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EARLYBIRD

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Democrats rebuff Obama on money to close Guantanamo. Plus: Bunning blames GOP's losses on McConnell.

Congress: Dems Scuttle Guantanamo Funding

• As the Senate took up the $91.3 billion war supplemental Tuesday, Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, "offered an amendment that would wipe out all $80 million requested for closure" of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility "and to review the status of the 240 detainees there," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "The amendment says none of the funds in the bill or any previous legislation may be used to pay for the transfer of the Guantanamo detainees to any state."

• "House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) stoked the skirmish" between Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the CIA "Tuesday by firing off a letter to" CIA Director Leon Panetta "demanding that he correct a document at the center of the uproar," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Obey said a report the agency released 13 days ago inaccurately stated an Appropriations panel staffer attended a 2006 briefing, when that aide remembers being turned away at the door."

 

• "The House ethics committee voted Tuesday against investigating five Democratic lawmakers who were arrested during a protest at the Sudan Embassy in April," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison (Minn.), Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), John Lewis (Ga.), Jim McGovern (Mass.) and Donna Edwards (Md.) were arrested April 27 outside the embassy during a protest over genocide in Darfur."

White House: Credit Card Bill Passes With Administration Pressure

• "The credit-card overhaul is set to become the first major legislative change to financial regulation outside housing since the emergency bank bailout enacted last fall, and it's not the last expected this year," Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "Tuesday's 90-5 vote followed pressure from the White House on card issuers to improve fairness and transparency for the three-fourths of U.S. households that use credit cards."

• "Weeks after winning the White House, President Obama sought to reassure a nation unnerved by a financial meltdown that Paul A. Volcker, the venerable former Federal Reserve chairman, would help the new economic team steer a course through the crisis," the Washington Post reports. Six months later, "Volcker has had sporadic contact with the president, and his role in the administration remains unclear, according to sources with direct knowledge of his thinking."

 

• "Serbia's president told visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday he hoped to open a new page in relations with Washington, ten years after NATO bombed the Balkan country over its conduct in Kosovo," Reuters reports. "Biden, hated by many Serbs for backing independence for majority ethnic Albanian Kosovo and supporting arming Bosnian Muslims in their 1992-5 fight against Bosnian Serbs, is on the highest-level U.S. visit to Belgrade in a quarter century."

Politics: Bunning Blames McConnell For Party's Losses

• "The war between Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., and his commonwealth colleague, Senate Minority Leader McConnell, continues to escalate, with Bunning Tuesday accusing McConnell of being a poor leader and faulting him with Republicans' heavy losses over the last two election cycles," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "Voters in California on Tuesday slapped down a slew of tax hikes and borrowing measures that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger [R] said were needed to solve the state's fiscal dilemma," USA Today reports. "Four out of five measures dealing with higher taxes had failed by nearly 2-to-1."

• "Senate Democrats slightly outraised their GOP counterparts in April and also paid down a large chunk of their 2008 debt last month, according to fundraising reports set to be filed with the Federal Election Commission," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $3.1 million last month" and "had $2.6 million in cash on hand. The National Republican Senatorial Committee raised $2.9 million and had nearly $2.7 million in cash on hand."

 

Economy: Administration Considering Consumer Protection Agency

• "The Obama administration is actively discussing the creation of a regulatory commission that would have broad authority to protect consumers who use financial products as varied as mortgages, credit cards and mutual funds, according to several sources familiar with the matter," the Washington Post reports. "The proposed commission would be one of the administration's most significant steps yet to overhaul the financial regulatory system."

• "Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Europe's largest oil company, suffered a stunning rebuke Tuesday when investors shot down its executive-compensation plan, in the latest display of shareholder anger over big paychecks and boardroom excesses amid the economic crisis," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "Shell is the largest among a growing group of British companies whose shareholders have voted down compensation plans in advisory votes."

• "The pace of housing sales has been rising in many markets this year, but it is only partly because families seeking affordable housing are returning to the market," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "It also is because of investors like former Deutsche Bank managing director Matthew Cooleen, whose firm has spent $30 million buying pools of foreclosed houses from banks."

National Security: U.S. Arms Falling Into Taliban Hands

• "Insurgents in Afghanistan, fighting from some of the poorest and most remote regions on earth, have managed for years to maintain an intensive guerrilla war against materially superior American and Afghan forces," the New York Times reports. "Arms and ordnance collected from dead insurgents hint at one possible reason: Of 30 rifle magazines recently taken from insurgents' corpses, at least 17 contained cartridges, or rounds, identical to ammunition the United States had provided to Afghan government forces, according to an examination of ammunition markings by The New York Times and interviews with American officers and arms dealers."

• "Corruption in the Afghan political and legal systems is 'pervasive' and 'entrenched,' a report prepared for the main U.S. aid agency says, posing a challenge to the Obama administration's plans to steer more assistance through the U.S.-backed Afghan government," USA Today reports.

World: British Official Resigns Amid Scandal

• "The speaker of Britain's House of Commons resigned under pressure Tuesday, the biggest casualty yet in a scandal over dubious expenses that has sparked a movement to impose supervision on its historically independent Parliament," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "Michael Martin's resignation marks the first time in more than 300 years that a speaker has been forced from office by a formal challenge."

• "Iran launched a missile with a range of around 2,000 km (1,200 miles) on Wednesday and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the Islamic state could send any attacker 'to hell,' official media reported," Reuters reports. "The stated range of the surface-to-surface Sejil 2 missile would be almost as far as another Iranian missile, Shahab 3, and military analysts say it could enable Iran to reach Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf."

Technology: Bush White House Wins E-mail Disclosure Victory

• "A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the office that has records about millions of possibly missing emails from the Bush White House doesn't have to make them public," AP reports. "The appeals court in Washington ruled that the White House Office of Administration isn't an agency subject to the Freedom of Information Act, allowing the White House to keep secret documents about an email system that has been plagued with problems."

• "The protracted debate in Washington over preserving an open Internet has focused on ensuring that broadband providers operate 'neutral' networks that don't block, degrade or prioritize content" CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Yet the result that's been feared -- the creation of lanes reserved for premium fare and limited access to certain Web sites -- is emerging as online programmers leverage marquee content to spur exclusive deals with broadband providers."

• "The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee postponed a confirmation vote" Tuesday "on federal chief technology officer nominee Aneesh Chopra to allow Chopra to respond to written questions from senators who did not attend a conformation hearing," Federal Computer Week reports. "Meanwhile, several senators who attended voiced support for Chopra."

Lobbying: NRA Takes Aim At New Legislation

• "From the perspective of gun control advocates, the playing field is upside down," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Their nemesis, the 138-year-old National Rifle Association, seems more powerful than ever. Instead of a Democratic trifecta lending gun control the upper hand, it has energized the NRA, whose membership has grown 30 percent since the November elections. And the NRA has been on the attack."

• "A new analysis of Senate disclosure records by The Center for Public Integrity found that 10 lobbying firms -- all with deep ties to Capitol Hill -- have amassed such large client lists that they represent nearly 100 of the business stakeholders in the [climate legislation] brawl," Politico reports.

• "Reshaping the nation's health care system has spurred some shotgun marriages of convenience," AP reports. "Momentum for redoing the medical system has been helped by unlikely alliances that broadly embrace" Obama's "drive for overhaul but gloss over prickly issues like how to pay for it. Those political unions, though, will likely fray when Congress begins to pencil in the details."

Health Care: Baucus Warns Lobbyists To Bite Tongues Or Be Left Out Of Reform

• "Top aides to Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) held a private meeting on Monday with a bloc of prominent Democratic lobbyists, warning them to hold their fire or be left out of negotiations on" Obama's "No. 1 legislative priority," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

• "The Obama administration's drive to implement electronic health records (EHRs) should have strong identity management tools to ensure privacy and security of the records, members of a panel of providers, vendors and policy experts said" Tuesday, Federal Computer Week reports.

• Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf "told Senate Finance Committee members and staffers he expects fewer Americans would migrate from private health insurance to a public plan than projected by the oft-quoted study by nonpartisan policy experts at The Lewin Group," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "The revelation depends on the actual numbers that will come as proposals become more specific. It could reverse the argument from public plan opponents that private insurers would be run out of business by a competing public option, a concept known as 'crowd-out.'"

Energy & Environment: Dems Hire Speed Reader To Beat Potential GOP Obstruction

• "Democrats in the House Energy and Commerce Committee have taken a novel step to head off Republican efforts to slow action this week on a sweeping climate bill: Hiring a speed reader," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Committee Republicans, who largely oppose the measure, have said they may force the reading of the entire 946-page bill, as well as major amendments totaling several hundred pages."

• Obama "announced a sweeping plan to curb auto emissions on Tuesday, once again sending Congress a message that he's not waiting for it to act on his major priorities," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Obama's expansive view of executive power is starting to worry moderate Democrats and Republicans who fear he will impose by regulation what he can't get via legislation."

• "The acceleration of fuel economy standards announced Tuesday by the Obama administration marks a stark reversal for a domestic auto lobby that once had its way in Washington," The Hill reports.

Commentary: Adding Fuel To The Fire

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, some commentators laud the administration's new fuel standards while others foresee only negative repercussions in the long term.

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