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Legacy Content / EARLYBIRD

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Obama tries to shore up economic confidence, and former President Clinton lands in North Korea. Plus: Full Senate takes up Sotomayor nomination.

August 4, 2009

White House: Obama Plans Campaign To Tout Recovery

• "President Obama will attempt to regain the initiative on the economy" this week "after what one senior administration official called several 'rocky' weeks of declining support for the president and his major policy efforts," the Washington Post reports. "He and his Cabinet advisers will fan out across several swing states to declare that the recovery has moved from the rescue stage to rebuilding, even though unemployment continues to increase and his advisers have been making contradictory statements about... a tax increase for middle-class Americans."

• "Obama will host the entire Senate Democratic caucus for lunch at the White House" today "in an effort to review the achievements of his first six months in office and build momentum for major initiatives whose fates are now in the hands of Congress," the Post also reports.

• "Obama administration officials are holding discussions that could result in White House counsel Gregory Craig leaving his post, following a rocky tenure, people familiar with the matter said," the Wall Street Journal reports. Craig "has helped lead the administration's efforts on several national-security issues that once enjoyed popularity but have since become become political liabilities for Mr. Obama."

 

Congress: Full Senate To Debate Sotomayor Nomination

• "The full Senate will finally take up the nomination of Supreme Court hopeful Sonia Sotomayor today, as lawmakers begin a highly orchestrated floor debate expected to be long on political posturing but short on substance or suspense," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

• "The Senate Monday voted to end debate on the FY10 Agriculture Appropriations bill, after defeating an amendment by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to eliminate USDA's high energy cost grant program, which provides $17.5 million in grants," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "The Senate voted 83-11 to invoke cloture on the measure, which includes $23.7 billion in discretionary funding, about $2.3 billion more than the amount provided in FY09."

• "The Senate's last few days of action before its summer break is shaping up to be a frenzied week of challenges for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)," The Hill reports. "From cash-for-clunkers to the Supreme Court nomination of" Sotomayor "to a bill that would benefit his home state, Reid is pushing an agenda that will attempt to beat the clock, resist Republican slow-down attempts and appease several unhappy members of his party."

Politics: DNC Urges Supreme Court Not To Overturn Campaign Spending Restrictions

• The Democratic National Committee filed a brief Monday with the Supreme Court, "urging it not to overturn long-standing restrictions on corporate spending in political campaigns in a case it's scheduled to rehear next month," Politico reports. The DNC argues that the high court "shouldn't upend the campaign finance landscape because it could limit the type of small donations that helped power" Obama "to victory in last year's presidential election."

• "This cycle's 39 gubernatorial races are shaping up to be where much of the action is, with as many as half of them potentially switching parties and at least 19 open seats," The Hill reports. "Already, The Cook Political Report is listing 15 seats as toss-ups or leaning toward a takeover."

Economy: Treasury To Borrow Less Than Expected In Third Quarter

• "The Treasury, which issued a record amount of debt in the past year to fund the surging federal budget deficit, said it will borrow less in the third quarter than it had previously expected, in part because banks repaid billions of dollars of government aid under the Troubled Asset Relief Program," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "The Treasury said it plans to borrow an estimated $406 billion in the quarter, $109 billion less than it had estimated."

• "Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner blasted top U.S. financial regulators in an expletive-laced critique last Friday as frustration grows over the Obama administration's faltering plan to overhaul U.S. financial regulation, according to people familiar with the meeting," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports.

• The Securities and Exchange Commission is facing conflicts "at a time when the economic crisis has left the U.S. government as the part-owner or controller of an unprecedented array of financial companies," the Washington Post reports. "Protecting investors on the one hand could mean harming taxpayer-owners on the other. And some troubled firms could wind up paying penalties with taxpayer money from the federal bailout."

National Security: U.S. Attorneys Battle Over Chance To Prosecute Mohammed

• "The U.S. attorney's offices in Alexandria and Manhattan are embroiled in intense competition over the opportunity to prosecute Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and his co-conspirators, according to Justice Department and law enforcement sources," the Washington Post reports.

• "Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., called the Army's response to soldiers exposed to a highly toxic carcinogen in Iraq 'inadequate' and said the Democratic Policy Committee will request a report from the Pentagon's inspector general on the matter," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Five soldiers who served at an Iraqi water injection facility in 2003 testified before the committee Monday, outlining symptoms believed to be the result of exposure to sodium dichromate spread across the facility."

World: Former President Clinton In North Korea To Negotiate Journalists' Release

• "Former President Bill Clinton landed in North Korea on Tuesday to negotiate the release of two American television journalists sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for illegally entering North Korean territory, according to a person briefed on the mission," the New York Times reports.

• "Australian police said Tuesday they thwarted a terrorist plot in which extremists with ties to an al-Qaida-linked Somali Islamist group planned to invade a military base and open fire with automatic weapons until they were shot dead themselves," AP reports. "Some 400 officers from state and national security services took part in 19 raids on properties in Melbourne, Australia's second largest city, before dawn Tuesday, arresting four men and detaining several others for questioning, police said."

• "Three Americans arrested after apparently straying into Iran are being questioned by police, Iranian state television has reported," BBC News reports. "Iranian officials have accused the three of ignoring warnings from border guards and crossing over from Iraq's Kurdish region on Friday."

Health Care: Senate Aims For Mid-September Deadline

• "The six Senate Finance Committee negotiators reconvened Monday with an eye toward meeting a mid-September deadline for a health care reform deal while their respective party leaders sought to frame the debate on the issue heading into the August recess," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "The Finance negotiators -- three Democrats and three Republicans -- are planning to meet throughout the week and over the monthlong break to try to reach a deal by Sept. 15."

• Still, "top Senate Democrats have made it clear that they'll move ahead with or without GOP support this fall," Politico reports. "New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the vice chairman of the Senate Democratic Conference, said Democrats are prepping back-up plans if Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) fails to strike a bipartisan deal by Sept. 15."

• "House liberals are offended that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) mocked their threats to oppose a Democratic healthcare bill, saying leaders are underestimating their frustration over a deal cut with centrist Blue Dogs," The Hill reports. "In a session with reporters before leaving for the August recess, Pelosi said, 'Are you asking me are progressives going to vote against universal, quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans? No way.'"

Lobbying: Group Fails To Disclose Drugmaker Funding In Letter To House Leaders

• A "note from the private National Health Council, sent to House leaders drafting health overhaul legislation" purporting to represent "'the more than 133 million Americans living with chronic diseases and disabilities and their family caregivers' ... did not mention that nearly $1.2 million of the council's $2.3 million budget in 2007 came from the pharmaceutical industry's chief trade group and 16 companies that sell or are developing the brand-name biotech drugs," AP reports.

• "Health care reform has 'the potential to become the mother of all advocacy ad wars,' says Evan Tracey, founder of the Campaign Media Analysis Group," Politico reports. "Thus far, more than $51 million has been spent on television ads since" Obama "was elected last fall, he said. And interest groups of all stripes are promising major campaigns through the August recess."

• "Lobbyists and special interests spent more than a million dollars during the first six months of 2009 honoring a man who is no fan of K Street: President Barack Obama," The Hill reports. "Corporate sponsorship paid for Inaugural festivities as well as events after Obama took office. For example, Ford Motor Co. spent $105,000 to help sponsor the NAACP's annual convention last month, at which Obama spoke."

Energy & Environment: Coal Group Angry Over Forged Letters Sent On Its Behalf

• "A coal group sought to distance itself from a grassroots advocacy firm working on its behalf that sent forged letters to Congress in opposition to a climate-change bill, as a key House sponsor of the legislation said he would open an investigation into the matter," The Hill reports. "Stephen Miller, president and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said he was 'outraged' by a report that an employee at Bonner & Associates faked at least six letters from two minority groups based in Charlottesville, Va."

• "The path toward Senate passage this week of a $2 billion boost for the 'Cash for Clunkers' program got a bit easier Monday after those seeking higher fuel-efficiency requirements signaled they will support a House-passed extension without changes," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Monday they are no longer worried the program would inadequately boost fuel efficiency after being briefed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration."

• "The Senate broke with" Obama "on Monday as it voted to keep alive a grant program to help people in rural areas receive reasonably priced electricity despite the president's demand to kill it," AP reports.

Technology: White House Cybersecurity Czar Steps Down

• "The White House's acting cybersecurity czar announced her resignation Monday, in a setback to the Obama administration's efforts to better protect the computer networks critical to national security and the global economy," the Wall Street Journal reports. Melissa Hathaway's "resignation highlights the difficulty the White House has had following through on its cybersecurity effort."

• "With concerns mounting over security and management, the Defense Department is reevaluating its policies on use of social media tools," Federal Computer Week. "Sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, once banned from DOD use, now play a major role for government and military public relations and recruiting. However, the threat of security breaches stemming from wide-open access could lessen Web 2.0's appeal."

Commentary: Channeling Stalin?

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal condemn Iran's "Stalin-style" show trials of people who have disputed the June elections.

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