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Legacy Content / EARLYBIRD

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A climate bill could make its way to the floor Friday. Plus: Polls find less optimism for stimulus but more for economy's recovery.

June 23, 2009

Energy & Environment: House DemocratsTo Bring Bill On Friday

• "House Democratic leaders are bringing a major climate and energy bill to the floor on Friday, defying skeptics even within the party over whether the measure could be ready for full debate before Independence Day," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "The Energy and Commerce Committee late Monday filed the 1,201-page bill (PDF) to the House Rules Committee.... Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman," D-Calif., "is still working out a final deal with House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson," D-Minn., "and other rural Democrats to get the necessary 218 votes."

• "Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been courting and protecting" Peterson "for the better part of a decade, but Peterson lately hasn't been returning the favors," Roll Call (subscription) reports. He "has emerged in recent weeks as the most outspoken critic of sweeping climate change legislation that Pelosi views as her legacy project."

• "The Supreme Court gave its approval Monday for waste from a gold mine in Alaska to be drained into a mountain lake, dealing environmentalists their fifth defeat this court term and lobbing another controversial Bush administration policy into President Obama's lap," the Los Angeles Times reports. Read the justices' 6-3 ruling here.

 

Congress: Appropriators Ignore Obama's Plan For Cuts

• "Congressional Democrats are largely ignoring President Obama's $19.8 billion in budget cuts," The Hill reports. "The president proposed axing dozens of programs that he said were inefficient or ineffective, but members of the House Appropriations Committee are including the money for them."

• "The looming 'pay-as-you-go' spending bill is dredging up some old frustrations among liberal House members who've been thwarted at key junctures by the concept's longtime proponents, fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats," The Hill reports. "The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has convened a series of emergency meetings to discuss the bill, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus will meet later this week to consider whether members will try to kill it on the floor."

• "Senate Republicans are expected to begin formally making their case against the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court" today "with a series of speeches questioning her involvement in a Puerto Rican civil rights group and her positions on a number of legal issues, Republican aides said Monday," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

White House: Obama Opposes 9/11 Families In Lawsuit

• "Family members of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks say they have been blindsided by the Obama administration's opposition to their lawsuit seeking damages from top members of the Saudi Arabian government over suspected financial links to the 9/11 attackers," the Washington Times reports. "A series of closed-door meetings between the relatives' groups and Justice Department officials, arranged as an update on Mr. Obama's plan to close the detention facility at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, turned instead into a sharp clash over the Saudi legal action."

• "First lady Michelle Obama... asked those attending the National Conference on Volunteering and Service to join the United We Serve initiative she and the president officially launched Monday," USA Today reports. "The program will run through Sept. 11, a new national day of service and remembrance of those who died in the 2001 terrorist attacks."

• "The criminal defense lawyer nominated by President Obama to be the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey is declining to identify more than half of his private clients on government forms designed to help the public guard against potential conflicts of interests," the Washington Times reports. Paul J. Fishman "is citing the privacy interests of the clients -- an exemption that is permitted under federal ethics laws, but that leaves prosecutors on an honor system to police their own conflicts, ethics watchdogs say."

Politics: Ensign To Explain Actions To GOP Conference

• "Sen. John Ensign (Nev.) is expected to address his GOP colleagues at their weekly luncheon today to try to turn the page on the high-profile sex scandal that has derailed his rising political career," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

• "A spokesman for South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford says the chief executive is hiking the Appalachian Trail, which explains his perplexing absence," the AP reports. "Sanford hadn't been in his office for several days, and fellow politicians and his wife said they didn't know where he was."

• "A key part of the landmark Voting Rights Act survived a constitutional challenge" Monday "in the Supreme Court, but justices made it clear that a law forged in the darkest days of the nation's civil rights struggles may no longer be appropriate in a new era of American racial politics," the Washington Post reports. Read the justices' 8-1 ruling here.

Economy: Polls Find Less Optimism For Stimulus But More For Recovery

• "Barely half of Americans are now confident that President Obama's $787 billion stimulus measure will boost the economy, and the rapid rise in optimism about the state of the nation that followed the 2008 election has abated," the Washington Post reports in a new poll. "Overall, 52 percent now say the stimulus package has succeeded or will succeed in restoring the economy, compared with 59 percent two months ago."

• "Americans say they're still in a tunnel, but more are beginning to see a light at its end," USA Today reports on its own poll. "Over the past two months... expectations for the future have brightened significantly amid rising optimism about a stock market rebound and economic turnaround."

• "A bipartisan trio of senators say they will introduce legislation to make sure that Wall Street bailout money repaid to the federal government cannot be recycled to keep the program perpetual," the Washington Times reports. "The measure would require any Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds returned to the Treasury Department to go into the federal government's general fund to pay down the nation's debt."

• "At least three small, cash-strapped banks have stopped paying the U.S. government dividends that they owe because they got $315.4 million in capital infusions under the Troubled Asset Relief Program," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports.

National Security: Guantanamo Detainee's Release Ordered

• "Abdul Rahim Abdul Razak al-Janko was tortured by al-Qaeda and imprisoned by the Taliban for 18 months because the groups' leaders thought he was an American spy. Abandoned by his captors in late 2001, he was picked up by U.S. authorities, who shipped him to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on suspicion that he was a member of the two groups," the Washington Post reports. On Monday, "a federal judge ordered Janko's release, saying the government's legal rationale for continuing to detain him 'defies common sense.'"

• "People named on the government's terrorism watch list have successfully purchased firearms hundreds of times since 2004, government investigators reported" Monday, the Washington Post reports. "In one case, a known or suspected terrorist was able to obtain an explosives license, the Government Accountability Office reported."

• "Stung by criticism that the U.S. has not condemned Iran's crackdown on demonstrators harshly enough, the Obama administration said Monday that the protests would weaken the current regime and might improve the chances of capping Iran's nuclear program," the Washington Times reports. "At the State Department, spokesman Ian Kelly dismissed speculation that the administration is rethinking its engagement policy."

World: Iran Considers Prosecuting Mousavi For Supporting Unrest

• "The Iranian parliament's judiciary committee raised the possibility Monday of legal action against opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, while government forces violently dispersed a crowd protesting alleged fraud in the June 12 presidential election," the Washington Post reports. "After state news media took aim at Mousavi on Sunday, accusing him of supporting an illegal mass movement, Ali Shahrokhi, head of the parliamentary judiciary committee, suggested that the former prime minister was criminally liable for the recent unrest."

• "Seven bomb blasts in and around Baghdad on Monday killed at least 24 people and wounded scores, including 3 American soldiers, while a series of firefights in the northern city of Mosul left 7 people dead, according to Iraqi security officials," the New York Times reports. "The spate of violence renewed concerns that extremists would step up their attacks as the June 30 deadline approached for American troops to withdraw from Iraqi cities."

• "The leader of perhaps the most volatile of Russia's impoverished ethnic republics in the northern Caucasus was seriously wounded Monday in a car bomb explosion, the latest in a series of attacks that could force the Kremlin to reevaluate how it governs the restive region," the Washington Post reports. "The attempted assassination of Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, president of Ingushetia, located west of Chechnya, occurred on a road outside the provincial center of Nazran as he was traveling in a motorcade."

Technology: Cyber Security Candidate Backed Wiretaps, ID Program

• "Former Republican Congressman Tom Davis, reportedly" Obama's "top candidate for cyber security czar, voted repeatedly to expand the government's internet wiretapping powers, and helped author the now-troubled national identification law known as REAL ID," Wired reports.

• "The Obama administration has kicked off the third and final phase of its Open Government Initiative, asking the public to help draft recommendations for making the federal government operations and information more transparent," Federal Computer Week reports. "For the drafting phase, the Obama administration is using a platform called MixedInk, which enables participants to post content in collaboration, as is done on Wikipedia."

• "On Jan. 21, his first full day in office, President Obama promised to open up the government, ordering officials to use modern technologies like Internet message boards and blogs to give all Americans a bigger voice in public policy," the New York Times reports. "Well, the people have spoken. But many of them are not sticking to the topics at hand."

Health Care: Obama, Smoker, Signs Tobacco Bill

• "Obama does not discuss the fact that he still occasionally smokes, a habit he very publicly tried to kick during his race for the White House," the New York Times reports. "But there he was on Monday, talking about cigarettes. As he signed legislation bringing tobacco products under federal control for the first time, the president conceded that the new law, aimed at keeping children from starting to smoke, could have helped him three decades ago."

• "With a carefully designed timetable at risk in the Senate," Obama "and his allies this week are launching a public relations blitz to bolster the case for health care reform," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

• "The pharmaceutical industry's agreement to contribute $80 billion over 10 years to a proposed health-care overhaul could yield new business for drug makers, and provide them more certainty about how big a hit they'll take from government cost-cutting," the Wall Street Journal reports.

Lobbying: Former Client Sues PMA Group Over No-Show Earmark

• "The PMA Group, the lobbying titan that closed its doors in March after an FBI raid, has filed more than a dozen lawsuits against former clients for failure to pay outstanding debts," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Now, one company has responded with a $3 million countersuit that alleges PMA cheated it out of an earmark it was expecting to receive."

• "Nine major financial and real estate lobbying associations are joining forces to push for a greater say in a series of accounting rule changes, one of which could soon force banks to raise tens of billions of dollars in capital," The Hill reports. "A recently adopted accounting rule effective at the beginning of 2010 requires firms to bring off-balance sheet assets onto their own balance sheets."

Transportation: K Street Backs $450 Billion Bill

• "Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) has a powerful ally in his battle with the White House over the highway bill: K Street," The Hill reports. "Trade associations, unions and business coalitions are getting behind the House Transportation Committee chairman in his push to complete the $450 billion measure before the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30."

Commentary: Cautious Support For The Voting Rights Act Decision

• Editorialists in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section support the Supreme Court in its Voting Rights Act decision but fear that the ruling's language leaves Section 5 vulnerable to another challenge.

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