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EARLYBIRD

Top News

CBO says Baucus plan would reduce deficit, and Obama continues Afghanistan discussions. Plus: House votes to let Rangel keep chairmanship.

Health Care: CBO Says Baucus Plan Would Reduce Deficit

• "Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus," D-Mont., "was quite pleased Wednesday with CBO's analysis of his committee's modified healthcare overhaul proposal, but the hospital industry says the number of Americans who will have coverage under the measure is too low to allow hospitals to keep their $155 billion pledge to help pay for the overhaul," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "The measure will bring health insurance to an additional 29 million people, leaving 25 million without insurance and bringing total coverage up to 94 percent of all Americans."

• "Liberal leaders told House Democrats on Wednesday that they have nearly enough votes to pass their preferred version of a government-run health insurance option, but the party's official vote-counter isn't so sure," The Hill reports. "Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told a closed-door caucus meeting that the group's 'whip count' showed it had 208 of the 218 votes needed to pass what liberals call a 'robust' public option."

 

• "Concerned that their party may prevent progress on one of the nation's most intractable problems, several governors and former Washington power brokers are calling on Republicans in Congress to help pass a health care bill," USA Today reports.

White House: Obama Meets With Security Advisers On Afghanistan

• "A day after telling Congressional leaders that he would not substantially reduce American forces in Afghanistan or shift the mission to just hunting terrorists there, President Obama conferred with his national security team Wednesday afternoon on Afghanistan and Pakistan," the New York Times reports. Obama "appears to be undecided about how to respond to the proposal by his commanding general for a major troop buildup."

• Obama's "approval rating has risen to 56 percent in the latest AP-GfK poll, up from 50 percent in September and the first time since January that his approval has gone up in the poll," Politico reports. "Thirty-nine percent said they disapprove of his job performance -- down from 49 percent last month."

 

• "After three years of major increases in federal Pell grants for needy college students," Obama "aims to boost the aid further with $40 billion in funding over the next decade," the Washington Post reports. "But even that influx might not ensure that the grants will recover and sustain the purchasing power they once held."

Congress: Rangel Keeps Committee Post

• "Democrats thwarted a Republican attempt to dethrone Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) from the top post of the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday afternoon," The Hill reports. "In a mostly party-line vote of 243-156 with 19 members voting 'present,' Democrats successfully passed a procedural motion referring the matter to the House ethics committee -- a move that sank a GOP effort to remove Rangel from the powerful tax-writing panel."

• "The Senate Wednesday defeated an amendment by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., to the $64.9 billion, FY10 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill that would cut police force funding to so-called sanctuary cities, which maintain policies of not inquiring into the detainee's immigration status or cooperating with immigration authorities," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "Democrats are seizing on a GOP press release that said Speaker Nancy Pelosi," D-Calif., "should be 'put in her place' to paint Republicans as out of touch with women," The Hill reports. "The offensive comes as Republican candidates for governor in Virginia and New Jersey have come under attack for their views on women. Both GOP candidates have seen their leads narrow in races seen by both parties as bellwethers."

 

Politics: Gallup Shows Both Parties Even In Generic Poll

• "After gains in the last two election cycles, congressional Democrats might have a tough fight on their hands next year, according to a Gallup poll," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Forty-six percent of" registered voters "surveyed said they would vote for the Democrat, while 44 percent said they would vote for the Republican when asked which party's candidate they would support."

• "Conservative Republicans have been loudly criticizing the party's nominee in the Nov. 3 special election to replace former Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.), but now prominent moderates are leading the charge to push back against those critics and help elect state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, who faces a challenge from the right as well as from Democrats," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

• "The House GOP Conference has signed a contract with a text-messaging company as Republicans race to get up to speed on new-media tools that helped" Obama "win the White House," The Hill reports. "Constituent Mobile, an affiliate of the same company that ran Obama's text messaging campaign in 2008, will help House Republicans boost relations with voters back home through text messaging."

• "Former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre officially launched his upstart bid for the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, banking on political experience and potential appeal in the fast-growing Hispanic community to overtake rivals with multimillion-dollar head starts," the Miami Herald reports. "The 74-year-old Democrat lost his last three bids for county mayor, and it's unclear how he will raise the resources to run a competitive statewide campaign."

National Security: Spending Bill Caught Up In Guantanamo Debate

• "Although Democrats and Republicans publicly say the nation's homeland security is too important to play games with, the annual Homeland Security Department spending bill is quickly becoming a political football on a field of partisan ploys," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "A $42.8 billion, FY10 Homeland Security spending bill cleared a major hurdle Wednesday, but further action on it is likely to be stalled as a behind-the-scenes game between Democratic and Republican congressional leaders plays out over the thorny issue of closing down the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."

• "A breakthrough that enables the early targeting of ballistic missiles by linking radars and other sensors from different parts of the world is key to the Obama administration's new missile defense plans, according to senior administration officials," the Washington Post reports. "Instead of putting 10 interceptors in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic to counter intercontinental missiles, officials said, they would focus on containing Iran's ability to fire short- and medium-range ballistic missiles."

• Pelosi "and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid," D-Nev., "emerged from the White House Tuesday with broad, bicameral smiles -- until Reid put his arm around Pelosi to announce that 'everyone' would support 'whatever' Afghanistan policy the president produces," Politico reports. "Pelosi doesn't agree with that -- not at all -- and the TV cameras captured the California Democrat rolling her eyes and slightly recoiling from Reid's grasp as he spoke. Back at the Capitol, Pelosi made it clear that she was angry about Reid's unilateral offer of unequivocal support, a person familiar with the situation said."

World: Typhoon Hits Japan

• "Typhoon Melor roared into central Japan" today, "leaving two people dead and lashing the region with heavy rain and gusty winds," CNN reports. "The storm stayed west of Tokyo, but still caused enough trouble to shut down trains for a time and snarl commuter traffic. Numerous flights were canceled and delayed at the city's two major airports."

• "The UN has brought forward a regular Security Council meeting on the Middle East after Libya demanded an urgent debate on alleged war crimes in Gaza," BBC News reports. "Arab states say the 14 October debate must tackle a report which criticised Israel, after the US argued against a emergency session dedicated to it."

• "Fresh doubts have arisen about Poland's expected ratification of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, after contradictory messages about the president's plans," BBC News also reports. "President Lech Kaczynski's twin brother Jaroslaw has now denied that the president will sign the treaty on Sunday, as announced earlier."

Economy: Fiscal Year Ends With Biggest Deficit Since 1945

• "The U.S. government ended its 2009 fiscal year with a deficit of $1.4 trillion, the biggest since 1945, the Congressional Budget Office reported. The deficit amounted to 9.9 percent of the nation's economy, triple the size of the shortfall for 2008," Bloomberg News reports. "The nonpartisan CBO said" Wednesday "the government was squeezed on both sides of the budget ledger in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Tax revenue fell by $420 billion, or 17 percent, to the lowest level in more than 50 years."

• "Democratic Congressional leaders are working with the White House to extend an expiring $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers, and aides said Wednesday that they were considering making it available to current homeowners who purchase a new residence," the New York Times reports.

• "New waves of concern are rippling through Congress over the state of the U.S. dollar amid record budget deficits," The Hill reports. "Lawmakers say there is a real danger of foreign investors losing faith in the dollar as a secure instrument if the nation's debt continues to mount and the Federal Reserve fails to reabsorb trillions in commitments to help the economy and restore lending."

Energy & Environment: Climate Bill Action Will Depend On EPA's Analysis, Boxer Says

• Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., "Wednesday said a revised draft climate bill should be finished by early next week but it is unclear how quickly" the Environmental Protection Agency "will finish an economic analysis that would precede any action on it by her panel," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Boxer has promised panel Republicans that she will not hold any legislative hearings or a markup until EPA has finished analyzing the economic impacts of a cap-and-trade bill she and" Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., "are co-sponsoring."

• "Environmentalists are growing concerned that Congress may be willing to risk the coasts in order to save the planet," The Hill reports. "Climate negotiators said this week that they are open to discussing an expansion of domestic drilling opportunities and providing new support for nuclear power to get more Republican support for the cap-and-trade climate bill."

Lobbying: FEC May Begin Rewrite Of Campaign Financing Rules

• "The Federal Election Commission" today "is expected to vote on whether the agency will begin rewriting long-awaited rules involving provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "A spokesman on Wednesday said the agency's six commissioners are tentatively scheduled to decide at today's 2 p.m. meeting whether to restart the rule-making process to comply with a court order in a case brought by former Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.)."

• "In the months since soldiers ousted the Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, the de facto government and its supporters have resisted demands from the United States that he be restored to power. Arguing that the left-leaning Mr. Zelaya posed a threat to their country's fragile democracy by trying to extend his time in office illegally, they have made their case in Washington in the customary way: by starting a high-profile lobbying campaign," the New York Times reports.

• "As the lobbying battle over net neutrality is reaching a fever pitch, opponents are crying foul after a top staffer to Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) announced her departure for Google," Roll Call (subscription) also reports. "The Internet search giant has been aggressively supporting enactment of net neutrality rules, which would prevent phone and cable companies from discriminating against some types of online content."

Technology: Nation Needs Net Neutrality, FCC Chair Says

• Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski on "Wednesday reiterated the Obama administration's call for rules to ensure the free flow of Internet traffic, regardless of whether the data traveled over wired Internet connections or over wireless cellular networks," the Los Angeles Times reports.

• "The Justice Department has started a preliminary investigation into whether I.B.M. has abused its monopoly position in the market for mainframe computers, which remain vital to many of the world's largest businesses," the New York Times reports. "This month, antitrust regulators at the Justice Department began seeking information about I.B.M.'s business practices from companies that compete with I.B.M. in the market for large computer hardware and software, people who had been contacted in the inquiry said."

Transportation: Problems Arise With FAA's New Computer System

• "A new computer system key to modernization of the nation's air traffic control system has run into problems, raising doubts about whether it can be operational 15 months from now when current computers must be replaced, union officials said Wednesday," AP reports. "The Federal Aviation Administration tried unsuccessfully to deploy the new computer system last weekend at a regional air traffic control center in Salt Lake City, the first of 20 regional facilities where the computers need to go into operation before the end of 2010."

Commentary: Representative Health Care Pressure

Nicholas D. Kristof suggests in Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section that if Congress doesn't pass health care reform, "its members should surrender health insurance in proportion with the American population that is uninsured." Plus: Debating the individual mandate.

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