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EARLYBIRD

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Napolitano expected to outline new security strategy today, and China expresses concerns over mounting U.S. debt. Plus: Dems could be on thin ice in 2010.

White House: Napolitano To Expand Bush-Era Security Measures

• "Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is expected to outline" today "the Obama administration's domestic approach to preventing terrorist attacks -- a strategy that will rely in large measure on refining and expanding initiatives launched under President George W. Bush," the Wall Street Journal reports.

• "The Obama administration said Tuesday that it would take new steps to ease American sanctions against Syria on a case-by-case basis, the latest sign of a diplomatic thaw," the New York Times reports. Special Middle East envoy George Mitchell "said the American government would try to expedite the process for obtaining individual exemptions to the sanctions, which prohibit the export of all American products to Syria except food and medicine."

 

• "When Barack Obama meets Thursday with the black professor and white policeman at the center of a national uproar over race relations, he is aiming for a show that will get positive news coverage and then go away," AP reports. "'There's no formal agenda other than cold beer,' press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday."

• "The Obama administration is threatening to veto the House's defense spending bill over $485 million in funds for several new helicopters to fly the president on short trips from the White House," The Hill reports. "The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) made the threat in a statement of administration policy on Tuesday as the House readied to debate the 2010 defense appropriations bill."

Congress: Divided Committee Approves Sotomayor

• "A divided Senate Judiciary Committee approved Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination on Tuesday, effectively ensuring she will be confirmed by the full Senate before it leaves for summer recess next week," the Wall Street Journal reports. "With the backing of virtually all 60 Senate Democrats and independents, along with a few Republicans, Judge Sotomayor would join the court a month ahead of its next argument, a special Sept. 9 session to consider striking down limits on corporate political expenditures."

 

• The House Financial Services Committee "voted Tuesday to prohibit large financial firms from offering corporate pay packages that encourage executives to take big risks, going further than what" Obama "wanted to curb excessive salaries and bonuses on Wall Street," AP reports. "Lawmakers, including Republicans who opposed the proposal because they said it went too far, said they were under tremendous pressure from constituents."

Politics: Perilous Landscape Awaits Dems In 2010

• "Democrats giddy with possibilities only six months ago now confront a perilous 2010 landscape signaled by troublesome signs of" Obama's "political mortality, the plunging popularity of many governors and rising disquiet among many vulnerable House Democrats," Politico reports. "The issue advantage has shifted as well, with Democrats facing the brunt of criticism about the pace of stimulus package spending, anxiety over rising unemployment rates and widespread uneasiness over the twin pillars of Obama's legislative agenda: his cap-and-trade approach to climate change and the emerging health care bill."

• "Pushing back against Republican charges that President Obama's stimulus package has been ineffective, the DNC is launching a three-pronged attack this week focused on projects being funded in the states and districts of the GOP's congressional leadership," Politico also reports.

• "Lost in the focus on" Obama "and Vice President Joseph Biden's history-making move down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House in January was the fact that Republicans have a historic opportunity to pick up the pair's former Senate seats," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

 

Economy: China Urges U.S. To Manage Debt, Protect Dollar

• "A show of unity from the U.S. and China at the end of a high-profile two-day conference was overshadowed by continuing Chinese concerns about the U.S.'s growing pile of debt," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan, in talks with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and other officials, urged the U.S. to protect the value of the dollar."

• "After a plunge lasting three years, houses have finally become cheap enough to lure buyers. That, in turn, is stabilizing prices, generating hope that the real estate market is beginning to recover," the New York Times reports. "Eight cities, including Chicago, Cleveland, Denver and San Francisco, showed price increases in May, up from four in April and one in March, according to data released Tuesday."

• "With federal highway and unemployment trust funds running low, Congress is rushing to pump in more than $12 billion from general revenues to replenish the accounts and help states through the summer when lawmakers are home for August," Politico reports. "House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) filed the measure Tuesday in anticipation of quick floor approval -- possibly as early as Wednesday."

• "The Democratic agenda in Washington has gone off the rails just as markets are enjoying their best run of the Obama presidency, and there's a school of thought on Wall Street that it's no coincidence," The Hill reports. "While a string of better-than-expected earnings reports from U.S. companies has been credited for the upswing, analysts such as Axel Merk, the portfolio manger of Merk Investments, said the stalled agenda in Congress has also helped the Dow Jones Industrial Average spike above 9,000."

World: Reports Of Post-Election Prison Abuse Spark Outrage In Iran

• "The accounts of prison abuse in Iran's postelection crackdown -- relayed by relatives and on opposition Web sites -- have set off growing outrage among Iranians, including some prominent conservatives," the New York Times reports. "More bruised corpses have been returned to families in recent days, and some hospital officials have told human rights workers that they have seen evidence that well over 100 protesters have died since the vote."

• "The Nigerian army launched an assault Tuesday against 'Taliban' militants fighting to establish radical Islamic rule in the north of the country, in an escalation of clashes that reportedly have left hundreds dead," the Los Angeles Times reports. "The rebels, armed with machetes, guns and bows and arrows, had attacked police stations and targeted police and government officials in the predominantly Muslim north Sunday and Monday."

• "Venezuela is withdrawing its ambassador from neighbouring Colombia and freezing relations, following a dispute over weapons supplied to Colombian rebels," BBC News reports. "President Hugo Chavez, who announced the move on Venezuelan TV, also said he was halting trade deals with Colombia."

National Security: Gates Says Iraq Withdrawal Went Smoothly

• "Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the American military withdrawal from Iraqi cities went fairly smoothly, clearing the way for Baghdad to reshape its relationship with the U.S. and begin assuming primary security responsibility for the entire country," the Wall Street Journal reports. It's "a pivotal moment for Washington and Baghdad, as the two countries try to take advantage of a decline in Iraq's violence to focus attention on trade, weapons sales and nonmilitary aspects of their complex relationship."

• "The Iraqis will be unable to handle their own air defenses after all American troops withdraw from the country by the end of 2011, the top commander of American forces in Iraq said Tuesday," the New York Times reports. "Gen. Ray Odierno... did not directly say that American planes and pilots might effectively have to serve as an Iraqi air force until the Iraqis were ready to defend their country's airspace on their own. But he said that a United States Air Force team was expected soon in Iraq to assess what the United States could, and should, do."

• "Commanders of the Multi-National Force-Iraq, as the American-led coalition is formally called, have a looming nomenclature problem," the Times also reports. "Two days from now, there will no longer be any other nations with troops in Iraq -- no 'multi' in the Multi-National Force."

Health Care: Finance Committee Nears Deal On Co-op Plan

• "Details began to emerge Tuesday of the Senate Finance Committee's plan to establish a co-op system of healthcare coverage, as specifics on the committee's free-rider alternative to the employer mandate tamped down business opposition," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., "said the plan being discussed would permit co-ops to operate on state, regional and national levels. States could form regional co-ops while Conrad did not specify what type of entity would form a national co-op."

• "An emerging consensus among a bipartisan group of senators is poised to shift the dynamic in the congressional debate over health-care reform and could lead to a final product that sheds many of the priorities that President Obama has emphasized and that have drawn GOP attacks," the Washington Post reports. "Three Democrats and three Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee are expected to wrap up their arduous multi-week talks in the coming days, and Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said he expects a panel vote before the Senate recess, which will begin Aug. 7."

• "A marathon of healthcare talks ended late Tuesday with no apparent deal between the Blue Dog Coalition and House leaders, who met with White House officials to try to hash out the intraparty disagreements that have stalled healthcare reform in the House," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "A House fight among Democrats on overhauling the nation's healthcare system has spread to the Senate, where centrists and liberals are clashing over the direction the legislation should take," The Hill reports. "Trouble is brewing now that a bipartisan group of senators -- led by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) -- has signaled it will exclude a government-run insurance option from the committee's draft legislation that could be marked up next week."

Energy & Environment: 'Cash For Clunkers' Has Customers

• "Car and truck owners looking to junk their gas guzzlers are flocking to dealerships to take advantage of the government's 'cash for clunkers' program and buy more fuel-efficient vehicles, boosting sales in showrooms across the country," AP reports. The program "took effect over the weekend at the nearly 20,000 car dealers who have signed up with the Department of Transportation."

• "Cracks are emerging within the powerful farm lobby, as the agriculture community fractures over the sweeping climate and energy bill expected to be taken up by the Senate this fall," Politico reports.

Lobbying: Honduran Groups Increase Lobbying After Zelaya's Ouster

• "Trade associations and companies both inside and outside of Honduras have stepped up their lobbying efforts in Washington as the nation's political crisis remains unresolved in the wake of President Manuel Zelaya's ouster," The Hill reports. "A review of lobbying disclosure records by The Hill show that U.S. companies have worked to protect their operations in Honduras while more business groups from the Central American nation have turned to Washington lobbyists in order to keep Zelaya out of power."

• The New York Times analyzes the 2007 jockeying for a chunk of the $50 billion overseen by the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation: "As a New York money manager and investment banker at four Wall Street firms, Charles E. F. Millard never reached superstar status. But he was treated like one when he arrived in Washington in May 2007."

• "Credit unions are being courted by Democrats to back a key part of the financial regulatory overhaul strongly opposed by the bulk of their industry, giving the institutions an opportunity to reshape the measure more to their liking," The Hill reports. "With roughly 90 million members and thousands of credit unions across the country, the lobby and its grassroots forces would give the Obama administration instant credibility at a time when others have panned the legislation."

Technology: DHS And FCC Not Cooperating Enough, GAO Says

• "The Homeland Security Department and the Federal Communications Commission aren't doing enough to coordinate their efforts in strengthening public safety emergency networks, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office," Federal Computer Week reports.

• "The Air Force's geek squad wants the technology to monitor government employees' deviant online behavior. And they want you to build it," Wired reports. On Tuesday, "the Air Force issued a call for proposals from small businesses, with this objective: 'Define, develop, and demonstrate innovative approaches for determining 'good' (approved) versus 'bad' (disallowed/subversive) activities, including insiders and/or malware.'"

Transportation: Bill Will Tighten Airline Safety Standards

• "Safety standards for airlines and pilots would be dramatically toughened in legislation scheduled to be introduced Wednesday in Congress," USA Today reports. "Prompted by the crash last February near Buffalo that has raised questions about pilot qualifications, training and fatigue, the 'Airline Safety and Pilot Training Improvement Act of 2009' aims to find the most successful safety programs and mandate them for all airlines, said Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee."

• "A host of interest groups are already fighting it out for a slice of the next highway bill -- expected to top out at nearly half-a-trillion dollars -- but stakeholders across the transportation spectrum are united on one point: They want Congress to pass a mammoth reauthorization soon after it expires this fall, not wait another year and a half," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

Commentary: Out Of Committee

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, the Los Angeles Times applauds Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for bucking the Republican trend and voting for Sotomayor. Norman Ornstein at the American Enterprise Institute, meanwhile, thinks giving justices fixed, 18-year terms would free presidents to tap more experienced nominees.

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