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EARLYBIRD

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Iraqi prime minister visits White House, and Senate prepares to vote on concealed weapons bill. Plus: Pakistan objects to expanded U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

White House: Iraqi PM To Meet With Obama

• "Iraq would like the United States to provide more economic support, help resolve problems with some of its neighbors and -- when asked -- assist in combating the myriad security problems it still faces. Otherwise, it would like the Americans to leave it alone," the Washington Post reports. "For its part, the Obama administration wants Baghdad to stop the sectarian disagreements that continue to impede economic and political progress, show a little more public respect for U.S. sacrifices on its behalf and start behaving like a normal, oil-rich democracy. Those issues, politely stated, will form the basis of talks during Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's first visit to the Obama White House" today, "according to U.S. and Iraqi officials."

• "President Obama is at a pivotal moment," the New York Times reports. Tonight, "Mr. Obama addresses the nation in a prime-time news conference as the public, and lawmakers, are growing skittish over his next big plan, to remake the American health care system. How he handles the issue over the next several weeks could shape the rest of his presidency, shedding light on his political strength, his relationship with both parties in Congress and his appetite to fight for his own agenda."

 

• "Vice President Joe Biden rejected the Russian push for a sphere of influence over former Soviet nations, saying as he headed to Georgia" today "that no nation could veto another country's choices," AP reports.

Health Care: White House Won't Reveal Meetings

• "Invoking an argument used by President George W. Bush, the Obama administration has turned down a request from a watchdog group for a list of health industry executives who have visited the White House to discuss the massive healthcare overhaul," the Los Angeles Times reports.

• "While the issue of health-care reform has divided Democrats in the House and stirred relentless GOP attacks, members of the Senate Finance Committee have seemingly ignored the hubbub, and a presidential deadline, as they huddle daily in pursuit of a breakthrough bill," the Washington Post reports.

 

• "The Obama administration, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman," D-Calif., "and the Blue Dog Coalition Tuesday made a verbal agreement to include an independent Medicare advisory council in the House version of healthcare reform, marking some progress on a day the committee postponed marking up the bill until at least Thursday," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday she is confident Congress will advance an overhaul of the nation's health care system despite divisions within her own party and mounting opposition from outside groups over its cost," USA Today reports. "The California Democrat" said "the best approach is to rely on savings rather than taxes."

• "A telling episode recounted by Senate Finance ranking member Charles Grassley," R-Iowa, "reveals the Obama administration might be more worried than they are letting on that a Republican senator's comparison of the healthcare overhaul to Waterloo might be dangerously close to the truth," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Grassley said he spoke with a Democratic House member last week who shared Obama's bleak reaction during a private meeting to reports that some factions of House Democrats were lining up to stall or even take down the overhaul unless leaders made major changes."

• "Congressional Republicans will use the next two weeks to cast the Democratic health care plan as a harmful tax on an ailing economy -- and then plan to go for the jugular over the August break" with "polling data and a series of events to reinforce a message that they believe is striking a chord with the American public," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

 

• "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce this week stepped up its advertising and lobbying efforts to combat a government-run public health plan option favored by most Democrats crafting health care reform," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "The big-business group announced Tuesday that it was launching a print and online advertising campaign -- worth more than $2 million -- in five states and that it was stepping up its grass-roots and political organizing to beat back attempts to include the public plan option in health care reform."

Congress: Contentious Gun Rights Bill Set For Senate Vote

• "Gun control and gun rights advocates are heading for another clash" today "with a Senate vote on a measure that would allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry those hidden weapons into other states," AP reports.

• "A one-sentence amendment benefiting domestic automakers quietly inserted into a $33 billion spending bill approved Friday has reverberated across the Atlantic, marking another flashpoint in the continuing 'Buy America' debate," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "The amendment to the FY10 Energy and Water Appropriations bill by Rep. Larry Kissell, D-N.C., stipulates that 'none of the funds made available in this Act may be used to purchase passenger motor vehicles other than those manufactured by Ford, General Motors or Chrysler.' In specifically naming the Big Three automakers, the Kissell amendment goes even further than prior legislative attempts to carve out preferences for domestic firms."

Politics: New York Unions Cut Bait With Paterson

• "Leaders of some of New York's most influential unions are discussing abandoning Gov. David A. Paterson as he prepares to run for a full term next year, a sweeping defection that could prove lethal to his hopes of winning his party's nomination," the New York Times reports.

• "He's been in office only six months, but already there's a strong sense of déjà vu around the way Americans are seeing and hearing from" Obama, Politico reports. "The president keeps returning to the same communications tactics over and over, and all the pages of his PR playbook have one thing in common: a big dose of Obama."

• "Republicans are wasting little time in attacking the leading Democratic candidate to replace outgoing Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.), launching television advertisements before McHugh has even resigned his seat," The Hill reports. "The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has already taken its first shot at state Sen. Darrel Aubertine (D), launching a round of automated calls on Tuesday hitting the first-term state senator for voting in favor of new taxes in the state budget."

Economy: Republicans, Dems Deride Auto Bailouts

• "The government bailout of General Motors and Chrysler was roundly criticized by both Republicans and Democrats on Tuesday as a House subcommittee heard testimony from the chief of the Obama administration's auto task force," the Washington Post reports. "It was the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee's administrative-law panel, however, who raised the gravest alarms over the aid to the automakers, depicting the bailout as an abandonment of the rule of law and the practice of capitalism."

• "The CIT Group said in a regulatory filing Tuesday that it might have to file for bankruptcy protection if not enough bondholders participated in its debt exchange," the New York Times reports. "The commercial lender offered the grim assessment only a day after major bondholders agreed to provide it with a $3 billion rescue loan."

• "Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made a guarded declaration of success Tuesday before a skeptical and sometimes combative" congressional "audience, saying Fed policies had helped to set the stage for a modest recovery this year," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports.

World: Honduran Leaders Reject Proposed Election

• "Efforts to break the political stalemate that has polarized Honduras failed again late Tuesday night as leaders of the de facto government rejected a proposal by the head of their own negotiating team to allow the ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, to return to power," the New York Times reports.

• "A thin, dusty line is about the only thing separating Kenya, one of the Western world's closest allies in Africa, from the Shabab, a radical Islamist militia that has taken over much of southern Somalia, beheading detractors, stoning adulterers and threatening to kill any Americans or Europeans who get in their way," the Times also reports. "The creeping fear... is that the Shabab or its foreign jihadist allies will infiltrate Kenya and attack some of the tens of thousands of Westerners living in the country, possibly in a major strike like Al Qaeda did in 1998."

• "Discussions at" today's "summit on strengthening Washington's trade and security ties with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations are likely to be overshadowed by two long-running problems: How to deal with a nuclearized North Korea, and how to persuade Myanmar's military junta to allow a degree of democratic change in the reclusive nation," the Wall Street Journal reports.

National Security: Pakistan Objects To American Forces' Expansion In Afghanistan

• "Pakistan is objecting to expanded American combat operations in neighboring Afghanistan, creating new fissures in the alliance with Washington at a critical juncture when thousands of new American forces are arriving in the region," the New York Times reports.

• "The Obama administration is considering whether to pay off Afghan farmers to stop them from growing heroin poppies on contract for the Taliban, senior officials said Tuesday. Paying farmers not to plant poppy would essentially supplant U.S. cash for the fees paid up front by the Taliban to its contract farmers," AP reports. "But skeptics say it won't work because farmers would take the money and plant poppies anyway."

• "The Obama administration is considering offering North Korea new incentives if it behaves better and returns to nuclear talks, U.S. officials said Tuesday. A day after she compared North Korea to a spoiled child throwing a tantrum, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters during a visit to Bangkok that 'there is obviously a list of incentives and offers that could be made if the North Koreans evidence any willingness to take a different path than the one they are currently pursuing,'" the Washington Times reports. "She added, however, 'As of this moment in time, we haven't seen that evidence.'"

Lobbying & Advocacy: Spending For Influence Up In Latest Reports

• "The nation's big business groups, oil companies and the health care sector were among the biggest spenders on federal lobbying in the second quarter of the year, according to recently filed disclosure reports," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported spending $7.4 million, down from $7.9 million during the same period last year, but the most of any other entity as of press time."

• "Auto companies and eight of the country's biggest banks that received tens of billions of dollars in federal bailout money spent more than $20 million on lobbying Washington lawmakers in the first half of this year," The Hill reports.

• "Energy companies and industry groups with a major stake in climate change legislation are spending millions of dollars more on lobbying this year," The Hill reports. "The two biggest consumers of coal, for example, each reported increases in lobbying expenditures as lawmakers considered a climate bill, which could reshape the nation's energy fuel mix by capping carbon dioxide."

Transportation: Car Czar Warns Against Political Interference

• "The Obama administration's auto czar on Tuesday said political interference by Congress could jeopardize the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler," The Hill reports. "Ron Bloom, a senior adviser at the Treasury Department heading the administration's efforts on autos, warned members of a House Judiciary sub-panel that an intervention by Congress on behalf of auto dealers would set a 'dangerous precedent' that could raise enormous legal concerns."

• "The Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday narrowly rejected a compromise aimed at increasing flights from Washington, D.C.'s Reagan National Airport to Western states," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. Panel members, though, said they will still aim for a compromise before a broader bill updating aviation law hits the floor."

Energy & Environment: Diesel Out, Hybrids In For Germans

• "After years of championing diesel power, high-end German automakers are rushing into hybrids," USA Today reports. "They've decided hybrids are the best way to improve their green image, boost fuel economy to help meet tight 2016 U.S. standards that favor hybrids and target what looks to be a bigger market."

• "Vulnerable House Democrats are going on the offensive to blunt Republican attacks over their support for the controversial cap-and-trade bill that passed the House late last month," Politico reports. "The energy and climate bill narrowly passed the House on June 26, with 44 Democrats largely from rural, coal-dependent and manufacturing states voting against the legislation."

Technology: FCC Badly Needs Overhaul, Chairman Says

• "FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski considers overhauling the commission 'a matter of great urgency' and is conducting a thorough review of its practices to address persistent criticism from Capitol Hill and elsewhere that the independent agency is broken," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "Scientists are quietly tackling education issues, offering up new tools, new approaches and even a new discipline," USA Today reports. "The review in the current Science journal makes the case that psychologists, neuroscientists, roboticists and teachers should create a new field that combines everything from how brains grow to how classrooms work into a new kind of learning research."

Commentary: A Line In The Sand On Health Care Reform

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., argues that both sides should be able to agree on a public option, but Michael Gerson says Democrats threaten to destroy their coalition if they press moderates too hard on health care reform.

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