White House: Senators Say Obama Open To Taxing Health Benefits
• "President Barack Obama is leaving the door open to taxing health care benefits, something he campaigned hard against while running for president, according to senators who met with him Tuesday," AP reports. "Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., raised the issue with Obama during a private meeting with the president and other Democratic senators and later reported the president's position: 'It's on the table. It's an option.'"
• "Obama on Tuesday affirmed his support for the creation of a government-sponsored health insurance plan, but he acknowledged that such a plan would sharply reduce the chances for Republican support of legislation to overhaul the health care system, Democratic senators said," the New York Times reports. The senators also said Obama called "on Congress to send him a comprehensive health care bill by October."
• "Obama announced his intention to nominate Rep. John M. McHugh (R-N.Y.) as secretary of the Army" Tuesday, "saying his 16 years of service on the House Armed Services Committee 'uniquely qualifies him to help lead America's Army,'" the Washington Post reports. "If confirmed, McHugh would be the third Republican appointed to a senior position in the Obama administration."
• "Obama is in Saudi Arabia after an overnight flight from Washington," AP reports. "Obama is planning to meet with Saudi King Abdullah to discuss a host of thorny problems, from Arab-Israeli peace efforts to Iran's nuclear program. The surge in oil prices also was on the agenda."
Congress: Auto Execs To Be Grilled On Plans To Close Dealerships
• "Top executives from General Motors and Chrysler face tough questions from lawmakers about sweeping plans to close hundreds of car dealerships as the auto companies undergo government-led bankruptcies. The executives will appear before a Senate committee" today "to talk about their dealership plans," AP reports.
• "House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha, D-Pa., said Tuesday he is worried about the loss of Republican support for a nearly $100 billion tentative deal on a FY09 war supplemental spending bill, which includes $5 billion to increase International Monetary Fund lending," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. The "inclusion of the IMF funding" is the sticking point.
• "Not long after the bottom fell out of the market for mortgage securities last fall, a group of financial firms took aim at an accounting rule that forced them to report billions of dollars of losses on those assets," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "Marshalling a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign, these firms persuaded key members of Congress to pressure the accounting industry to change the rule in April. The payoff is likely to be fatter bottom lines in the second quarter."
Politics: Christie-Corzine Matchup Set In New Jersey
• "Christopher J. Christie, a former prosecutor who sent a parade of corrupt New Jersey politicians to prison, handily won the Republican nomination for governor on Tuesday, earning the right to try to dislodge the state's embattled Democratic incumbent, Jon S. Corzine," the New York Times reports.
• "Judge Sonia Sotomayor on Tuesday countered Republican charges that she would let her background dictate her rulings as Americans signaled a favorable first impression," AP reports. "A new Associated Press-GfK poll suggested that Americans have a more positive view of her than they did of any of former President George W. Bush's nominees to the high court. Half backed her confirmation."
• "The race is on for the top Republican slot on the House Armed Services Committee that is expected to be vacated by" McHugh, CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Only a few hours after" the announcement, "House Education and Labor ranking member Howard (Buck) McKeon of California and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md. -- both senior members of the Armed Services panel -- said they would seek to succeed McHugh."
Economy: Banks Await Approval To Repay Federal Aid
• "Several large banks may get government approval to repay billions of dollars in federal aid next week after completing a series of tests to prove they can stand without crutches," the Washington Post reports. "J.P. Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and American Express are among the most likely candidates to get the Treasury Department's blessing, according to financial analysts. Together they owe the government $38.4 billion."
• "China has expressed confidence in the US economy and the Obama administration's policies on fighting the recession, the US Treasury secretary said on Tuesday," the Financial Times reports. "Speaking on the second day of a closely watched visit to Beijing, Tim Geithner said there was 'a very sophisticated understanding' in China about why the US needs to run large budget deficits in the short term, although he repeated the pledge to sharply reduce deficits when the crisis is over."
• "German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a rare public rebuke of central banks, suggested the European Central Bank and its counterparts in the U.S. and Britain have gone too far in fighting the financial crisis and may be laying the groundwork for another financial blowup," the Wall Street Journal reports.
• "May sales at Chrysler, General Motors and Ford all fell dramatically in comparison with sales figures from May 2008. But each of the companies that once formed the U.S. auto industry's Big Three saw reason for optimism nonetheless," AP reports.
World: Brown Loses Another Cabinet Member
• In Britain, "Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has resigned from the cabinet, increasing opposition pressure on UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown to stand down. Her departure follows a wave of top-level resignations on the eve of vital local and European elections," BBC News reports. "Brown rejected" opposition leaders' "calls for an immediate general election."
• "Wreckage spotted by Brazilian military planes in the Atlantic Ocean is that of missing Air France Flight 447, the Brazilian minister of defense said Tuesday afternoon at a news conference," the New York Times reports. "The jet, bound for Paris from Rio de Janeiro with 228 aboard, disappeared Sunday night without any distress call."
• "One of the world's last political dynasties may have just settled on an heir apparent," NPR reports. "News reports say that North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il has picked his third son to succeed him."
National Security: Classified Nuclear Details Released
• "The federal government mistakenly made public a 266-page report, its pages marked 'highly confidential,' that gives detailed information about hundreds of the nation's civilian nuclear sites and programs, including maps showing the precise locations of stockpiles of fuel for nuclear weapons," the New York Times reports. "The publication of the document was revealed Monday in an online newsletter devoted to issues of federal secrecy. That set off a debate among nuclear experts about what dangers, if any, the disclosures posed. It also prompted a flurry of investigations in Washington into why the document had been made public."
• "The Army general chosen to take over as top commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan told senators Tuesday he believes the war can be won if a proper counterinsurgency campaign is undertaken," AP reports. "'I believe it is winnable, but I don't think it will be easily winnable,' Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee."
• "President Obama's top military adviser on Tuesday issued a thinly veiled warning to North Korea, while some lawmakers said the communist country must be put back on the U.S. terrorism list," The Hill reports. "The salvos from the Pentagon and Congress come as North Korea appears to be preparing to test some of its ballistic missiles amid global concerns of its nuclear weapon capabilities."
Technology: Few Clues To The Next Cybersecuity Czar
• "There is surprisingly little buzz circulating about who" Obama "might choose to lead cybersecurity policy," Federal Computer Week reports. "Although a number of analysts have ideas about the qualities the person filling the position might need, no one is naming names of likely contenders yet -- partly because it remains unclear what the eventual appointee will actually do."
• "Maximizing government investment in federal cybersecurity research and development is a major component of" Obama's "plan to bolster defenses against high-tech attacks," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "If the White House's new cyber strategy and key agencies' FY10 budget requests are any indication, they're off to a solid start."
• "The oversight panel charged with tracking stimulus funds is looking for a contractor to revamp Recovery.gov, the government's central Web site for following the money, officials confirmed on Monday," Nextgov reports. "So far, watchdogs, open government advocates and lawmakers have been underwhelmed with the content and capability of Recovery.gov."
Lobbying: GM Fires Outside Lobbyists
• "General Motors Corp. is firing all of its outside lobbyists as part of the automaker's massive court-supervised reorganization, the company confirmed on Tuesday," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "According to Senate disclosure statements, GM spent $2.8 million on lobbying during the first three months of 2009, including $100,000 in fees to Duberstein, $70,000 to the Washington Tax Group and $60,000 to the Nickles Group."
• "Internet search giant Google has been steadily increasing its presence in Washington as the company seeks to capture a larger share of the federal market for information technology products and services," Nextgov reports. "Google officials discussed the company's increasing involvement in the government space on at an event on Tuesday."
• "Union leaders are pushing to reshape the boards of directors of some of America's largest companies, hoping to use government bailouts as leverage to fundamentally alter the way the companies are run in the years to come," Politico reports.
Energy & Environment: Vilsack Wants Cap-And-Trade Authority
• "Contending that farmers and foresters can do more than anyone else to reduce global warming, Agriculture Secretary "Tom Vilsack "is proposing that USDA should run any cap-and-trade system for controlling emissions that cause climate change," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Vilsack's suggestion... faces a major obstacle, though, since the White House plan for a cap-and-trade system was initially outlined in February in the FY10 budget proposal for the" Environmental Protection Agency.
• "Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has quickly taken charge of moving climate change legislation through the House, which will be one of the toughest challenges of her political career," The Hill reports. "Earlier this year, Pelosi said she was not involved in the day-to-day happenings on the controversial bill. But now that it has cleared the Energy and Commerce Committee, Pelosi is on a mission to get the climate change bill -- her flagship issue -- to the House floor."
Health Care: Both Sides Ratchet Up Arguments
• "The battle over health policy escalated Tuesday, with" Obama "promising reform would put thousands of dollars annually in the pockets of American families and Republicans countering that Democrats were leading the country down the road to medical rationing," Roll Call (subscription) reports.
• "The Food and Drug Administration's top priority in developing a system to track the reactions from newly approved drugs must be to protect the public's private health information, the Government Accountability Office reported on Tuesday," Nextgov reports. "The 2007 Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act required the agency to develop a computer system that would track the performance of the drugs and devices by leveraging electronic health data, without compromising the public's privacy or security."
Commentary: Abortion Debate Reignites
• Commentators in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section examine the abortion issue and George Tiller's killing through different lenses.