- depriving both national parties of an immediate victory that they were looking forward to touting," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "With all precincts reporting in the 10-county upstate district shortly after 10:30 p.m., Democrat Scott Murphy was clinging to a 59-vote lead over Republican Jim Tedisco out of more than 154,000 votes cast."

 

• "Sarah Palin continues to have a rocky post-election season in the nation's capital," Politico reports. "Congressional Republicans are replacing their party's former vice presidential nominee as the headliner of their big spring fundraising dinner with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich after the Alaska governor vacillated publicly about the appearance, sources familiar with the situation said Tuesday."

Congress: House Democrats Introduce Comprehensive Energy Bill

• "The Democrats' two leading champions of action on global warming released a bill Tuesday that sets up a major legislative battle by seeking to reshape how the country produces and consumes energy," The Hill reports. "The 640-page-plus measure, introduced by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey (D-Mass.), leaves practically no issue relating to energy policy untouched."

• "Senate Republicans Tuesday focused their fire on the potential use of reconciliation to pass cap-and-trade legislation that Democrats might want to implement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "They appeared to momentarily trip up Democrats through an amendment offered by Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., that bars use of reconciliation for such legislation."

 

• "As he pushes to pass his spending blueprint this week, Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) is having a tough time balancing his core principles against the pressure of delivering for a popular Democratic president," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Conrad's strong belief in deficit and debt reduction has made him perhaps the most vocal and public face of Democratic dissent over President Barack Obama's budget plan."

White House: Obama Faces First World Diplomacy Test

• As Obama "sought to rally the world's powers to fix a lifeless global economy, the White House announced Wednesday that Obama and Russia's president were ready to negotiate on reducing both nations' nuclear arsenals," AP reports. "The flurry of diplomacy came as Obama stepped on the world stage for the first time as president, aiming to shore up both America's economy and its reputation across the globe."

• "Justice Department lawyers concluded in an unpublished opinion earlier this year that the historic D.C. voting rights bill pending in Congress is unconstitutional, according to sources briefed on the issue," the Washington Post reports. "But Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who supports the measure, ordered up a second opinion from other lawyers in his department and determined that the legislation would pass muster."

• "Kansas Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius Tuesday became the latest Obama administration Cabinet nominee to have tax problems come to light," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "The HHS secretary nominee informed the Senate Finance Committee that she and her husband paid $7,040 in back taxes and $878 in interest for 2005, 2006 and 2007 taxes after a review by a certified public accountant found the errors."

 

National Security: Russia, U.S. To Renegotiate Nuclear Arms Agreement

• "The United States and Russia have reached a deal to reopen talks about nuclear warheads, the first major arms discussions since 1997 and a potential breakthrough between the pair," AP reports. "Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev were set to announce the talks on Wednesday during their first meeting, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in London, site of the G20 summit. Both countries want to reduce the number of warheads, but no firm number has been reached."

• "Iraqi and American security officials say that jihadi and Baath militants are rejoining the fight in areas that are largely quiet now, regrouping as a smaller but still lethal insurgency," the New York Times reports.

• "The number of U.S. troops killed by hostile action in Iraq fell in March" to four, from February's 11, "the lowest level since the 2003 invasion, but total civilian deaths remained above January's low point," Reuters reports. "Iraqi Ministry of Health figures showed 180 civilians died violent deaths in March... the second lowest monthly toll since the invasion."

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• "The Uighurs have become something of a Guantánamo Rorschach test: hapless refugees to some, dangerous plotters to others," the New York Times repors. "For the Obama administration, the task of determining which of those portraits is correct and whether the men can be released inside the United States has raised the stakes for the president's plan to close the Guantánamo prison."

World: U.S., Iranian Officials Hold First Meeting

• "The Obama administration held its first high-level contact with Iran's government" in The Hague, "marking what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said could become closer cooperation between Washington and Tehran on Afghanistan and other global hot spots," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The brief meeting... involved Richard Holbrooke, the State Department's special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Medhi Akhundzadeh, Iran's deputy foreign minister."

• "The Obama administration has decided to join the United Nations Human Rights Council, reversing the Bush administration's decision to shun the body because of its refusal to criticize flagrant abuses of human rights," Politico reports. "Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice announced the decision Tuesday in a statement that said the U.S. goal was to make the council more effective."

Economy: Amount Of Remaining TARP Money Disputed

• "Doubters from Wall Street to K Street think Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is overestimating what's left in the $700 billion piggy bank Congress created to bail out the financial sector," The Hill reports. "Geithner has said Treasury still has $125 billion in the Troubled Asset Relief Program.... But the Washington-based Center for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates only $32 billion remains. RBS Greenwich Capital's chief economist estimates Geithner has only $15 billion left.... Dow Jones Newswire offers a $52.6 billion figure "

• "The outlook for the global economy worsened on the eve of a summit of the world's 20 biggest economic powers, as two international agencies warned that global output will fall in 2009 for the first time since World War II," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports.

Technology: Virtual Fence Tested On Canadian Border

• "The U.S. government is moving a 'virtual fence' to the border with Canada, testing technology aimed at detecting terrorists and drug traffickers," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday $30 million for a series of remote-camera towers at 16 sites near Detroit and Buffalo, N.Y."

• "The Treasury Department has launched a Web site so the public can track the administration's plans to fix the problems in the financial system," Federal Computer Week reports. "FinancialStability.gov, which launched March 30, helps users navigate financial charts, common terms, contracts and statistics to better understand how complex financial problems affect the economy."

• "House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher, D-Va., a central player on telecommunications policy, previously supported measures to bar broadband providers from creating fast lanes for proprietary content," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Now he wants to give what he calls negotiations a chance, striking a raw nerve with some advocates of a legislative solution."

Lobbying: Financial Industry, NRA Oppose Border Initiatives

• "Members of the U.S. financial industry and the National Rifle Association, two of the most influential lobbying forces on Capitol Hill, are trying to head off legislation in Congress that some say is needed to fight Mexican drug cartels and the threats they pose across the U.S. border," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "In separate efforts, the groups are building support on the Hill to oppose what they contend is unnecessary legislation to help prevent the drug cartels from obtaining illicit cash and weapons."

• "The health reform debate may be focused in Washington, D.C. -- but it's an obscure group in Seattle, with a top political operative in Vermont, that is shaping how Democrats try to win the fight," Politico reports. "Herndon Alliance is the most influential group in the health arena that the public has never heard of. Its work has flowed through the three major Democratic presidential campaigns and built a following among senior administration officials who receive its daily e-mail analysis of news clips."

• "Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is under increasing pressure from conservative Democrats to provide political cover from GOP calls for an investigation into PMA Group, a now-defunct defense lobby under firm scrutiny for questionable campaign donations and earmarks," The Hill reports. "Members of the conservative Blue Dog and centrist New Democrat coalitions are calling on Pelosi to fulfill her promise to set a new standard for congressional ethics by either shaking the ethics committee into action on the PMA controversy or providing an alternative resolution to the one offered repeatedly by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)."

Energy & Environment: GOP Gears Up For Energy Fights

• "After being branded the 'party of no' by Democrats, House Republicans are stockpiling ideas on an issue that allows them to keep saying 'yes' -- energy policy," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Instead of reviving the chants of 'drill, baby, drill' ... in the coming weeks, they will focus their criticism on a carbon cap-and-trade proposal they believe would raise taxes on consumers."

• "Nothing makes the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, madder than folks pushing for the storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Mr. Reid's home state," the New York Times reports. "So it was no small victory for Mr. Reid when Senator John McCain of Arizona, the former Republican presidential nominee and a big proponent of the nuclear storage area, declared on Tuesday that Yucca Mountain was no longer a realistic option given the opposition of the Obama administration."

Health Care: Debate Turns To How To Pay For Reform

• "Efforts to overhaul the health care system have moved ahead rapidly, with the insurance industry making several major concessions and the chairmen of five Congressional committees reaching a consensus on the main ingredients of legislation," the New York Times reports. "But members of Congress are just now turning to the most explosive issues, which could delay or derail the process. They have yet to tackle the question of how to pay for coverage of the uninsured."

• "Conflicting policies, inaccurate records, and uninformed commanders and medical providers all could play a role in the Army's deployment of soldiers medically unfit to serve, according to an Army inspector general's report," the Army Times reports.

• "America's Health Insurance Plans has approached physicians' groups in its effort to drum up congressional support to pressure the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to change payment rates it is poised to set for next year and that AHIP says will lead to higher premiums and reduced benefits for seniors," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

Commentary: Losing Faith In World Leaders?

• Skepticism and doubt surround the G-20 meeting in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section.

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