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EARLYBIRD

Top News

Senate Republicans won't block Sotomayor, and Senate Democrats cut card-check rule from labor bill. Plus: Gates clashes with lawmakers over spending.

White House: Obama Pays Tribute To NAACP

• "In his first speech before the nation's oldest civil rights organization since taking office, President Obama paid tribute Thursday to the NAACP as it celebrated its centennial, delivering what the group's chief executive called his most 'forthright speech on racial disparities,'" the Washington Post reports.

• "Vice President Joe Biden, in the backyard of the House's No. 2 Republican, asked critics of the economic stimulus package Thursday to explain how they would help the struggling economy," AP reports. Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., "pre-emptively renewed the Republican attack, telling reporters in a conference call that the plan will destroy small businesses and deepen unemployment."

 

Sotomayor: Confirmation Virtually Assured

• "Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor won virtual assurance of rapid confirmation yesterday when Senate Republicans announced that they do not intend to block a vote that would make her the first Hispanic on the nation's highest court, concluding three days of intense questioning," the Washington Post reports.

• "Now that" Sotomayor "has completed the bulk of her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, partisans on both sides agree on one thing: The nominee has stayed away from forcefully advocating liberal positions," the Wall Street Journal reports. "What they make of that, of course, is different. Some left-leaning scholars wish she had offered more justification for liberal interpretations of the law, while conservatives think she's being less than honest about her true beliefs."

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

 

Health Care: House Committee Advances A Bill; Senate Committee Says No Action This Week

• "The House Ways and Means Committee approved legislation early" this morning "to overhaul the health care system and expand insurance coverage after a marathon session in which Democrats easily turned back Republican efforts to amend the bill," the New York Times reports. "The 23-to-18 vote came just hours after the director of the Congressional Budget Office, Douglas W. Elmendorf, shook up the political landscape by suggesting that none of the major health care bills would significantly slow the growth of health spending."

• Elmendorf's "devastating assessment" fueled "an insurrection among fiscal conservatives in the House and" pushed "negotiators in the Senate to redouble efforts to draw up a new plan that more effectively restrains federal spending," the Washington Post reports.

• "Democrats' triumphant rollout of a sweeping health care reform bill earlier this week already feels like a distant memory," Politico reports, describing resistance within the party.

• "The American Medical Association (AMA), which helped torpedo the Clinton administration's effort to revamp the nation's healthcare system 15 years ago, endorsed the House Democrats' health bill on Thursday," The Hill reports.

 

• "The Senate Finance Committee will not produce a healthcare overhaul bill this week, Finance Chairman Max Baucus," D-Mont., "said Thursday evening, further jeopardizing the ambitious timeline President Obama has laid out to achieve passage of bills in both chambers by the August recess," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "A bipartisan group of seven committee members emerged from a five-hour meeting Thursday that followed a two-and-a-half-hour meeting earlier in the day to announce they had not reached a deal and were finished meeting for the week."

• "As a divided Senate tangles over health care legislation, there is bipartisan consensus on one point: Ted Kennedy," D-Mass., "could make a big difference, if only he were here," the New York Times reports.

Congress: Democratic Senators Cut Card-Check Provision In Union Bill

• "A half-dozen senators friendly to labor have decided to drop a central provision of a bill that would have made it easier to organize workers," the New York Times reports. Jettisoning "the so-called card-check provision... was another example of the power of moderate Democrats to constrain their party's more liberal legislative efforts."

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• "The U.S. House approved legislation Thursday to force General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC to reinstate as many as 3,200 dealers the car makers cut as part of their government-backed bankruptcy reorganizations," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The measure, if it becomes law, would disrupt the Obama administration's efforts to revamp the U.S. car industry, and is an indication of the role Washington's political machine will play in how the companies are run."

• "People attacked because of their sexual orientation or gender would receive federal protections under a Senate-approved measure that significantly expands the reach of hate crimes law," AP reports. "The Senate bill also would make it easier for federal prosecutors to step in when state or local authorities are unable or unwilling to pursue hate crimes."

Politics: Sanford Spent Tax Money Lavishly On International Trips

• "South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford shed his fiscal conservatism on several taxpayer-funded international trips, including a South American jaunt that included time with his mistress, choosing expensive first-class or business-class seats while his aides sat in coach," AP reports. "Sanford, who once criticized other state officials for costly travel, charged the state more than $37,600 for one first-class and four business-class flights overseas since November 2005, expense records show."

• "Several Republicans defeated in last year's House races are lining up to take their chances again," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Former GOP Reps. Tim Walberg of Michigan, Steve Pearce of New Mexico and Steve Chabot of Ohio announced their candidacies for the 2010 cycle."

• "After being outshone by Democrats in the first quarter of the 2010 cycle, Senate Republican candidates rebounded with a respectable showing in the second quarter -- including a few bright stars who stood out above the rest," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "With some reports still outstanding Wednesday evening, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's $4.3 million raised in just 50 days and Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt's $1.4 million stood out as two of Republicans' biggest bright spots in the quarterly fundraising war."

Economy: JPMorgan Chase Follows Goldman Sachs With Big Quarter

• "A new order is emerging on Wall Street after the worst crisis since the Great Depression -- one in which just a couple of victors are starting to tower over the handful of financial titans that used to dominate the industry," the New York Times reports. "On Thursday, JPMorgan Chase became the latest big bank to announce stellar second-quarter earnings. Its $2.7 billion profit, after record gains for Goldman Sachs, underscores how the government's effort to halt a collapse has also set the stage for a narrowing concentration of financial power."

• "The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for state jobless benefits continued to plunge dramatically last week, but the drop in the filings still doesn't necessarily mean job prospects are improving," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "Initial claims for jobless benefits dropped by 47,000 to 522,000 in the week ended July 11, the Labor Department said Thursday."

• "A bipartisan group of senators Thursday sent the strongest signal to date to President Obama that he should take action in a trade dispute with China," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Led by Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, the senators urged Obama to uphold the recommendations of the International Trade Commission and slap tariffs of up to 55 percent on the value of Chinese tire imports, worth about $1.8 billion in 2008."

World: U.S. Resettles Record Number Of Palestinians

• "The U.S. agreed to resettle 1,350 Palestinians displaced by fighting in Iraq, marking the largest resettlement ever of Palestinian refugees in the nation," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The decision appears to signal a shift in Washington's previous position against resettling Palestinians out of concern about the potential impact on U.S. relations with Israel and the Arab world."

• "Bombs, just minutes apart, ripped through two luxury hotels in Jakarta" today, "killing nine and wounding at least 50 more, ending a four-year lull in terror attacks in the world's most populous Muslim nation. At least 14 foreigners were among the dead and wounded," AP reports.

• "India and Pakistan agreed Thursday to work together to fight terrorism and ordered their top diplomats to meet as often as needed to try to rebuild ties damaged by attacks last year in Mumbai," the Los Angeles Times reports. "But Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, speaking after talks with Pakistani counterpart Yusaf Raza Gilani in Egypt, ruled out resuming formal peace talks, known as the 'composite dialogue,' that Islamabad has been seeking."

• "Manuel Zelaya may be a president without a country, but he is no longer without an ambassador," The Hill reports. "Eduardo Enrique Reina, a former vice minister of foreign relations and private secretary to Honduras's ousted president, on Thursday presented himself as Zelaya's personal diplomat in Washington."

• "Former Iranian President Ali Akbar Rafsanjani has called for the release of people who protested against the result of the recent election," BBC News reports. "In his first Friday sermon since the vote, he also said large numbers of Iranians still doubted its result."

National Defense: Gates Clashes With Lawmakers Over Spending

• "Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was determined to forge ahead with changing the priorities of the U.S. military on the same day lawmakers voted to thwart a key component of his plan," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The dueling visions of what the U.S. fighting forces should look like looms as one of the major battles between the Obama administration and Congress."

• "The Pentagon and Congress all but dared each other Thursday to a showdown over funding for fighter jets in a multimillion-dollar squabble that each side said they were fighting in the interests of U.S. security," AP reports. "The Democratic chairman of a key House Appropriations panel," John Murtha of Pennsylvania, "said he's confident that plans to add $369 million to the Pentagon's budget for a dozen more F-22 jets will survive a White House veto threat."

Energy & Environment: Bush Logging Decision Reversed

• "In a move to protect endangered species, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Thursday that his department had reversed a Bush administration decision to double the amount of logging allowed in and around old-growth forests in western Oregon," the New York Times reports.

• "Stung by complaints that it did too little, too late in the House, the Obama administration has launched an intense, senator-by-senator effort to push climate change legislation through the Senate," Politico reports. "The White House is working closely with Senate Democratic aides to match each skeptical senator with the Cabinet member or other key administration official most likely to be persuasive."

Lobbying: ACU Sought Money For Endorsement

• "The American Conservative Union asked FedEx for a $2 million check in return for the group's endorsement in a bitter legislative dispute, then flipped and sided with UPS after FedEx refused to pay," Politico reports. "In return for the $2 million, ACU offered a range of services that included: 'Producing op-eds and articles written by ACU's Chairman David Keene and / or other members of the ACU's board of directors.'"

• "A broad coalition of groups pushing for generic biologic drugs sent a letter Thursday to House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) urging him to drop the matter entirely if the House health care bill provides brand-name companies with a dozen or more years of market exclusivity," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "AARP, the AFL-CIO, Consumers Union, Generic Pharmaceutical Association, Pharmaceutical Care Management Association and the Service Employees International Union, among others, signed the letter to Waxman."

Technology: Homeland Security Looks To Protect Government Web Sites

• "The Homeland Security Department wants information from companies on technical solutions that could be used to protect the '.gov' cyber domain used by federal civilian agencies, according to recently published notice," Federal Computer Week reports. "DHS is interested in products that could be used for its integrated cybersecurity program that includes software and hardware, the department said in a request for information (RFI) published July 15 on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site."

• "The government's central Web portal that people use to apply to more than 1,000 federal grant programs and that provides access to about $500 billion in annual awards has 'systemic weaknesses that require attention, according to the Government Accountability Office," Federal Computer Week reports. "A recent study from GAO found that management of the the portal, Grants.gov, needs to be improved and that measures currently used don't give a clear picture of system performance or how well applicants are being served."

Transportation: DOT Receives 278 Applications for High-Speed Rail

• "US officials said Thursday they had received applications for 278 high-speed rail projects that could be selected for funding under the economic stimulus package," Agence France-Presse reports. "'The response has been tremendous and shows that the country is ready for high-speed rail,' Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said."

Commentary: Health Care Or Welfare?

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, the Wall Street Journal says House Democrats are in search of a "welfare state." Plus: Peggy Noonan suggests Sonia Sotomayor is "mildly animatronic."

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