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EARLYBIRD

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Palin hits media, and Obama hopes controversy over Gates arrest is over. Plus: North Korea says it's willing to talk about nuclear weapons program.

White House: Obama Wants Gates Controversy Put To Rest

• "The White House expressed hope that it has put behind it a controversy surrounding President Barack Obama's remarks on the arrest of African-American scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. But the incident highlights the challenge facing Mr. Obama in addressing the issue of race and in keeping the debate focused on his broader agenda," the Wall Street Journal reports.

• "Obama has sent letters to at least seven Arab and Gulf states seeking confidence-building measures toward Israel, which Washington has been pushing to agree to a freeze of Jewish settlements in the West Bank," Foreign Policy reports. "One former senior U.S. official who was aware of the letters said they had been sent 'recently' to seven Arab states, including the leaders of Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates."

 

• "Obama will address the opening session of the first U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington," AP reports.

Health Care: Dems To Defend Against CBO Estimate By Citing Unseen Benefits And Savings

• "Following a blow from the Congressional Budget Office, Democratic leaders in Congress likely will make the case this week that the healthcare reform plan has multiple benefits and cost savings that cannot be scored by independent congressional accountants," The Hill reports. "Democrats on Sunday appeared to hold their fire against Congressional Budget Office (CBO) director Douglas Elmendorf after he issued a cost estimate on Saturday that has halted momentum for an independent Medicare panel that the Obama administration favors."

• "Defying skeptics in her party, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed Sunday to overcome lingering obstacles and pass health-care reform in the House, restoring momentum to President Obama's top domestic priority and order to her own unruly Democratic caucus," the Washington Post reports. "'When I take this bill to the floor, it will win,' Pelosi (Calif.) said on CNN's 'State of the Union.'"

 

• The CBO, "answering questions by Republican critics of the health care legislation proposed by House Democrats, said on Sunday that the bill would drive 9 million people off of employer-provided insurance plans but that 12 million people who do not have such coverage now would get it -- a net increase of 3 million people insured through their employers," the New York Times reports.

• "Health care reform negotiations have put a chill into the once-cozy relationship between key medical industry stakeholders and some Republicans on Capitol Hill," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "GOPers are complaining that those industries that could be hardest hit by Democrats' reform proposals have not done enough to engage well-funded arsenals because they are desperate to stay at the table while a health care package is being crafted."

• "One little-discussed proposal to create progressive, coordinated networks of healthcare providers has" both the American Nurses Association and American Medical Association "optimistic about the future of primary care, even as it has rekindled a long-smoldering turf war between physicians and nurses," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

Congress: House Republicans Tangling Dems On Floor

• "House Republicans, unable to accomplish much legislatively these days, have found themselves increasingly adept at tripping up Democratic floor plans and dragging out debate," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "From the banal procedural maneuver to resolutions condemning Democratic Members to the practice of reading lengthy legislative text on the floor, the GOP believes it has found one small way to frustrate -- or at least attempt to frustrate -- a powerful Democratic majority."

 

• "House lawmakers next week plan to cast their first votes on President Obama's overhaul of the financial regulatory system by taking up new restrictions on executive pay practices," The Hill reports. "House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said that his committee would mark up legislation on Tuesday and proceed to votes on the floor on Friday."

Politics: Palin Takes Shots At Media In Resignation

• "Amid unfavorable ratings and unanswered questions as to why she is leaving before her term is over, Sarah Palin on Sunday relinquished her position as Alaska governor to Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell," The Hill reports. "In a winding speech, Palin extolled her accomplishments and fulfilled promises as governor while taking swipes at the media and Hollywood."

• "New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine sought over the weekend to get his re-election bid back on course, saying he will instill trust in government, days after federal agents snapped handcuffs on a host of state politicians in a bribery probe," the Wall Street Journal reports.

• Pelosi "is one of the most despised political figures in the country. And, frankly, she doesn't give a damn," Politico reports. "Last week's Public Strategies Inc./POLITICO poll brought grim news for Pelosi, revealing that only a quarter of Americans trust the San Francisco Democrat."

National Security: House To Take Up Guantanamo Closing

• "Democratic rifts over the Obama administration's approach to closing the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detainee facility and other war policies will emerge on the House floor this week," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "The House by midweek is set to take up a $636.3 billion fiscal 2010 Defense appropriations measure that cuts $100 million sought by the administration for closing the prison in Cuba."

• Former Justice Department official John C. Yoo, "whose memos blessed the waterboarding of terrorism suspects and wiretapping of American citizens, has come out fighting, even as negative assessments of his government service pile up," the Washington Post reports. "While former colleagues have avoided attention in the face of such scrutiny, Yoo has been traveling across the country to give speeches and counter critics who dispute his bold view of the president's authority."

World: North Korea Says It's Open To Weapons Talks

• "North Korea said today it was open to talks about the rising tension over its nuclear weapons programme, a marked shift in tactics after months of ratcheting up foreign anxieties with nuclear test and missile launches," the London Guardian reports. "In today's announcement the foreign ministry in Pyongyang made clear its continued opposition to the six-party nuclear talks, which it said sought only to 'disarm and incapacitate' the nation."

• "U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Obama administration considered Russia a 'great power' and wanted it to be a strong and prosperous country, in an apparent effort to reassure Moscow that the White House remains committed to efforts to 'reset' bilateral relations," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Mrs. Clinton made the remarks in response to a question about Vice President Joe Biden's suggestion, during a Wall Street Journal interview published on Saturday, that Russia's weakening economy was likely to make it more amenable to cooperate with the West on national security issues."

• "French President Nicolas Sarkozy was discharged Monday from the hospital where he spent the night after collapsing while jogging," the New York Times reports. "Doctors said his illness was due to heat and overwork and ordered the 54-year-old to rest but prescribed no further medical treatment, his office said."

Energy & Environment: U.S.-China Talks To Touch On Climate Change Consensus

• "The United States and China today kick off talks in Washington that are expected to highlight Beijing's unease about its massive holdings in federal bonds, Washington's desire to reduce China's reliance on exports and the need for both sides to reach consensus on tackling climate change," the Los Angeles Times reports. "It's the latest in an increasingly high-level series of meetings between the two countries this year that could have significant bearing on the global economy and international environmental policy."

Lobbying: Tribes Still Reeling From Abramoff Ties

• "Five years after lawmakers began a high-profile campaign to expose how influence-peddler Jack Abramoff bilked American Indians out of millions of dollars with inflated lobbying fees, many tribes continue to do business in Washington, D.C. -- but they are spending a lot less money," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "The scars remain, however, in a scandal that many Indians believe unfairly tarred their community, not just Abramoff and his associates."

• "A strong force, perhaps as powerful in Congress as" Obama, "is keeping the drive for health care going even as lawmakers seem hopelessly at odds. Lobbyists," AP reports. "The drug industry, the American Medical Association, hospital groups and the insurance lobby are all saying Congress must make major changes this year. Television ads paid for by drug companies and insurers continued to emphasize the benefits of a health care overhaul -- not the groups' objections to some of the proposals."

Commentary: To The Dogs?

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, Stuart Rothenberg sees Blue Dog Democrats taking center stage on health care reform, but Paul Krugman doesn't hear them making any sense.

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