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EARLYBIRD

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Obama takes media tour to Letterman, and Baucus will put more subsidies in revised bill. Plus: U.N. meetings commence in New York.

White House: Obama Gets Serious On Letterman

• "President Obama extended his media blitzkrieg into late-night television Monday, becoming the first sitting commander in chief to appear on 'Late Show With David Letterman,'" the Washington Post reports. "Obama's appearance was largely serious. Letterman asked about Afghanistan, the economy and health care."

• "At this week's international summit meetings in New York and Pittsburgh," Obama "is set to offer heads of state and top diplomats his prescriptions for combating climate change and regulating financial markets," Politico reports. "But Obama's inability to point to concrete action at home on both fronts -- issues where Obama's proposals have bogged down in Congress -- is likely to undercut his bargaining power, and his authority to press other nations to act."

 

• "From the beginning, the Obama administration has unabashedly embraced the United Nations, pursuing a diplomatic strategy that reflects a belief that the world's sole superpower can no longer afford to go it alone," the Washington Post reports. "But, as the U.N. General Assembly gets underway this week, human rights activists and political analysts say the new approach has undercut U.S. leadership on human rights issues."

Politics: White House Getting Involved In State Races

• "An administration that came to Washington promising to rise above politics has quickly immersed itself in trying to influence an array of state-level elections, with an eye to both the fate of President Obama's agenda and his prospects for winning a second term in 2012," the Washington Post reports.

• "Vice President Joe Biden on Monday said if Republicans succeed in winning back the House in 2010, it would be the 'end of the road' for the White House's agenda," The Hill reports. "At a fundraiser for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), Biden said the prospects for change rest with about 35 Democrats who sit in districts Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won in the 2008 election. It is those seats, Biden said, that are the GOP's leading targets."

 

• "Spooked by the gloomy 2010 outlook for their party, Democratic senators up for reelection in 2012 are already boosting their campaign coffers, raising millions for an election that is still 37 months away," Politico reports. "But Democrats have a good reason for engaging in the never-ending campaign: The National Republican Senatorial Committee is already prepping health care-related attacks against 2012 candidates based on committee votes that begin" today.

• "An internal watchdog at the Justice Department said Monday he was reviewing the agency's involvement with the activist group ACORN," AP reports. "Inspector General Glenn Fine wrote Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, that his office would examine whether ACORN sought or received any Justice Department grant money, or conducted any reviews of ACORN's use of such money."

Health Care: Baucus To Increase Subsidies

• "Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) plans to introduce a modified version of his health care reform bill Tuesday that responds to concerns from Democrats and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) that the insurance coverage isn't affordable enough, according to Finance Committee aides," Politico reports. "Baucus is expected to use a $28 billion 'surplus' in the bill toward increasing affordability for the middle class, the aides said, which could mean more generous tax credits for low- and moderate-income individuals and lower penalties for people who do not purchase coverage."

• "Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), one of" Obama's "harshest critics, found plenty of common ground on health care reform Monday as he faced off at a town hall meeting here with one of the president's most ardent supporters," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "There were few fireworks between Cantor and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) during the rare bipartisan session, as both Members acknowledged that Democrats and Republicans agree on 80 percent of the contents of the House health care reform legislation."

 

• Biden plans "to join in the effort to sell" Obama's "health-care overhaul by unveiling a White House study of rising health-insurance rates" today, the Wall Street Journal reports. "Mr. Biden will take the message to National Harbor, Md., speaking at the annual meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, whose members say half the consumer complaints they receive are about health policies and insurers. The vice president will present new White House findings that 'health insurance premiums in states have gone up between 90-150% over the last decade -- far faster than wages and inflation,' according to speech excerpts released by the White House."

National Security: Denver Arrest Prompts Mass Transit Warnings

• "An airport shuttle driver under arrest in Colorado may have been planning with others to detonate backpack bombs on New York City trains in a terrorism plot similar to past attacks on London's and Madrid's mass-transit systems, officials said," AP reports. "The investigation into the possible terror plot has prompted counterterrorism officials to warn mass-transit systems around the nation to step up patrols."

• "Bob Woodward's Monday-morning exclusive on a 66-page report from Gen. Stanley McChrystal to" Obama "about Afghanistan policy was a rite of passage for the new administration: the first major national security leak and a sure sign that the celebrated Washington Post reporter has penetrated yet another administration," Politico reports. "White House officials greeted the leak with a grimace, but none suggested they'd begin a witch hunt for the leaker... But inside the White House and out, the leak touched off another familiar Washington ritual: speculation about the leaker's identity and motives."

World: Rescue Continues After Bhutan Earthquake

• "Rescue workers fanned out across eastern Bhutan" today, "one day after an earthquake shook the tiny, isolated Himalayan nation and killed at least 12 people, officials and a state-run daily said," AP reports. "The 6.3-magnitude afternoon earthquake damaged nearly 200 homes, monuments, monasteries, government offices and schools in a little populated eastern region of the country, state-run Kuensel newspaper reported. At least 15 people also were injured."

• "Honduras's deposed President Manuel Zelaya breathed new life into his efforts to regain office by slipping into the country and taking shelter in the Brazilian Embassy, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said," Bloomberg News reports. "Clinton, speaking in New York after meeting with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who has mediated the Honduran political crisis, said Zelaya's return to the capital, Tegucigalpa, created the chance to restore 'constitutional and democratic order' and move ahead with elections in November."

• "Chancellor Angela Merkel's lead in the polls is narrowing days before a federal election, suggesting she could be forced into another 'grand coalition' that might struggle to lift Germany out of a deep downturn," Reuters reports. "Merkel is hoping to avoid a replay of the right-left partnership that has ruled Germany for the past four years, because she says it would be less stable and have trouble pushing through the policies Europe's largest economy needs."

Economy: Banks Could Bail Out Government

• "Tired of the government bailing out banks? Get ready for this: officials may soon ask banks to bail out the government," the New York Times reports. "Senior regulators say they are seriously considering a plan to have the nation's healthy banks lend billions of dollars to rescue the insurance fund that protects bank depositors. That would enable the fund, which is rapidly running out of money because of a wave of bank failures, to continue to rescue the sickest banks."

• House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., "says he won't ditch the White House's plan to create a new consumer financial watchdog, despite pressure from the industry and concern among some conservative Democrats," Politico reports. "Frank expressed confidence that changes he is working on with committee members will ease much of the anxiety that currently surrounds the administration's proposal to create the so-called Consumer Finance Protection Agency."

• "As time passes from the height of the financial crisis one year ago and the economy begins to recover, administration officials are ramping up their calls for congressional lawmakers not to let the window of opportunity close before enacting a series of new regulations. 'We continue to believe that we are on track for enactment by year's end,' said Neal Wolin, deputy Treasury secretary, in an interview with The Hill. 'We as a country, frankly, coming out of what we have just been through, need to make sure that we put our financial-services system on the right footing, and there is no time to waste.'"

Energy & Environment: Doubts Loom At U.N.

• Obama "and China's President Hu Jintao will address the United Nations today on climate change amid doubt that an international accord on global warming can be reached this year," Bloomberg News reports. "'Negotiations are dangerously close to deadlock at the moment,' European Commission President Jose Barroso said yesterday of the treaty talks set to culminate in Copenhagen at a United Nations-led meeting in December."

• "The Senate Monday resumed consideration of the $32.1 billion, FY10 Interior-Environment Appropriations bill, with lawmakers filing several more amendments to the measure, including a proposal by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., to provide for the approval of a leasing program for Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas for the years 2010 to 2015," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. Majority Leader Harry Reid "stressed that the Senate will move quickly on the Interior bill so the chamber can take up the $636 billion Defense Appropriations bill in an attempt to finish it before the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year."

• "A two-judge panel of a federal appeals court has ruled that big power companies can be sued by states and land trusts for emitting carbon dioxide. The decision, issued Monday, overturns a 2005 District Court decision that the question was political, not judicial," the New York Times reports.

• "The Energy Department announced it would spend $100 million to train workers to upgrade the electric transmission system, as Energy Secretary Steven Chu warned China was ahead of the United States in the development of so-called 'smart grid' technologies," The Hill reports. "Chu made the announcement about the new worker-training program, which will be paid for by stimulus money, at a conference on smart grid efforts across the globe that opened Monday in Washington. Chu also announced a related $44 million program for state public utility commissions to encourage more local smart grid efforts."

Lobbying: More Regulations To Come?

• "In what would be a dramatic next step in its drive to insulate itself from K Street, the White House is strongly considering limiting the ability of lobbyists to serve on federal advisory panels designed to bring the voices of outside interests into the halls of the administration," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "According to sources familiar with the deliberations, the White House is likely to either tell agencies to ban lobbyists from the panels or to provide the agencies guidance -- which would be hard to resist, considering the source -- suggesting they avoid having lobbyists serve on the committees."

• "A federal grand jury charged Hassan Nemazee, a New York businessman who has ties to prominent politicians, with defrauding banks of $292 million in part to benefit the Democratic Party," the Wall Street Journal reports. Nemazee "used the proceeds of his scheme to donate to campaigns and political-action committees, according to an indictment made public Monday, though the amount allegedly spent on these efforts wasn't specified. The donations helped him rise to become finance chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, among other major roles."

• "General Electric and Pratt & Whitney are both known for making heavy war machinery. But it's their K Street desk jockeys who are now on the front lines in a fierce clash over Pentagon billions," Politico reports. "GE is accusing Pratt & Whitney and its allies of using twisted Congressional Budget Office numbers to make their case. Meanwhile, Pratt & Whitney's team is smearing GE's allies by accusing them -- including House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) -- of being desperate enough to employ an earmark to get their way."

Technology: FCC Chair Wants To Strengthen Net Neutrality

• "Phone and cable companies expressed concern about proposed rules that would prohibit Internet service providers from slowing competitors' Web traffic or impeding access to legal Web content," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, in a speech Monday, proposed putting teeth into current guidelines on so-called net neutrality by making them full-fledged rules, and extending them to wireless carriers."

• Genachowski, "who has staked his reputation on fostering an open and collegial regulatory commission -- kept his two Republican colleagues in the dark about the ambitious plan he announced Monday for new Internet rules, prompting rebukes from them and two GOP House members," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "In addition, an influential Republican senator, who leads the minority on the committee that oversees the FCC, announced she will try to derail the chairman's plan by attaching a rider to an appropriations bill this week."

Transportation: House Leadership Backs Oberstar

• House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar, D-Minn., "has picked up support from House Democratic leaders in challenging the Obama administration and Senate Democratic leaders on extending surface transportation law only through the rest of this year. He also has pushed leading industry groups to be more aggressive in lobbying for quick congressional action," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "A House Democratic leadership aide confirmed Monday that" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer "fully support Oberstar's effort."

Commentary: To Surge Or Not To Surge?

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, Eugene Robinson is troubled by Gen. McChrystal's report on Afghanistan, while Anne Applebaum accuses the administration of mistreating our European allies.

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