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EARLYBIRD

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Obama's approval rating hits a new low, and Senator Kennedy leaves behind $4.6 million in campaign funds. Plus: South Carolina Republicans discuss impeachment proceedings for Sanford.

White House: Obama Approval Ratings Hit New Low

President Obama "has fallen to a 50% job approval rating in the newest daily tracking of the Gallup Poll released Thursday," the Los Angeles Times reports. "The new low for Obama compares with his peak public job approval rating of 69% after his inauguration in January."

• "President Obama's nominee for the Labor Department's top law enforcement job created a first-of-its-kind program in New York that deputized unions and advocacy groups to visit private businesses and report wage violations to the government, an initiative that has raised concerns holding up her appointment," the Washington Times reports. "Internal memos obtained by Republican aides on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee show that" M. Patricia Smith's "state labor agency in New York actually referred to the union and group participants as 'enforcers,' The Washington Times has learned."

 

Kennedy: Senator Leaves Behind $4.6 Million In Campaign Funds

• One of Sen. Edward Kennedy's "most tangible political legacies sits in a bank account -- the $4.55 million he had already raised for his 2012 reelection campaign and which now can be used for a wide variety of political or charitable causes," Politico reports. "For the immediate future, his campaign committee can't contribute more than $2,000 to any single candidate, even one seeking Kennedy's Massachusetts Senate seat, meaning Kennedy's inner circle can't use it to help anoint a favorite from among the crowded field of Democrats who would like to succeed him. But federal election laws also permit the committee to convert itself into a political action committee that could continue raising and spending money in perpetuity."

• Shortly before Kennedy's funeral Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Boston on Saturday, "44 sitting senators and 10 former senators will be among a group of about 100 dignitaries who will pay their respects to Kennedy at" the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum "before making their way to the church," AP reports.

• "Top Obama administration officials differed" Thursday on whether Kennedy's death "will help the push for universal health care, the cause of his life," the Boston Globe reports. "Vice President Joe Biden said Kennedy's passing -- and the outpouring of tributes -- could break the partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill," while "Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Kennedy's death would 'make things more difficult' on health care legislation."

 

Health Care: Top House Democrats Say Bill Compromises May Change

• "Two senior House Democrats said an agreement struck with centrist Blue Dog Democrats in late July on a public health insurance option might be altered before a health-care bill reaches the House floor," the Wall Street Journal reports. The provision allowing the Secretary of Health to negotiate the public plan's payment rates "drew sharp criticism from more liberal House Democrats, who want those payment rates to be pegged to the Medicare program. They argue that negotiated rates would give insurance companies undue influence, and wouldn't lower costs enough."

• "Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, one of three Senate Republicans negotiating on health care, said the soaring federal budget deficit 'puts a stake in the heart' of $1 trillion measures being considered by lawmakers," Bloomberg reports. "Grassley, the top Republican on the finance committee, said a bipartisan plan being discussed by panel members will have to be scaled back to have any chance of passing in the wake of new deficit projections released this week."

Politics: South Carolina Republicans Plan Sanford Impeachment Hearing

• "South Carolina Republican lawmakers are laying plans for a special session legislative session on whether to impeach and remove embattled Gov. Mark Sanford by the end of the year," the Washington Times reports. "Republican lawmakers in the state House will use a regularly scheduled annual retreat in Myrtle Beach this weekend to discuss the governor's fate... Rep. Gary Simrill, a Republican, told The Times on Thursday."

• "The Federal Election Commission said Thursday that a conservative political group can use Senator Arlen Specter's campaign donor list to notify people that Mr. Specter has promised to return donations to those upset by his switch to Democrat from Republican," AP reports. "The commission voted 4 to 2 in favor of the request from Club for Growth, a group once led by former Representative Patrick J. Toomey, who nearly defeated Mr. Specter in the 2004 Republican primary in Pennsylvania."

 

• "Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas [R] said at a news conference in Montpelier that he is ready to hand control of the state's government over to a new leader," the Washington Post reports. "Douglas, 58, is in his fourth two-year term as governor. He said Thursday that he does not plan to run for any other political office."

World: Suicide Bomber Injures Saudi Prince

• "A suicide bomber slightly injured a Saudi Arabian royal family member in charge of antiterrorism efforts, the first significant retaliation by extremists against the kingdom's recent crackdown," the Wall Street Journal reports. "According to a statement issued by the Saudi Royal Court, the bombing took place at 11.30 p.m. Thursday, while Prince Muhammad bin Nayef was receiving guests during a traditional Ramadan gathering at his house in Jeddah, a commercial hub on the Red Sea."

• "Iran's president called Friday for the prosecution of opposition leaders over the postelection turmoil, saying that senior activists currently on trial shouldn't be the only ones punished," the AP reports. "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call stepped up the pressure against reformers in the continuing unrest that has gripped the country following the June 12 presidential election."

• "One week after Afghanistan's presidential election, with the winner still undeclared, increasing accusations of fraud and voter coercion threaten to undermine the validity of the results, deepen dangerous regional divisions and hamper the Obama administration's goals in this volatile country," the Washington Post reports.

Economy: FDIC Under Strain From Failing Banks

• "Even though financial stocks have rallied nearly 70 percent since the end of March, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation issued another grim quarterly report Thursday on the health of the nation's banks," the New York Times reports. "Its deposit insurance fund dropped 20 percent, to $10.4 billion, its lowest level in nearly 16 years. And the number of 'problem banks' increased to 416, from 305 in the first quarter, and is expected to remain high."

• "A politically charged case involving Chinese tire imports will soon force the hand of an Obama administration that has yet to articulate a clear trade policy to anxious global trading partners," the Wall Street Journal reports. Obama "has until Sept. 17 to rule on a U.S. International Trade Commission recommendation that the White House put a 55% tariff on low-grade car tires imported from China."

• "Britain's top financial-markets regulator drew fire from bankers Thursday for suggesting a new global tax could be needed to rein in excessive risk-taking and bonuses in the banking industry," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "In an interview with the Prospect, a U.K. monthly magazine, Adair Turner, chairman of the Financial Services Authority and a former vice chairman of Merrill Lynch Europe, said global regulators may want to consider a tax on financial transactions if other measures to curb banks' risk-taking and compensation policies don't work."

Energy & Environment: Americans Approve Of Obama On Energy

• "Most Americans approve of the way President Obama is handling energy issues and support efforts by him and Democrats in Congress to overhaul energy policy -- including the controversial cap-and-trade approach to limiting greenhouse gas emissions, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll," the Washington Post reports.

• "Advocates for manufacturers and small businesses are launching a multimillion-dollar ad campaign against climate change legislation in states represented by senators likely to determine the bill's fate," The Hill reports. "The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), groups that have historically leaned Republican, are targeting the House Waxman-Markey bill as a threat to the economy because it would raise energy costs."

Lobbying: Obama, DNC Will Return Tainted Donations

• Obama "and the Democratic National Committee on Thursday joined the growing group of politicians and committees pledging to return or donate to charity campaign contributions from Democratic moneyman Hassan Nemazee, who was arrested and charged Tuesday with trying to defraud Citibank of $74 million by offering fake collateral for a loan," Politico reports. "But a DNC official stopped short of promising that Obama would give back or give away contributions from other donors that came through Nemazee through a process known as bundling that brought in more than $500,000 for Obama's campaign."

• "The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has been lobbying for three decades for the federal government to provide universal health insurance, especially for the poor," the New York Times reports. "Now, as President Obama tries to rally Roman Catholics and other religious voters around his proposals to do just that, a growing number of bishops are speaking out against it."

• House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., "has launched an urgent effort to raise $100,000 by Monday to help combat what she calls GOP 'smears' about health care reform," Politico reports. "'Republican opponents of reform are coming out with one outrageous smear after the next, all aimed at derailing our progress. We must be able to counter their special interest-funded attacks and set the record straight,' Pelosi wrote in a letter to Democratic supporters."

Technology: FCC Will Examine Wireless Industry

• The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday "unanimously approved a sweeping investigation into the wireless industry intended to better understand factors that encourage innovation and investment, identify concrete steps it should take and determine whether the adequacy of consumer protection policies through 'truth in billing' rules for communications services," CongressDaily (subscription) reports. "The panel gave the green light to three interrelated notices of inquiry that commissioners said should help provide more tangible and detailed data about the fast-growing industry."

• "Supporters of autistic British computer hacker Gary McKinnon attempted to rally support on Thursday for the man who is fighting extradition to the United States to face federal charges in Virginia and New Jersey for penetrating dozens of U.S. government computers," the Washington Post reports.

Transportation: NTSB Asks FAA For Stricter Airspace Rules In New York

• "Federal safety officials on Thursday called for new air-traffic control procedures and flight restrictions in the crowded airspace over Manhattan, less than three weeks after a small plane and a sightseeing helicopter collided there, killing nine people," the Wall Street Journal reports. "National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman urged the Federal Aviation Administration to go beyond the voluntary procedures currently governing much of the low-altitude airspace over New York City."

Commentary: Kennedy's International Legacy

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown remembers the senator as a "great internationalist who inspired social progress in every country." Plus: How would the media cover Chappaquiddick if it happened today?

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