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EARLYBIRD

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Members in both houses lash out against Obama's economic policies, and GOP governors expect to gain from a voter backlash. Plus: A government watchdog says he can't vouch for the administration's job numbers.

White House: No Drama For Obama In South Korea

• "With none of the tension presented by a rising China and a willful Japan, President Obama's visit to South Korea on Thursday was short, congenial in substance and splendid in form," the Washington Post reports. Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak "agreed on a common approach to North Korea" and "played down lingering differences over the U.S.-South Korean free trade agreement, which has not been ratified in either country."

• "The Obama administration is shifting the focus of its Iran policy from talk to sanctions, but the prospect of winning early international support for toughened new penalties appears dim," AP reports. "Equally problematic is finding a set of sanctions that would have a significant impact on the prime target of American and international worry: Iran's suspected pursuit of an atom bomb."

 

• "The White House is on a collision course with Catholic bishops in an intractable dispute over abortion that could blow up the fragile political coalition behind" Obama's "health care overhaul," AP reports. "A top Obama administration official on Thursday praised the new Senate health care bill's attempt to find a compromise on abortion coverage -- even as an official of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said" the bill from Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., "is the worst he's seen so far on the divisive issue."

Health Care: House Passes Physician Pay Fix

• "The House overwhelmingly approved a physician repayment bill" Thursday "to permanently fix the way doctors who cover Medicare patients are reimbursed," The Hill reports. "Only one Republican member voted with Democrats for the bill that was approved 243-183. Dr. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) endured intense lobbying efforts by his GOP colleagues to oppose the nearly quarter of a trillion dollar bill that Democrats do not offset."

• "The Senate will take its first crucial vote on healthcare overhaul legislation Saturday night, with three key Democrats appearing to lean toward a vote to start debate," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "The vote to end a Republican filibuster on the motion to proceed, should it reach the 60-vote threshold, will double as the vote on the motion to proceed, allowing senators to head home for Thanksgiving recess."

 

• "The Senate Democratic plan to pay for part of health care reform by slapping a tax on elective cosmetic surgery drew jeers Thursday from doctors who specialize in such procedures as breast implants and nose jobs," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "They maintained the proposed 5 percent levy tucked into the health care bill would be difficult to collect and would punish far more people than rich housewives."

Lobbying: Health Insurers Rail Against Senate Bill

• "The insurance industry lobby is panning the Senate legislation. The lobbying group, America's Health Insurance Plans, said in a statement on Thursday that the bill would increase costs for individuals, families and employers; reduce benefits for older Americans; and threaten employer coverage," the New York Times reports. "In the statement, Karen Ignagni, the group's president and chief executive, said the association would work with the Senate to improve the bill."

Economy: Federal Watchdog Can't Vouch For Administration Job Numbers

• "The government watchdog overseeing the federal stimulus program testified Thursday that he could not vouch for the Obama administration's recent claims that the money had saved or created 640,000 jobs. He suggested that the administration should have treated the number with more skepticism," the New York Times reports. "Earl E. Devaney, the chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, said... up to 10 percent of the recipients had not filed the required reports showing how many jobs they had created or saved."

• "As he readies an overhaul of the nation's financial regulatory system, House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank," D-Mass., "is already looking at avenues to revise the package before it goes to the floor the week of Dec. 7," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "At the top of the list is revisiting language his panel approved Thursday that would give sweeping powers to the GAO to audit the Federal Reserve."

 

Congress: Economic Frustration Boils Over On Capitol Hill

• "Growing discontent over the economy and frustration with efforts to speed its recovery boiled over Thursday on Capitol Hill in a wave of criticism and outright anger directed at the Obama administration," the Washington Post reports. "Obama's allies in the Congressional Black Caucus unexpectedly blocked... approval of financial reform legislation by a key House committee." Meanwhile, "Republicans escalated their attacks on Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, including a call for his resignation."

• "A Senate committee on Thursday opened the first public hearings into the Fort Hood shootings, with several legislators asserting that the incident in which 13 people were killed was a terrorist attack by a homegrown extremist who may have slipped past law enforcement and military authorities," the New York Times reports. Later, "Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced that former Army Secretary Togo West and a former chief of naval operations, Vernon Clark, would lead a broad Pentagon review."

• Although Obama "voiced support during his campaign for easing travel restrictions to Cuba, a number of House members from his own party on Thursday expressed concern with a bill that would allow all Americans to visit the island for the first time in 50 years," The Hill reports.

Politics: GOP Governors Expect To Gain From WH Backlash

• "Republican governors wrapped up a two-day pep rally" in Austin, Texas, "on Thursday with an expression of confidence that the political winds have begun to shift in their direction, thanks to what they called a backlash among many voters against the policies of the Obama administration," the Washington Post reports. They said concern over his policies "has created an atmosphere that... could lead to significant gains in next year's midterm elections."

• "Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who has been widely rumored to be interested in running for governor, is weighing 'a real possibility' of seeking a U.S. Senate seat next year, a former Giuliani campaign aide said," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Mr. Giuliani has made no final decision, this person said, but said that the Republican is 'more interested in running for Senate.'"

• The National Republican Congressional Committee "will launch a tiny round of new television ads against three Dems this week in an early indication of the argument the GOP will make while criticizing the health care bill," Hotline On Call reports. "The ads, targeting Reps. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), Vic Snyder (D-AR) and John Spratt (D-SC), will cite another Dem -- conservative Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK) -- who opposed the health care bill."

• "Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) raised about $2 million more for her special election Senate bid over the past month and a half, nearly doubling her total receipts to $4.1 million, the campaign announced Thursday," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "Her fundraising edges Rep. Mike Capuano (D), who announced Wednesday evening that he raised $1.8 million in the period and had $1.1 million in cash on hand."

World: U.S. Missile Strike Kills At Least Eight Militants

• "A suspected U.S. missile strike killed at least eight militants" today "in northwestern Pakistan, officials said, the second attack this week in an area believed to hold many insurgents who fled from an army offensive elsewhere in the Afghan border region," AP reports. "The attack came hours before CIA director Leon Panetta held talks... with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in the capital."

• "As the presidential election draws near in Honduras, the de facto leader, Roberto Micheletti, and the ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, continued their political jockeying on Thursday, with Mr. Micheletti announcing that he would briefly cede power to increase the vote's legitimacy and Mr. Zelaya insisting that the election be pushed back," the New York Times reports.

• "UNICEF urged the world to help the 1 billion children still deprived of food, shelter, clean water or health care -- and the hundreds of millions more threatened by violence -- two decades after the U.N. adopted a treaty guaranteeing children's rights," AP reports. "On the eve of the anniversary, the U.N. children's agency issued a report Thursday on the challenges ahead" and the agency's accomplishments.

Energy & Environment: Countries Unveil Emissions Plans Ahead Of Copenhagen

• "With less than three weeks remaining before negotiators gather in Copenhagen to hammer out a global response to climate change, a rapid-fire succession of countries are unveiling national plans that serve as opening bids for reining in heat-trapping emissions," the New York Times reports. Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, "seized on the latest pledges to take aim at the United States, which has not yet played its hand."

• "A Senate panel on Thursday battled over whether the country could expand oil and gas drilling in coastal waters without damaging the environment, spotlighting one of the big fights over climate legislation," the Wall Street Journal reports.

• "Senate Democratic leaders are resting their hopes for bipartisan climate change legislation on the unlikely partnership of Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)," The Hill reports. "The revelation this fall that the two lawmakers shared a strong bond and a commitment to work together on one of the biggest policy issues facing Congress shocked many of their Senate colleagues."

Technology: Conflict Erupts Over E-commerce Privacy Hearings

• "A conflict between advocates of protecting individual privacy and those favoring robust 'e-commerce' played out Thursday at a joint hearing of two House Energy and Commerce subcommittees," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. Both panels "split somewhat along party lines in their emphasis on those two concerns. And the six witnesses were divided based on whether they represented companies that collect, sell or use consumer data or were consumer privacy advocates."

Transportation: Flight Glitch Puts Pressure Back On FAA

• "The failure of a single piece of computer gear in Utah disrupted travel for thousands Thursday, exposing the risks of the long-running patchwork upgrade of the nation's air-traffic-control system," the Wall Street Journal reports. "It is the second time in 15 months that a tech glitch threw air travel into disarray across large swaths of the country."

• "The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday approved a bill aimed at improving the security of hazardous materials being transported by truck and aircraft, after defeating a Republican effort to strip a provision governing the shipping of lithium cells and batteries aboard cargo airplanes," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "The Federal Election Commission approved new rules on Thursday that limit how Congressional campaigns use private and corporate jets," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "The new regulations restrict and in some situations prohibit federal candidates from spending campaign funds for noncommercial air travel. The new rules were designed to remove the influence that some special interests have on lawmakers, and they coincide with the provisions of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007."

Commentary: Pundits Aren't Done With KSM

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section commentators square off about the wisdom of a New York Trial for KSM and review Geithner's job performance.

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