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Obama opens China meetings and Gates visits Iraq. Plus: Kentucky Republican Bunning won't seek a third term in Senate.

White House: Obama Urges Cooperation In China Meetings

• "President Obama opened the first meeting of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue on Monday by declaring that the two countries share a responsibility for the 21st century, and should strive to cooperate not only on economic matters but also on key issues such as climate change, nuclear proliferation and transnational threats," the Washington Post reports. "'The pursuit of power among nations must no longer be seen as a zero-sum game,' he said at the start of the two-day meeting."

• "Obama will take questions on his health care plan" today "from AARP members in the audience and over the telephone during a town-hall meeting at AARP headquarters," AP reports. "Later, Obama will meet in the Oval Office with the leaders of the delegations to the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue."


• Obama on Monday did "some sports lobbying on behalf of the United States," ABC News reports. "Obama put his juggling skills to work with an Oval Office sales pitch to Joseph Blatter, the head of FIFA, soccer's international governing body. The president's goal? To bring the 2018 or 2022 World Cup soccer championship to the United States."

Health Care: Senate Bill To Drop Both Employer Mandate And Public Option

• "The bipartisan healthcare overhaul proposal in the works behind closed doors in the Senate Finance Committee will not include a broad employer mandate," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, emerged from bipartisan talks Monday confirming the employer mandate and, as expected, a public option would not make the final bill."

• "Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and his gang of six bipartisan negotiators have emerged as the only chance for Congress to produce a consensus bill this year," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "After months of pushing to meet" Obama's "Aug. 7 deadline to pass a bill, Senate Democratic leaders are now embracing a delay forced on the chamber by the ongoing bipartisan Finance negotiations."


• "House Republicans will wait for Democrats to finish their health care reform bill before they release their alternative, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters on Monday," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

• Meanwhile, "another debate is simmering over whether illegal immigrants could get taxpayer-funded coverage," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Some Republicans argue that the healthcare reform bill making its way through the House includes loopholes under which illegal immigrants could get benefits through a public option plan."

Congress: Senate Begins Action On Appropriations Bills

• "With less than two weeks left before the start of the August recess, the Senate Monday began consideration of the FY10 $34.3 billion Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which Democratic leaders intend to clear before moving this week to the FY10 $23.7 billion Agriculture Appropriations bill," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Action comes after Democratic leaders recently decided to resume work on appropriations after putting off consideration of healthcare legislation."

• "As Senate Democrats struggle to hammer out a compromise bill on union organizing, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is sketching a process for railroading the bill... to prevent Republicans from rallying a major campaign against it, senior Democratic aides said," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "With health care on the Senate's plate, Democrats said no deal on the labor bill is expected until September at the earliest -- if at all."


• "A Senate panel, after prodding by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, will examine the future of the military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy governing gays in the military," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. "Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, agreed to a hearing on the issue after Gillibrand dropped her push for an 18-month moratorium on discharging service members under the policy."

Politics: Bunning Will Not Seek Third Term

• "Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) said Monday he will not seek a third term in the Senate," The Hill reports. "He has lashed out at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas), both of whom expressed uncertainty at his interest in a third term."

• "Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger" today "is expected to use his line-item veto power to make additional cuts to the California's latest spending plan -- a move advocates fear could hurt the poor," AP reports. "Social service advocates worry the Republican governor has little choice but to go after money counties receive to administer welfare and social service benefits. Likely targets include welfare-to-work assistance, in-home support, foster care and health insurance for poor families."

Economy: Cabinet Departments Ready To Cut Millions

• "Cabinet members said they could cut their budgets by almost $243 million over the next two years, responding to a call by President Obama to find savings in order to show a little fiscal responsibility," The Hill reports. "The agencies came up with a total of 77 proposals for savings through a variety of changes in government programs. Obama had asked his cabinet members to come up with $100 million in cuts for the fiscal year."

• "House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank said Monday countries that lower regulatory barriers in anticipation of a revamp of the U.S. financial system will be punished by banning their respective foreign banks from participating in the U.S. payment system overseen by the Federal Reserve," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

World: Gates Makes Surprise Visit To Iraq

• "Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived" at Talil Airbase in Iraq "this morning to meet with American military commanders and Iraqi political leaders in anticipation of a major drawdown of U.S. troops set to start early next year," the New York Times reports.

• "The Obama administration has told Syria that it will work to ease U.S. sanctions against Damascus, as Washington intensifies its pursuit of détente with a longtime Middle East rival," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The U.S. decision targets spare aircraft parts, information-technology products and telecommunications equipment, sales of which have been restricted by U.S. sanctions on Syria enacted in 2004."

• "A group of Nigerian Islamist militants is barricaded into a small area in the city of Maiduguri after two days of violence in the country's north," BBC News reports. "A BBC reporter in the city says the Islamists are shooting at anyone coming close to their stronghold. President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua had ordered the security forces to use all necessary means to end the violence, in which at least 100 have died."

Energy & Environment: Congress, Secretary Split On Hydrogen Cell Funding

• "Energy Secretary Steven Chu wants to kill research and development on cars that run on hydrogen fuel cells, but a spending bill approved by the House this month and another scheduled for a Senate vote this week would restore funding for the program," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Mr. Chu has said that hydrogen fuel cells are an impractical technology for vehicles, partly because they would require the creation of a network of hydrogen fueling stations."

Lobbying: TARP Recipients Step Up Lobbying In Second Quarter

• "After a decline in lobbying activity during the first quarter of this year, the major recipients of cash from the Troubled Asset Relief Program -- TARP -- have stepped up their spending as drafts of a new financial regulatory system have begun to take shape, according to the second-quarter lobbying disclosure reports released last week," Politico reports.

• "Lobbying interests that President Obama campaigned against last year have gained the upper hand on the White House in recent weeks," The Hill reports. "In stark contrast to Obama's first few months in office, special interest groups this summer have aggressively opposed the president's top domestic priorities. And they have succeeded in slowing legislation to revamp the nation's healthcare system, won an essential change to climate change legislation and put off efforts to set up a consumer agency in the financial sector."

• "The Hilton Hotels Corp. -- which is currently in the process of moving its global headquarters from Beverly Hills, Calif., to McLean, Va. -- is already acting like a savvy Beltway insider. The company has just hired a top in-house lobbyist," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

Transportation: House Chairman Bemoans Lack Of Airline Competition

• "The House Transportation Committee's chairman stepped up efforts to limit airlines' ability to join alliances that cooperate on scheduling and revenue sharing, urging the White House to review antitrust policies," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Rep. James Oberstar (D., Minn.) sent a letter Monday to Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council, expressing 'deep concern over the decline of airline competition in international markets.'"

Technology: Hill Staffers May Get iPhone E-mail Access This Year

• "Capitol Hill staffers may be able to get work e-mail on iPhones by the end of the year, according to a California-based technology company," The Hill reports. "Good Technology is in talks with the House and Senate about a way to overcome the main obstacle to iPhone usage -- encrypting e-mail at a high enough level to meet congressional security needs."

• "The Homeland Security Department has consolidated hundreds of thousands of software licenses with Microsoft into a single license, resulting in a cost savings of $87.5 million over six years," Federal Computer Week reports. "In addition, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement consolidated more than 200 licensing agreements for use of Oracle software and created a single, unlimited license, for an estimated cost avoidance of $1.5 million over the next year."

Commentary: Arrested Development

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, Eugene Robinson says racism combined with class envy led to Henry Louis Gates' arrest. Cal Thomas, meanwhile, hopes Obama will continue to "attack the underpinnings of an attitude that still reigns in much of the black community: that failure is someone else's fault."

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