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Banks seek to kill Obama's proposed consumer protection agency, while vulnerable Dems use party's majorities to vote with an eye on 2010. Plus: U.S. and Russia expect to launch new nuclear talks.

White House: Obama Proposes Agency To Protect Consumers

• "The Obama administration's proposed consumer-protection agency would have broad oversight for a range of products, beefing up the government's regulation of credit cards, mortgages and gift cards, as well as expanding its authority over financial firms," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "Draft legislation unveiled Tuesday by the Treasury Department would for the first time make a single entity... responsible for writing and enforcing rules across a range of financial products used by consumers."

• Meanwhile, "banks and mortgage lenders are placing top priority on killing" the plan, the New York Times reports.


• "President Barack Obama is taking his pitch for health care revisions to Virginia, holding a town hall forum and fielding questions via the Internet," AP reports. "Congress will fully engage in the health care debate when it returns Monday from a one-week recess. As lawmakers discuss the matter with their constituents, Obama is following suit, going to nearby Annandale, Va." today.

Minnesota Recount: Franken Could Be Confirmed By Monday

• "After nearly eight months of waiting, almost 20,000 pages of legal briefs, and millions of dollars in election costs, Al Franken emerged Tuesday as the next United States senator from Minnesota, ending one of the most protracted election recount battles in recent memory," the New York Times reports. Franken "could be seated in the Senate as early as Monday, leaders there said, providing Democrats with something they had long hoped for: 60 votes, and thus at least the symbolic ability to overcome filibusters."

• "The Republican Party put an inordinate amount of faith in Norm Coleman's long-shot legal challenge, spending a million bucks on the idea that he'd catch a break in court," Politico reports. But "Coleman had two key reasons to give up: he was running out of money and the state high court decisively rejected his constitutional arguments -- undermining any case he might have made in federal court."


Health Care: Wal-Mart Backs Health Care Mandate

• "In a major break with most other large companies, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Tuesday told the White House that it supports requiring employers to provide health insurance to workers, a centerpiece of" Obama's "effort to provide near-universal coverage to Americans," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The support of Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, could give momentum to one of the most-contentious aspects of legislation taking shape in Congress to fix the health system."

• "Lawmakers working to overhaul the U.S. health-care system face a pressure-filled July after leaving town this week without resolving the biggest questions dividing Democrats and Republicans," Bloomberg News reports. "Much of the focus will be on the Senate Finance Committee, the likeliest place for a bipartisan agreement."

• "The White House on Tuesday sought to avoid direct comment on health care legislation shaping up in the Senate, hoping a policy of public non-interference will help staffers complete their work on legislation in the Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

• "Health insurance is supposed to offer protection -- both medically and financially. But as it turns out, an estimated three-quarters of people who are pushed into personal bankruptcy by medical problems actually had insurance when they got sick or were injured," the New York Times reports. "And so, even as Washington tries to cover the tens of millions of Americans without medical insurance, many health policy experts say simply giving everyone an insurance card will not be enough to fix what is wrong with the system."


• "As details emerge of the pharmaceutical industry's agreement to kick in $80 billion to help pay for health care reform, the deal is facing increasing skepticism from inside and outside the health care industry," Politico reports.

Lobbying: Groups Hit TV With Health Care Spots

• "The Laborers' International Union of North America on Tuesday announced plans to target Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) with a cable television spot in Des Moines even as it cut short ad buys in Montana and North Dakota at the request of Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.)," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

• "The pharmaceutical industry and one of the country's leading consumer health care groups on Tuesday launched a multimillion-dollar national television advertising campaign to urge lawmakers to pass quality, affordable health care reform," Politico reports.

Energy & Environment: Climate Bill Loaded With Goodies For Lawmakers

• "As the most ambitious energy and climate-change legislation ever introduced in Congress made its way to a floor vote last Friday, it grew fat with compromises, carve-outs, concessions and out-and-out gifts intended to win the votes of wavering lawmakers and the support of powerful industries," the New York Times reports. "The deal making continued right up until the final minutes, with the bill's co-author Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, doling out billions of dollars in promises on the House floor to secure the final votes needed for passage."

• "Many of the eight House Republicans whose votes allowed the energy bill to pass last week were already targeted by Democrats in the 2010 elections. Now they are taking heat from their party's bloggers and radio talkers," CongressDailyPM (subscription) reports.

• "The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday granted California's request to set its own limits on greenhouse gases from autos -- a long-sought victory with limited impact now that the federal government has pledged to impose national limits," the Washington Post reports.

Politics: Vulnerable Dems Bucking Party With Eye On 2010

• "At least three dozen vulnerable Democrats have deserted their party during important votes this year -- a move that could bolster their reelection chances but has left Democrats lacking unity," The Hill reports. "The tougher their districts, the more often vulnerable Democrats have sided with Republicans, according to" an "analysis of 15 major votes cast in the first six months of the 111th Congress."

• "A Puerto Rican legal advocacy group late Tuesday sent a trove of documents from Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's past to the Senate panel considering her nomination," AP reports. "Latino Justice PRLDEF sent the Judiciary Committee more than 350 pages of documents from the 12 years Sotomayor spent on its board, opening what could be an ugly new chapter in the debate over confirming the federal appeals court judge as the first Hispanic justice."

Economy: Inouye's Staff Secured Bailout Money For His Bank

• "Sen. Daniel K. Inouye's [D] staff contacted federal regulators last fall to ask about the bailout application of an ailing Hawaii bank that he had helped to establish and where he has invested the bulk of his personal wealth," the Washington Post reports. "The bank, Central Pacific Financial, was an unlikely candidate for a program designed by the Treasury Department to bolster healthy banks. Two weeks after the inquiry from Inouye's office, Central Pacific announced that the Treasury would inject $135 million."

• "The California Senate" on Tuesday failed "to approve a stopgap plan to stave off the need for IOUs and ease the state's $24.3 billion budget deficit," AP reports. "Lawmakers there were among many around the nation who went up against a midnight deadline as the fiscal year ended for many states. Legislators in more than a half-dozen states met in around-the-clock budget sessions as they struggled to avoid government shutdowns and other painful cuts."

• "Former U.S. bank regulators warned that lenders and supervisors may share less information with each other in day-to-day dealings after lawmakers released dozens of confidential Federal Reserve e-mails," Bloomberg News reports.

World: Zimbabwe Says It Has Secured Loan From China

• "Zimbabwe's prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, said Tuesday that an official he had appointed had secured lines of credit worth $950 million from China, President Robert Mugabe's longtime ally," the New York Times reports. "Mr. Mugabe's party has mocked Mr. Tsvangirai for failing to bring home much aid from his three-week tour of the United States and Europe. Zimbabwe's government -- a virtually bankrupt contraption led by Mr. Mugabe and his rival, Mr. Tsvangirai -- needs an estimated $8 billion to rebuild the country's ruined economy."

• "Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya on Tuesday continued to build support for his return home, but the country's de facto rulers said he'd be arrested the minute he set foot on national territory," the Los Angeles Times reports. "As Zelaya addressed a supportive United Nations audience in New York, Hondurans in Tegucigalpa were demonstrating against and, in smaller numbers, in favor of the deposed leftist leader."

• "A United Nations inquiry into the assassination of former Pakistani PM Benazir Bhutto begins on Wednesday," BBC News reports. "It is headed by Chile's ambassador to the UN, Heraldo Munoz, and includes a former Indonesian attorney general and a former senior Irish police officer. The inquiry will last six months and investigate the 'facts and circumstances' of Ms Bhutto's death."

National Security: Arms-Control Talks With Russia Set To Begin

• "The U.S. and Russia are expected to launch new talks aimed at reducing the number of strategic and other nuclear weapons on both sides, a senior Obama administration official said Tuesday, in an ambitious effort that could help ease bilateral tensions over other issues as well," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports.

• "The United States said Tuesday that it had cracked down on companies involved in North Korea's missile program and in purchases of equipment that could be used in a nuclear weapons program," Reuters reports. "The Treasury and State Departments said they had singled out Hong Kong Electronics of Iran and Namchongang Trading Corporation of North Korea under an executive order that would freeze any American assets and ban American companies from dealing with them."

• "The Justice Department is expected to release" today "an internal CIA report on the agency's secret detention and interrogation program during the Bush administration," AP reports. "The report had been expected to be made public two weeks ago but was delayed over debates about how much of it should be censored. The government published a version of the report in 2008 but its contents were almost entirely blacked out."

Technology: Administration Launches IT Spending Tracker

• "The Obama administration introduced online tools on Tuesday that will track and analyze the more than $70 billion a year that the federal government spends on information technology," the New York Times reports. "The new Web tools, called IT Dashboard, are part of a Web site set up to monitor government spending,"

• The Agriculture Department "and the Commerce Department are poised to unveil their guidelines for the $7.2 billion broadband stimulus program as early as Wednesday to coincide with a news conference in Erie, Pa., featuring" Vice President Joe Biden, CongressDailyPM (subscription) reports.

Commentary: A Polarizing Energy Debate

• While Thomas Friedman urges for passage of the energy bill in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, Jeff Jacoby questions whether global warming is happening at all.

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