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Legacy Content / EARLYBIRD

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Republicans not satisfied with Sotomayor's 'wise Latina' explanation, and California legislature nearing budget deficit fix. Plus: Plane crash in Iran kills all 168 on board, officials say.

July 15, 2009

White House: Obama Takes Ownership Of Economic Crisis

• "With four simple words -- 'Give it to me!' -- President Barack Obama took possession of the economy," AP reports. "For months, the White House and Obama's economic team have laid the economic crisis at the feet of President George W. Bush. But there comes a point in a presidency when inheritance becomes ownership. Obama made that pivot Tuesday in Michigan."

• Congress and the White House are clashing over the issue of presidential fiat, the Wall Street Journal reports. "As a candidate, Mr. Obama pledged that he wouldn't abuse the presidential signing statement.... After Mr. Obama's issuance of his second signing statement last month, even some Democrats say he isn't keeping his word on reining in unilateral presidential actions."

Sotomayor: Republicans To Keep Pushing On 'Wise Latina' Remarks

• Senate Republicans aren't buying Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's explanation of her "wise Latina" comments, Politico reports. "They say they plan to keep up their questioning of Sotomayor's true feelings on the role of ethnicity and gender in the law at Wednesday's hearing -- and edged right up to the line of saying that Sotomayor was being dishonest in her answers."

 

• "Republicans running for the Senate next year, including those scrounging for votes to win difficult primaries, aren't saying how they'd vote," The Hill reports. "Interviews with a dozen Republicans running for Senate seats across the country failed to find one candidate who was willing to offer a clear position, despite the two months of public debate since President Obama picked Sotomayor for the high court.

• "The environmental community is backing" Sotomayor, "despite the federal appeals court judge's sparse record in dealing with environmental cases," Politico reports. "Green advocates expect a glut of environmental cases to hit the highest court in the next few years, as industry and environmental groups challenge various aspects of the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and a new climate bill currently being debated in Congress."

• Follow the latest news from Hart 216 at NationalJournal.com's blog The Ninth Justice.

Congress: House Bill Would Dismantle Major Student Loan Program

• "House Democrats will unveil a sweeping higher education bill today that would dismantle a major federal student loan program and use the billions of dollars in resulting savings to provide more money to low-income college students," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "The bill will end the Federal Family Education Loan program and originate all federally backed student loans through the Education Department's Direct Loan Program, according to a committee document obtained by CongressDaily."

• "House Budget ranking member Paul Ryan called on House Democratic leaders Tuesday to reconsider their decision to bypass the panel and take pay/go legislation straight to the House floor," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. The Wisconsin Republican "argued in a letter written Monday that the move would 'deny members the opportunity to participate in the drafting of this complex revision and extension... that the Administration has proposed.'"

Health Care: House Bill Costs Over $1 Trillion, CBO Says

• "House Democrats' long-awaited healthcare overhaul bill came with a preliminary price tag from CBO of just over $1 trillion, although the budget office said that figure was incomplete," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Roughly $580 billion would come from tax increases mainly on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, although some would fall on corporations. The rest would come from cost-savings within Medicare and Medicaid that Democratic aides were awaiting but are expected to come in above $500 billion."

• "House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled sweeping health-care legislation that would hit all but the smallest businesses with a penalty equal to 8% of payroll if they fail to provide health insurance to workers," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The House bill, which also would impose new taxes on the wealthy estimated to bring in more than $544 billion over a decade, came as lawmakers in the Senate raced against a self-imposed deadline of this week to introduce a bill in time for action this summer."

• "Obama may rely only on Democrats to push health-care legislation through the U.S. Congress if Republican resistance doesn't eventually give way, two of the president's top advisers said," Bloomberg News reports. "'Ultimately, this is not about a process, it's about results,' David Axelrod, Obama's senior political strategist, said during an interview" Tuesday.

• "Obama has scheduled an appearance in the White House Rose Garden today to talk about his top domestic priority: health care reform," AP reports. "The president wants the House and Senate to pass legislation overhauling the nation's health care system before lawmakers leave town for their annual August recess."

Politics: California Lawmakers Approaching Deal To Fix $26B Deficit

• In California, "legislative leaders emerged from late-night budget negotiations Tuesday to announce they were closing in on a final agreement on how to address the state's $26.3-billion deficit," the Los Angeles Times reports. "As talks ended just before midnight, they said they hoped to complete their work today."

• "Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele continued Tuesday with the campaign he has come to call the 'Freedom Tour,' which is his attempt to revive the relationship between black voters and the GOP. This stop: a sales call at the 100th convention of the NAACP," the Washington Post reports. "'We have a connection, and it is important and appropriate to recognize that,' Steele said in a speech, harkening back to his roots in his local NAACP chapter in Prince George's County. 'We have a historic link.'"

Economy: Liberals Worry Obama's Economists Aren't Helping

• "Frustrated liberal Democrats are increasingly concerned that White House economists are too centrist and 'theoretical' to fix the economy," The Hill reports. "President Obama's economic thinkers have baffled some House members, who see more unemployed constituents in their districts and want bolder action."

• "A recent surge in energy prices helped drive up both retail sales and prices that producers paid, the government reported Tuesday," the New York Times reports. "Retail sales rose 0.6 percent, slightly more than economists expected, as car dealerships enjoyed their best month since January and oil prices lifted receipts at gas stations, the Commerce Department reported."

• "A major Obama administration plan to deal with financial companies too big to fail is becoming too big to zoom through Congress," CNNMoney.com reports. "Top White House and Treasury Department officials have been working behind the scenes for weeks to push lawmakers to start tackling legislation aimed at rescuing giant financial companies on the brink of failure -- like American International Group (AIG, Fortune 500). But the legislative effort has gotten bogged down and made little progress over the past month, because it's tied to bigger, controversial questions. One of the big ones: Whether the Federal Reserve's regulatory role should be expanded."

National Security: Obama Makes Arms Control A Foreign Policy Priority

• "Obama has moved nuclear deterrence to the top of the national-security agenda -- and in his dealings in the past month with Iran, North Korea and Russia, revealed the issue to be an organizing principle to his foreign policy," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Mr. Obama has restarted moribund arms talks with Moscow, pushed for sanctions against Pyongyang, and sought nuclear talks with Tehran despite his condemnation of its crackdown on protesters."

• "Amid allegations that the CIA has repeatedly withheld information from Congress, Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein," D-Calif., "said Tuesday she plans to include language in the annual intelligence authorization bill to increase the number of lawmakers who are briefed about covert operations and other secret activities," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "Several senior Democrats may defy party leaders on an important defense vote," The Hill reports. "President Obama personally vowed to veto any defense bill containing additional funds for the F-22 fighter jet program. Democratic leaders support an amendment that would strip the $1.75 billion for seven additional jets from the 2010 defense authorization bill, which is being debated on the Senate floor this week."

World: Iranian Plane Crash Kills All 168 On Board, Officials Say

• "All 168 passengers and crew have died in a Caspian Airlines plane crash in the north of Iran, officials say," BBC News reports. "The Tupolev plane was flying from the Iranian capital to Yerevan in Armenia, with mostly Armenian passengers. The cause of the crash, which happened soon after take-off, was not known. Witnesses said it dropped from the sky."

• "A summit of the Non-Aligned Movement opened at" Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt, today "with a call from Cuban President Raul Castro for a new international financial system to shield developing nations from the global recession," AP reports. "Castro was addressing the opening session of the movement's two-day summit at Sharm el-Sheikh, the 15th such gathering since the group was founded in the 1950s."

• "Israel rejects charges by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and U.N. agencies that its January invasion of the Gaza Strip inflicted civilian death and destruction on an unjustifiable scale," Reuters reports. "Now, some of the Israeli soldiers who took part say they were urged by commanders to shoot first and worry later about sorting out civilians from combatants. Accordingly, they say, the force went into Gaza with guns blazing."

Lobbying: Hondurans Take Case For Ousted President To U.S.

• "A group of Hondurans who want their ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, reinstated are pressing the U.S. government to suspend trade and foreign aid to the Central American country," The Hill reports. "The Hondurans, who oppose the nation's interim government, were in Washington this week to make the case to the U.S. government that Zelaya's June 28 ouster was an illegal military coup. They believe business interests inside and outside of Honduras conspired to remove the president due to his populist policies."

• "With their franchises and the local jobs they represent endangered, Chrysler and General Motors dealers descended on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to press once again the case for why they should not be closed," the New York Times reports. "At a news conference outside the Capitol, a bipartisan group of House members and dealers again questioned G.M. and Chrysler's rationale for closing around 2,000 dealerships -- saying that the franchises, which pay the carmakers up front for vehicles and parts, are hardly a drain on the carmakers."

• "The Senate Armed Services Committee added $9 billion in earmarks to the 2010 defense authorization bill under floor debate this week. This figure dwarfs the $2.26 billion added by the House Armed Services Committee last month," The Hill reports. "Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) are among the lawmakers leaving costly thumbprints on the bill, according to a report released late last week by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a government watchdog organization."

Technology: Hearings For Bush's Warrantless Surveillance Program Begin

• "The latest legal volley attacking President George W. Bush's once-secret electronic eavesdropping dragnet gets its first court hearing" in San Francisco today, "nearly four years after the warrantless surveillance program was revealed," Wired reports. "The Jewel v. NSA lawsuit was filed in September by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It responded to 2008 federal legislation that immunized the nation's telecommunications companies from suits challenging their complicity in the President's Surveillance Program."

• "The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments have made progress in meeting a Sept. 30 deadline for having interoperable electronic health record systems, according to the Government Accountability Office. However, GAO said the interagency office that oversees the program needs to improve its capabilities," Federal Computer Week reports.

Transportation: Senate Will Vote To Extend Surface Transit Law

• "The Senate starting today is poised to officially back the Obama administration's request to extend federal surface transportation law through March 2011, despite concern that such a delay in seeking a six-year bill could jeopardize potential jobs and investments," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "State transportation officials on Tuesday defended their handling of federal stimulus money for road projects against criticism they haven't moved quickly enough to turn the money into jobs and pavement," the AP reports. "Washington state Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond acknowledged at a news conference there's been criticism of how fast states are meeting goals set by" Obama "and Congress when the stimulus package was approved in February. That $787 billion package included $27.5 billion for highway and bridge construction and repair."

Commentary: Sotomayor's Second Day

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, Maureen Dowd cheers Sotomayor's resolve in the face of GOP interrogation, while Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, hits the judge for her rulings on Second Amendment rights.

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