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EARLYBIRD

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Finance Committee to vote on health care reform bill, and Pawlenty collects GOP strategists. Plus: Obama sending more support troops to Afghanistan.

White House: Obama Quietly Authorizes Deploying Support Troops

• "President Obama announced in March that he would be sending 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. But in an unannounced move, the White House has also authorized -- and the Pentagon is deploying -- at least 13,000 troops beyond that number, according to defense officials," the Washington Post reports. "The additional troops are primarily support forces, including engineers, medical personnel, intelligence experts and military police."

• Obama's "emphatic endorsement of gay rights in a speech Saturday has done little to stem the anger and disappointment expressed by some gay bloggers and political activists, who blasted Obama's remarks as the same old foot-dragging," Politico reports.

 

• "Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was to fly to Washington on Monday to meet" Obama, "a visit that comes after years of strained relations with George W. Bush's administration over the Iraq war," AP reports. "The meeting Tuesday is the first official invitation of a Spanish premier to the White House since Zapatero's 2004 announcement that he was withdrawing his country's troops from Iraq, arguing that the U.S.-led invasion was illegal."

Health Care: Finance Committee To Vote Today As Senate Eyes Compromise

• "The Senate Finance Committee will hold a landmark vote on health-care reform legislation" today "that is expected to underscore the deep partisan divisions that have emerged and hardened over five months of debate," the Washington Post reports. "With few, if any, Republicans expected to support the bill sponsored by Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.), Democrats have already begun their own internal negotiations aimed at reconciling the various measures passed by House and Senate committees."

• "Obama administration officials and Congressional Democrats fired back on Monday at a new insurance industry report that said premiums would climb sharply with the passage of comprehensive health legislation," the New York Times reports. "The report said selected provisions of a bill from the Senate Finance Committee could increase premiums 18 percent more than they would otherwise rise in the next decade, to an average of nearly $26,000 for families and $9,700 for individuals in 2019."

 

• "Speaker Nancy Pelosi," D-Calif., "has a tax problem: The so-called millionaire's tax that her fellow House Democrats want to use to pay for the bulk of their health care legislation won't keep pace with rising costs," Politico reports. "Liberals have drawn a line, with the help of organized labor, against the Senate plan to tax high-end health care plans, arguing it would ensnare too many middle-income workers. And moderates are raising red flags about the millionaire's tax."

Congress: Appropriations, Health Care And Finance Fill Congressional Agenda

• "Although appropriations measures will occupy most floor time this week, markups of legislation to overhaul the healthcare and financial sectors will command the most attention," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. A vote on the Senate Finance Committee's health care bill "is expected to come today, which frees up senators who will work to merge the Finance and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee's overhaul bill to begin meeting in earnest."

• "Senior Democrats are taking shots at the House's new ethics watchdog, which has come back to bite some caucus members a year after Democratic leaders created it," The Hill reports.

• "Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) is risking a shot at becoming the top Republican on an influential Senate committee by backing Democratic healthcare legislation, according to senators on the panel," The Hill reports. "A Senate Democrat on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee said Republicans on the panel are threatening to vote against Snowe, who is in line for the senior GOP post that is about to come open."

 

Politics: Pawlenty Assembles Powerful GOP Team

• "Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has enlisted a number of GOP strategists from John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, another sign that he's planning a run for president in 2012," The Hill reports. "Pawlenty has snagged a stable of well-known Republicans to help host his first fundraiser for the Freedom First PAC, his new political action committee, according to an invitation to the kickoff event in Washington obtained by The Hill."

• "A year and a half after the end of her historic presidential campaign, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday for the first time that she will not run for the job again, firmly setting aside a question that has followed her for most of the past decade," the Washington Post reports. "Even her most hopeful supporters have long conceded that a 2016 Clinton campaign would be unlikely."

• "More than 100 Democratic House members have yet to contribute a penny of their obligations for the 2010 election cycle to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a finding that suggests dozens of incumbents expect competitive races next year," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "But some lawmakers who don't face serious challenges -- including safe-seat liberals from the solid blue Northeast -- are also on the list, leading some Democratic operatives to suggest bubbling unhappiness within the party."

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• "After unveiling a plan to slash property taxes and garnering rave reviews for a recent debate performance, independent Chris Daggett has surged in the polls and is poised to determine the outcome of the New Jersey governor's race," Politico reports. "A Fairleigh Dickinson University survey last week showed Daggett capturing 17 percent of the vote in a three-way field -- enough to put Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine ahead of Republican Chris Christie, 38 percent to 37 percent."

World: Russian Official Calls Iran Sanction Threats 'Counterproductive'

• "Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said threats to impose new sanctions against Iran are 'counterproductive' and the international community should push for a diplomatic solution on the country's nuclear program," Bloomberg reports.

• "Afghan President Hamid Karzai's top challenger in disputed elections alleged" today "the embattled head of state engineered the resignation of a chief fraud investigator to cast doubt over a process that may force a runoff vote," AP reports. "Results from the Aug. 20 elections have been delayed by more than a month because of massive fraud allegations."

• "A French investigating judge has filed preliminary charges against a physicist at the world's largest atom smasher who is suspected of al-Qaida links, a judicial official said," AP reports. "The 32-year-old Frenchman of Algerian origin, who works on the Large Hadron Collider, is suspected of involvement with Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, a North African group that targets Algerian government forces and sometimes attacks foreigners. He was arrested Thursday in France."

Transportation: Parking Industry Promotes Transit

• "The industry behind often vilified concrete structures such as parking lots and garages" is now "a central player in the push to get people out of their cars," USA Today reports. "Parking garages have become key to the success of transit lines, developments that emphasize transit, and suburban town centers.... Without abundant parking near transit stations in suburban areas, people won't bother to hop on subways and trains, says Martin Stein, president of the 1,200-member National Parking Association."

Energy & Environment: Company Proposes Linking Major U.S. Electricity Grids

• "A new proposal to build a transmission link to connect the nation's three major electricity grids -- Eastern, Western and Texas -- is generating interest among energy policy makers because of its potential to accelerate development of renewable energy," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "The project, called the Tres Amigas 'superstation,' to be built at Clovis, N.M., would bring a major change to the U.S. electricity infrastructure by improving connectivity."

• "The federal government's top ocean scientists are urging the Interior Department to drastically reduce plans to open the coast to offshore oil and gas drilling, citing threats to marine life and potentially devastating effects of oil spills in Arctic waters," the Los Angeles Times reports.

• "Official Washington sounded more upbeat on Monday than it has for weeks in sizing up" Obama's "chances of progress on a climate-change bill in Congress this year," Reuters reports. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., "predicted the committee she leads would approve a bill before a U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen in December while Obama's Energy Secretary Steven Chu said he hoped all of Congress would pass a law by then."

• "Businesses and governments need to invest at least $2.4 trillion between now and 2050 to capture carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants and factories and pump them underground, the International Energy Agency said," Bloomberg reports. "The funding is required to develop 3,400 projects globally that trap and store the greenhouse gas and help cut emissions from fossil fuels by half from 2005 levels, according to the IEA's 'road map' for carbon capture that was published today."

Technology: Google Board Member Resigns Amid Antitrust Controversy

• "In a move that severs another tie between Google and Apple, Arthur D. Levinson, the former chief executive of Genentech, has resigned from Google's board," the New York Times reports. "In a statement on Monday, Google gave no reason for Mr. Levinson's departure, but earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission began an antitrust investigation into the close ties between the boards of Google and Apple."

• "For more than a decade, the House's virtual backbone was one very large computer -- a clunky piece of equipment the size of several refrigerators that resembles the boxy electronics of 1970s sci-fi flicks," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Technicians have slowly been moving its different pieces onto smaller servers, and on Friday, they ceremoniously switched off the 'dinosaur.'" Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard's decision was partly an attempt "to make the House as energy-efficient as possible, which includes whittling down the chamber's massive use of electricity."

Lobbying: Courts Hear Cases That Could Limit Campaign Finance Regulations

• "A series of court decisions expected this fall could put the nation on track to return to turn-of-the-century campaign finance laws," Politico reports. "This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear arguments in a case that opponents say could pave the way for political parties to raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations, individuals, unions and anything else with a bank account."

• "Powerful health industry groups that have held back in their criticisms of specific reform proposals will soon have to choose whether to endorse, or formally oppose, "Obama's "top domestic priority," The Hill reports. "The result could be a flurry of associations embracing Democratic efforts to reform the nation's healthcare system, which would likely push the legislation to Obama's desk. Or it could mirror the battle of the 1990s, when an array of healthcare groups crushed President Bill Clinton's plan, subsequently leading to the GOP takeover of Congress in 1994."

• "After months of research and groundwork, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will launch its Campaign for Free Enterprise on Wednesday, with the goal of spurring the creation of 20 million jobs in the next decade," Politico reports. "Organizers say the multimillion-dollar program will include grass-roots advertising, national advertising, public education, outreach to opinion leaders and extensive involvement by young people."

Economy: Summers Warns Weak Demand May Hurt Economic Recovery

• "White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers said Monday that there were signs the U.S. economy was returning to normal, but he warned that 'major slack' remained and that weak demand would continue to crimp output," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "More than 80% of the 44 forecasters surveyed by the" National Association of Business Economics "believe the economic recovery has begun, but they anticipate modest growth -- a 2.9% pace in the second half of 2009 and a 3% rate next year."

• "Democrats' best hope for passing the biggest overhaul of the nation's financial laws since the Great Depression may rest with an unpredictable, anti-bailout conservative who's skeptical of Big Government," Politico reports. "But Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) is a deal maker, and he's looking more and more like he's ready to compromise -- regardless of whether his party leaders want to slow walk a Democratic priority."

• "Financial and real estate interests are making a strong push for federal regulators to delay the impact of a new accounting rule effective at the beginning of next year," The Hill reports. "The rule bans the use of controversial financial entities that allowed firms to shift risks away from their bottom lines. Before the financial crisis, banks and other financial firms relied heavily on special financial vehicles to support the booming market for securities based on residential, commercial and other loans."

• "Facing mounting pressure from multiple investigations, Bank of America's board has voted to reveal the legal advice that the bank received late last year in its merger with Merrill Lynch," the New York Times reports. "The stunning reversal, approved by the board Friday, removes a major hurdle in resolving a number of cases that have been brought against the bank, and may be part of the bank's strategy to try to exonerate several executives, including its retiring chief, Kenneth D. Lewis."

Commentary: Eyes On The Prize

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, Cal Thomas says Homer Simpson deserved the Nobel Peace Prize as much as Obama did, while Richard Cohen thinks the prize says something about European misperceptions about the president's Americanness.

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