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EARLYBIRD

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Senate blocks reconciliation for a cap-and-trade bill, while Obama meets with South Korea's president on the North Korean launch crisis. Plus: U.S. weighs the credibility of a Taliban threat to attack D.C.

Congress: Senate Blocks Reconciliation For Cap-And-Trade Bill

• "Democrats Wednesday might have lost some flexibility in how they approach reconciliation instructions in the FY10 budget resolution when the Senate approved an amendment to prevent the use of reconciliation to pass cap-and-trade legislation that Democrats hope to implement to combat climate change," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "The amendment, passed 67-31, was offered by Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb."

• "House Democrats keep clawing away at those troublesome AIG bonuses, with little evidence that the Senate is going to fast track a bill to rip away the payouts," Politico reports. A new bill focused on American International Group "passed the House Wednesday on a largely party-line vote, 247-171. The measure would retroactively prohibit bailout recipients from paying certain kinds of bonuses until they've returned all the taxpayer money from the bailout."

 

• "President Barack Obama's choice to lead the U.S. healthcare system appears headed for confirmation, ready to rally insurers, lawmakers, hospitals and patients behind an ambitious overhaul agenda," Reuters reports. "Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius [D] will testify" today "before the Senate Finance Committee, and committee Chairman Max Baucus," D-Mont., "said he expected her to get the job."

White House: U.S., South Korea Agree To Cooperate On North Korean Launch

• "Obama and his South Korean counterpart agreed" today "on the need for a 'stern, united' international response if North Korea goes ahead with a planned rocket launch," AP reports. "Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak met on the sidelines of a 20-nation summit on the economic crisis."

• "Obama pushed the 'reset' button on U.S. diplomatic relations with some of the nation's most powerful partners Wednesday. He agreed to visit Russia and China this year and heralded 'a kinship of ideals' with Great Britain before today's make-or-break" Group of 20 summit, USA Today reports. "Topping that list was an agreement with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to work toward a new strategic arms treaty that would replace one that expires at the end of the year."

 

• "In his first full day in Europe, President Obama conceded Wednesday that the United States had 'some accounting to do' for failures that led to the world's financial crisis, even as he tried to brush past heavy pressure from Germany and France to accept global financial regulations that could reach well inside American borders," the New York Times reports.

Economy: Global Economy Sees Slight Improvement As G-20 Meets

• "The Group of 20 summit convened in London as some reports suggest the pace of decline is easing," Bloomberg News reports. "U.S. durable-goods orders and home sales rose in February, Chinese urban investment surged 26.5 percent in the first two months of the year, and German investor confidence in March reached its highest level since July 2007."

• "Although the U.S. economy is expected to return to growth later this year, there is a danger of a second recession if monetary easing and a weak dollar leads to increased inflation expectations, a report said on Wednesday," Reuters reports. "The Fed's moves to boost the economy by slashing interest rates and buying up billions in government debt could have undesired consequences, The Conference Board, a private research group, said in the report."

• "General Motors Corp. director Erskine Bowles offered to resign as the Obama administration seeks changes on the board of the government-supported automaker, a person with knowledge of the matter said," Bloomberg News reports. "Several directors offered to resign during a March 27 board meeting and agreed to stay while replacements are selected, said another person familiar with the situation."

 

Politics: Senate Recount May Pose Dilemma For Pawlenty

Politico reports on the "no-win predicament" facing Tim Pawlenty (R), the Minnesota governor and a possible 2012 presidential candidate, in his state's Senate recount between Al Franken and Norm Coleman. If Franken is still leading after Coleman's appeal to the state Supreme Court, "Pawlenty will have a choice: sign the election certificate that will allow Democrats to seat Franken in the Senate or play to the Republicans whose support he'd need in 2012 by withholding the certificate while Coleman challenges the election in the federal court system."

• "Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) shifted his guns Wednesday in the ongoing battle over Minnesota's vacant Senate seat," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Rather than blaming" Coleman "for trying to make up a 225-vote deficit... via the courts, Reid's chief spokesman, Jim Manley, charged that" National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn of Texas "is responsible for a legal fight that has left Minnesota with just one Senator since January."

• "Senate Republicans early this year roughed up Eric Holder in the run-up to his confirmation as attorney general by questioning his independence, but they are loving him now," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "He has now gone from early target to near hero after he announced Wednesday that the Justice Department was dropping all charges against former Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska."

National Security: U.S. Evaluates Credibility Of Threat Against D.C.

• "U.S. officials are studying whether a Pakistani Taliban leader blamed for the assassination of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto poses a credible threat to the United States, a top U.S. military official said on Wednesday," Reuters reports. "On Tuesday the Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud... warned that Washington may be attacked for offering $5 million for information leading to his location or arrest."

• "President Felipe Calderón is rapidly escalating the Mexican army's role in the war against drug traffickers, deploying nearly 50 percent of its combat-ready troops along the U.S.-Mexico border and throughout the country, while retired army officers take command of local police forces and the military supplies civilian authorities with automatic weapons and grenades," the Washington Post reports.

• "The disclosure Wednesday that illegal immigrants in Seattle were given permission to work in the country has triggered alarms on Capitol Hill that the Obama administration is making a fundamental shift in the enforcement of the nation's immigration laws," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "A withering internal report made public on Wednesday criticized the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for bureaucratic bloat, financial mismanagement and a failure to end the turf battles among America's spy agencies that led to disastrous intelligence failures in recent years," the New York Times reports.

World: Japan Mobilizes In Anticipation Of North Korea Launch

• "North Korea says it will attack the Japanese military and 'major targets,' if Japan shoots down a rocket Pyongyang plans to launch in the coming days, North Korea's state-run news service, KCNA, reported" today, CNN News reports. "Japan recently mobilized its missile defense system in response to the planned North Korean launch, Japanese officials said."

• "In a blunt and belligerent speech on his first day as Israel's new foreign minister, the hawkish nationalist Avigdor Lieberman declared Wednesday that 'those who wish for peace should prepare for war' and that Israel was not obligated by understandings on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reached at an American-sponsored peace conference in late 2007," the New York Times reports.

Technology: Internet Gambling Bill Will Be Entered On Its Own

• "The main proponent of a bill to regulate Internet gambling will introduce his legislation as a standalone bill and will not seek to add it to must-pass legislation," The Hill reports. "The decision by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, means it will be much more difficult for his measure to emerge from Congress."

Jock Friedly "became the scourge of Capitol Hill by creating LegiStorm.com, a Web site that makes it super-easy to look up the annual salaries and financial disclosures of congressional staffers," the Washington Post reports. "All this stuff is public information, mind you. But it used to be a pain to find."

Lobbying: 'Card Check' Supporters Easy On Obama -- So Far

• "Labor leaders are giving" Obama "a pass -- for now -- on his failure to put 'card check' legislation at the top of his to-do list, but they are preparing to demand immediate action if" Franken "is seated as Minnesota's Senator," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

• "Call it one of the hardest lobbying jobs in town: Seven banks have formed a coalition to argue that Congress should not go overboard in regulating the derivatives market following" AIG's downfall, CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "The challenge for the group is to change the narrative from AIG to the downside that proposed restrictions would have on businesses across the country in the face of the worldwide credit crunch."

• "Payday lenders are girding for a million-dollar lobbying campaign this year to beat back legislation on Capitol Hill that would put federal restrictions on the industry for the first time," The Hill reports.

Energy & Environment: U.S. Helping UAE Go Nuclear

• "The mating of the words 'nuclear' and 'Persian Gulf' normally sets off alarm bells in Washington," the Wall Street Journal reports. Yet the United Arab Emirates "is on a crash course to develop nuclear power with U.S. backing. Dozens of American engineers, lawyers and businessmen have converged on Abu Dhabi in recent months to help the" UAE "get the Arab world's first nuclear-power program running by 2017."

• "A recent increase in hiring contract specialists at the Energy Department has done little to offset a growing demand for their skills and meet the unprecedented requirements of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to a special report by the department's inspector general," Government Executive reports. "In February, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced plans to expedite stimulus spending at the department, citing a sense of urgency created by rising unemployment."

Health Care: FDA Delays Contaminated Food Registry

• "Despite a massive and deadly salmonella outbreak in peanuts and now recalls of pistachios for the same foodborne pathogen, FDA is again delaying a registry meant to be up and running last summer that would track contaminated foods and serve as an early warning system," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "Richard L. Scott is unusual in these tough economic times: a rich, conservative investor willing to spend freely on a political cause," the New York Times reports. "Mr. Scott is starring in his own rotation of advertisements against the broad outlines of President Obama's health care plans."

• "There's a move afoot in Congress to ban the chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, from food and beverage containers," the Wall Street Journal reports. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., "introduced similar bills last month to ban the chemical, which has been linked to breast and prostate cancers and reproductive problems in animals, from all food and beverage containers, and Sen. Charles Schumer," D-N.Y., "introduced a bill Tuesday that would ban it from food and beverage containers for infants and toddlers."

Commentary: Early Lessons From New York

• Commentators in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section discuss the larger implications following an Election Day deadlock in New York's 20th Congressional District.

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