White House: Estimated Deficit Would Be Highest Since 1945
• "The Obama administration said Monday that it expected even wider deficits this year and next than previously forecast, and Congress could undermine the administration's push to narrow the gap by slashing the revenue generated by the president's plan to curb greenhouse gases," the Wall Street Journal reports. "On Monday, White House budget director Peter Orszag revised the fiscal 2009 deficit upward by $89 billion to $1.84 trillion, 12.9% of the economy. That is a level not seen since 1945."
• The administration signaled Monday "that it would take an aggressive stand against companies that engage in anti-competitive behavior, reversing looser policies of the past eight years that critics called friendly toward big firms," the Washington Post reports. "Christine Varney, head of the antitrust division at the Justice Department, announced that the agency would revoke a 2008 report that made it difficult to pursue antitrust cases against corporations."
• "In his quest to transform American health care, President Obama appeared" Monday "to put his faith in pledges from some of the interest groups that helped scuttle reform 15 years ago," the Post reports. "But many offered a cautionary note that warm words from the industry cannot be mistaken for enforceable policy changes."
Congress: Senators Reach Compromise On Credit Cards
• "Consumers who are paying more in interest because they have fallen behind on their credit-card bills could regain their older, lower rates if they pay their bills on time for six months, under a compromise proposal reached by senators seeking changes in laws governing the credit card industry," AP reports.
• "Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) has called on the intelligence community to declassify documents showing what certain members of Congress were told about the harsh interrogation techniques employed in the war on terrorism," The Hill reports. "In a letter to CIA Director Leon Panetta and National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair on Friday, Hoekstra... asked that the so-called Memoranda for the Record (MFR) he reviewed last week be released."
• "Usually a master of message discipline," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., "has been thrown off balance by a mounting firestorm over whether she or her staff learned six years ago that intelligence officials were using extreme tactics such as waterboarding," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "For weeks, the Speaker has insisted she didn't, though a declassified report last week suggested otherwise."
National Security: Soldier In Custody After Shooting Spree On Iraqi Base
• "A U.S. soldier was in custody after allegedly gunning down five fellow troops Monday at a counseling center on a military base in Baghdad, officials said, in the worst incident of its kind since the Iraq war began," the Los Angeles Times reports. "An investigation was underway, the military said in a brief statement. The names of the suspect and victims were not immediately released."
• "Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced" Monday "that he had requested the resignation of the top American general in Afghanistan, Gen. David D. McKiernan, making a rare decision to remove a wartime commander at a time when the Obama administration has voiced increasing alarm about the country's downward spiral," the Washington Post reports.
• The Wall Street Journal profiles Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Gates' pick to take over the war in Afghanistan.
World: Fighting Intensifies In Sri Lankan War Zone
• "A mortar shell struck the only functioning medical facility in Sri Lanka's northern war zone today, killing 47 patients and bystanders and wounding more than 50 others, rebels and a health worker said," AP reports. "The attack came after a weekend of heavy shelling that killed hundreds of civilians, which the United Nations labeled a 'blood bath.'"
• "Pakistani commandos dropped into a key Taliban stronghold in the Swat valley" today, "stepping up a punishing offensive against militants that has displaced more than 360,000 people," Agence France-Presse reports. "Troops opened up a new front in the district's northern mountains, the suspected stronghold of firebrand Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah and his top lieutenants behind a nearly two-year uprising that has devastated the area."
• "Thousands of residents of Somalia's capital are fleeing as the death toll from fighting in Mogadishu rises," BBC News reports. "A local human rights group estimates more than 120 have died in recent days. On Monday, Somalia's President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed blamed radical Islamists for the renewed bloodshed."
• "Pursuing what he called a 'journey of faith', Pope Benedict XVI visited sites holy to Muslims and Jews here" today, "removing his red shoes at the Dome of the Rock before praying briefly in silence at the Western Wall sacred to Jews," the New York Times reports. "The tranquil moment... offered a counterpoint to his first day in Israel on Monday, which seemed to underscore the tensions in the region rather than ease them."
Politics: Senate Dems Feel Pinch Of Low Wall Street Fundraising
• "Senate Democrats are losing their fundraising edge on Wall Street, seeing less money for candidates at a time when the party's liberal wing is demonizing billions of dollars in taxpayer bailouts to banks," The Hill reports. "The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) raised $10.4 million through the first three months of this year, compared with $9.6 million raised by its Republican counterpart."
• In the Minnesota Senate recount, "Democrat Al Franken's attorneys asked the state Supreme Court Monday to order Gov. Tim Pawlenty [R] to sign an election certificate once the court rules on Republican Norm Coleman's appeal," Minnesota Public Radio reports. "Pawlenty has questioned whether he's required to sign the certificate if the loser goes on to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or files another election lawsuit in federal court."
• "The expected announcement" today "by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist that he's running for the Senate would seem to be a rare bit of good news for beleaguered Republicans," Politico reports. "But while Crist is a brand-name recruit with sky-high approval ratings and bipartisan appeal, his path to keeping the seat of retiring Sen. Mel Martinez in GOP hands has at least one significant roadblock: Sunshine State conservatives."
• "What is almost certain as a May 19 special election for Southern California's 32nd Congressional District approaches is that" Labor Secretary Hilda Solis' "successor will be a liberal Democrat with strong ties to organized labor," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "But the more intriguing subplot centers on ethnicity."
Technology: Wikileaks Frustrates Library Of Congress
• "Earlier this year, Wikileaks put more than 6,000 Congressional Research Service reports online, spawning excitement in the blogosphere, ire from some Members and an investigation by the inspector general of the Library of Congress," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "But three months later, the reports are still online and the culprit is unknown."
• "Cloud computing will play a major role in modernizing the federal government's technology infrastructure, according to a White House document published" Monday "with the administration's 2010 budget request," Federal Computer Week reports. "Cloud computing refers to an arrangement in which an organization pays a service provider to deliver applications, computing power and storage via the Web. Under the White House's plan, several agencies could access a common application from the cloud."
Lobbying: Defense Contractors Cut K Street Spending
• "Several major defense contractors reduced their lobbying expenditures in the first quarter of 2009, even as the companies are quietly trying to reverse" Obama's "proposal to slash the budget for several high-profile military aircraft," Roll Call (subscription) reports.
• "Utilities, steelmakers and oil industry lobbyists have tried to ease the pain of" Obama's "push to curb global warming, and they've gotten an early return on the millions of dollars they've spent influencing Congress," AP reports. "Lawmakers determined to get a deal on climate change are going along with valuable concessions to polluters."
• "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has weighed in with the White House against lobbying restrictions placed on the stimulus package, arguing the rules could limit its members' First Amendment rights," The Hill reports. "Chamber General Counsel Steven Law laid out two points of concern the business group has with the restrictions, which forbid lobbyists from talking or holding meetings with government officials to discuss specific stimulus projects. Lobbyists instead must submit their views in writing."
Health Care: Medical Industry Gets Behind Obama
• "The industries with the most to lose from proposed changes to the nation's health care system vowed Monday to work with the White House -- and each other -- to strip out at least $2 trillion in unnecessary medical spending in the next decade," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Trade groups representing doctors, device makers, insurers, hospitals, organized labor and drug makers signed a letter to" Obama "on Monday pledging to 'work together to provide quality, affordable coverage and access for every American.'"
• "A key House Republican hopes to arm his colleagues with a set of GOP-endorsed healthcare reform 'solutions' before the Memorial Day recess," The Hill reports. "According to Health Care Solutions Group Chairman Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the 21-member select panel is set to hold small group briefings with fellow House Republicans before presenting the proposed reforms to the entire GOP conference."
• "Senate Finance Committee leaders Monday released three options for how to set up a government-run public health insurance option, ranging from basing it on a Medicare-style model to a state-by-state solution," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Suggestions from Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus," D-Mont., "and ranking member Charles Grassley," R-Iowa, "on the public option include what they referred to as a 'Medicare-like' plan that would be administered by a new HHS agency."
Energy & Environment: Cap-And-Trade Deal May Lie In Pasta Dinners
• "A tin of Costco lasagna and some red wine may hold the key to solving the climate change debate -- at least in the House Democratic Caucus," The Hill reports. "Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) has been hosting lasagna dinners in the Methodist House apartment near the Capitol that he shares with Blue Dog Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) in an effort to find common ground in the increasingly tense debate over a cap-and-trade bill."
• "If clean coal is still out of reach, will cleaner coal do the trick? Put another way, does Kansas offer a glimpse of America's energy future?" the Wall Street Journal asks. "The newest generation of coal-fired power plants -- which pulverize the coal into a powder before burning it -- is a lot more efficient than older coal plants."
Commentary: Is Cheney Right?
• One commentator wonders if former vice president Dick Cheney is right about torture, while another just wants him to go back to Wyoming, in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section.