White House: Obama Floats $4 Billion Carrot For Education
• "President Obama is leaning hard on the nation's schools, using the promise of more than $4 billion in federal aid -- and the threat of withholding it -- to strong-arm the education establishment to accept more charter schools and performance pay for teachers," the Washington Post reports.
• "Obama said Thursday he was surprised by all the hubbub over his comments that a white police officer in Cambridge, Mass., had acted 'stupidly' in arresting a prominent black scholar for disorderly conduct," AP reports. "The president didn't take back his words, but he allowed that he understood the sergeant who made the arrest is an outstanding police officer.'"
• "Challenged about difficulties with his economic or legislative programs, President Obama complains about the tyranny of 'the news cycle,' pronouncing the words with an air of above-it-all disdain for the impatience and fecklessness of today's media culture," the New York Times reports. "Yet after six months in office, perhaps no other president has been more attuned to, or done more to dominate, the news cycle he disparages."
Health Care: Bill Unlikely To Pass Before Recess
• "Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid," D-Nev., "acknowledged Thursday that his chamber is unable to pass health-care reform before its August recess, a move that highlighted internal Democratic divisions on the legislation and is likely to result in significant changes to the shape of the final bill," the Washington Post reports.
• "Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said Thursday evening that" Reid's "decision to not push for a full Senate vote on health care reform before the August recess makes it somewhat easier for the gang of six bipartisan negotiators on his committee to reach a deal," Roll Call (subscription) reports.
• "Obama responded with a rhetorical shrug of the shoulders Thursday in response to word" of Reid's postponement, Roll Call (subscription) reports. "'That's OK -- I just want people to keep on working,' Obama said during a speech in Cleveland. He emphasized his ultimate deadline -- that he wants the legislation completed this year -- saying, 'I want it done by the fall.'"
• "House Democrats spent another day Thursday negotiating their health reform overhaul with few concrete signs of progress, heightening tensions and raising the possibility that leaders might bypass the House Energy and Commerce Committee and send the bill straight to the floor," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "The seven Blue Dog Coalition members on the panel emerged from a three-hour meeting with leaders and White House officials Thursday afternoon with little to say."
• House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, "said on Thursday afternoon that Republicans will have an alternative healthcare reform bill to offer but did not say when it would be ready," The Hill reports. "He told reporters that Republicans will 'make decisions at the appropriate time for how we'll proceed,' but that they are 'putting the final touches on [their] bill, just as Democrats' are doing."
Congress: Senate Deletes F-22 Funding
• "The Senate voted Thursday to eliminate spending on a jet engine program the defense secretary says is superfluous, moving in step with Obama administration assertions that it is time to stop spending military dollars on programs that are not needed," AP reports.
• "As part of their long-running battle over rules restricting amendments to appropriations bills, House Republicans on Thursday forced a nearly one-hour reading of a GOP legislative proposal," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Democrats, however, charged that the maneuver was nothing more than a delaying tactic so that GOP Members could duck out to" Boehner's "annual party fundraiser on the Washington, D.C. waterfront."
• "Significant policy differences between the House and Senate, along with diverging schedules, have thrown the Democratic agenda out of sync, prompting lawmakers to tell their leaders they must do a better job coordinating," The Hill reports. "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and" Reid "insist they talk regularly and are as aligned as two party leaders can be. But their members, liberals and centrists alike, say they need to do more."
Transportation: House Approves $2 Billion For High-Speed Rail
• "High-speed rail projects would receive a $2 billion boost under a bill passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday that also lays the groundwork for a national infrastructure bank," Reuters reports. "By a vote of 256-168, the House approved $68.8 billion for transportation and housing projects for the fiscal year starting October 1, a 25 percent increase over 2009 funding levels."
• "House lawmakers appear unlikely to reach agreement this summer over how to pay for a major transportation bill, disappointing state governments, transit agencies and construction companies hoping for a big boost in funding," the Wall Street Journal reports. "There appeared to be a lack of consensus" about the various tax proposals offered in a hearing Thursday, "with three leading members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee offering different plans."
Politics: New Jersey Corruption Investigation Nets Mayors, Assemblymen
• "A two-year corruption and international money-laundering investigation stretching from the Jersey Shore to Brooklyn to Israel and Switzerland culminated in charges against 44 people on Thursday, including three New Jersey mayors, two state assemblymen and five rabbis, the authorities said," the New York Times reports.
• "As Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin prepares for the next stage of her political career, a majority of Americans hold an unfavorable view of her, and there is broad public doubt about her leadership skills and understanding of complex issues, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll," the Washington Post reports. "While she is still widely popular among those in her party, she has lost ground among Republicans generally and among the white evangelicals who are so critical in the early presidential primaries."
• "Republicans, seeking to regain political ground in the health-care debate, have launched a series of attacks on Democrats' overhaul plan. But some GOP strategists worry an aggressive approach could backfire," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Even as they hammer at" Obama's "plan, in a bid to reduce its size and delay its passage, they are trying to convince voters the GOP also wants to achieve changes that would reduce health costs and expand access to care."
Economy: Uptick In Home Sales, Slower Job Losses Elicit Hope For Recovery
• "Companies that a few months ago were too fearful even to project their future earnings are now seeing glimmers of hope in the year ahead. The rate of home sales has risen for three straight months. And the number of people drawing unemployment insurance benefits has fallen back to April levels, having receded for the third straight week," the Washington Post reports. "All those recent signals sent the stock market surging Thursday as investors sensed that the recession could be in its waning days."
• "Sixteen states, with exhausted funds, are now paying" unemployment "benefits with borrowed cash, and their number could double by the year's end," the New York Times reports. "Call centers and Web sites have been overwhelmed, leaving frustrated workers sometimes fighting for days to file an application."
• "The Federal Reserve on Thursday proposed sweeping new consumer protections for mortgages and home-equity loans," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The proposals seek to overhaul the timing and content of disclosures to consumers, and to ban controversial side payments to mortgage brokers for steering customers to higher-cost loans."
World: Young Kurds Proffer Third Party In Iraqi Elections
• "In regional elections Saturday, the two main political factions" in Iraq's Kurdistan region "face an unprecedented challenge to their 18-year monopoly on power from a slate named simply Change," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Under the leadership of a disgruntled former PUK official, Change has galvanized, among others, young Kurds frustrated with what they see as the corrupt and autocratic behavior of the two ruling parties, which have run Kurdistan under a power-sharing agreement."
• "Seven months after Israel started a fierce three-week military campaign" in Gaza "to stop rockets from being fired on its southern communities, Hamas has suspended its use of rockets and shifted focus to winning support at home and abroad through cultural initiatives and public relations," the New York Times reports. "The aim is to build what leaders here call a 'culture of resistance,' the topic of a recent two-day conference."
• "Japan's opposition Democratic Party lashed out" today "at what it charged was a misleading negative campaign by the ruling party ahead of an election that Prime Minister Taro Aso's coalition is in danger of losing," Reuters reports. "Analysts say Aso's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), shaken by internal feuds and facing a possible loss in an August 30 poll, is making attacks on the Democrats of a sort rare in a country where many have had an allergy to Western-style negative campaigns."
National Security: Iraqi PM Says U.S. Troops May Stay Longer
• "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said for the first time Thursday that Iraq may ask U.S. troops to stay in his country beyond a previously agreed 2011 deadline for withdrawal," the Washington Times reports. "While Iraqi and American military figures have spoken privately about a longer-term presence in part to maintain U.S. military equipment ordered by Iraq, the Iraqi prime minister has not previously acknowledged this publicly."
• "A House subcommittee on Thursday held yet another hearing on what to do about the continuity of Congress in the event of a catastrophic attack on Capitol Hill," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "In a sparsely attended hearing by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Members acknowledged the seriousness of the issue but cautioned that present proposals were thorny at best."
• "Winning hearts and minds overseas is costing the Pentagon a little love back home in Congress," Politico reports. "The Defense Department wants nearly $1 billion next year for its greatly expanded Information Operations programs -- much of it targeted at the Afghan and Iraqi populations. But lawmakers are growing leery of what they see as a hangover from Donald Rumsfeld's years and an ever-expanding propaganda machine ill-suited for the military."
Energy & Environment: 'Cash For Clunkers' Starts Today
• "Americans will get a new incentive to trade-in their gas-guzzling cars today when a government rebate program that offers cash vouchers to people who trade in their cars for new fuel- efficient vehicles officially starts," ABC News reports. "The Car Allowance Rebate System, informally called 'Cash for Clunkers,' was passed by Congress in June to help jump-start struggling auto sales and to improve the environment."
• "The message from moderate Senate Republicans involved in healthcare talks and expected to be courted by Democratic leaders to vote for climate change legislation is simple: Slow down," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Whether it is the healthcare discussions taking prominence or the complexity of cap-and-trade legislation or both, these Republicans question the ambitious timetable set up by" Reid "to have a half-dozen panels produce their portions of a climate and energy package by the end of September."
Lobbying: Chamber Of Commerce Backs Sotomayor
• "The GOP-tilting Chamber of Commerce is backing Sonia Sotomayor in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee" sent Thursday, Politico reports. "'Her extensive experience both as a commercial litigator and as a trial judge would provide the U.S. Supreme Court with a much needed perspective on the issues that business litigants face,' wrote COC executive vice-president R. Bruce Josten."
• "EMILY's List, the Democratic fundraising powerhouse, finally weighed in on the special election to replace former Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), endorsing Thursday state Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan in the Sept. 1 all-party primary," Roll Call (subscription) reports.
• "The commander in chief may have no love for K Street, but his aversion to traditional lobbying tactics has combined in the public mind with the extraordinary grass-roots campaign that helped propel him to the presidency to produce a result he probably didn't foresee: a new enthusiasm for grass-roots campaigns among lobbying firms and their clients," Politico reports.
Technology: Verizon Hopes To Avoid Heavier Regulations
• "Verizon, the nation's largest carrier, twice this week offered concessions to smaller carriers in hopes of keeping the new forces in charge in Washington from more heavily regulating its highly profitable wireless business," Wired reports. "Verizon announced Monday that it would let some rural carriers have access to some of its exclusive devices after six months, an attempt to mollify lawmakers and regulators who are eyeing the partnerships between device makers and networks (Verizon-Blackberry Storm, AT&T-Apple iPhone and Sprint-Palm Pre) as anti-competitive."
• "The Homeland Security Department has started a YouTube Channel to publicize several dozen videos produced by headquarters and links to several hundred videos produced by its component agencies," Federal Computer Week reports.
Commentary: Health Care's Missing Leadership, Consensus
• Commentators in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section charge that Obama lacks leadership on the reform efforts and peg the Democrats' apparent inability to agree on legislation as the key obstacle.