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EARLYBIRD

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The Massachusetts Senate race gets personal, and Google may withdraw from China amid censorship concerns. Plus: Haiti devastated by 7.0 earthquake.

White House: Could Dorgan Visit Presage WH Appointment?

• "President Barack Obama has invited Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) to the White House for a meeting in the coming weeks, stoking speculation that a Cabinet post may be next for the retiring senator," The Hill reports.

• "Jean Finnegan Biden, the mother of" Vice President Joe Biden, "was remembered Tuesday as a strong-willed woman of unshakable faith who instilled a sense of loyalty and courage in her children," AP reports.

 

Health Care: Unions Strike Deal With Pelosi On 'Cadillac' Tax

• "Unions tentatively struck a deal Tuesday to exempt collectively bargained healthcare plans from a tax on high-cost plans expected to be used to help raise revenue for the healthcare overhaul," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. The heads of the AFL-CIO, SEIU and United Auto Workers met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., "Tuesday, a day after labor leaders met at the White House to express their opposition to the excise tax."

• "Furious with the Senate and desperate to regain a foothold in the health care debate, a wave of rank-and-file House Democrats assailed the Senate's tax on high-end health care plans Tuesday night, on the eve of a critical White House meeting with the president," Politico reports.

• "House Democrats have opted to send five of their biggest guns to the healthcare negotiating table to iron out a deal with the Senate, according to a House leadership aide," The Hill reports. Pelosi, "Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) will be in the room when major decisions are made in the weeks ahead."

 

• "House and Senate negotiators working on" Obama's "health overhaul bill appear likely to drop a proposed income tax increase on high-wage earners and possibly jettison a requirement for large businesses to offer coverage to their employees, Democratic officials said Tuesday," AP reports.

Politics: Money, Passion Pours Into Massachusetts Senate Race

• "Fueled by the energy of conservative activists, a solid debate performance and a 24-hour, $1.3 million Internet fundraising haul, Massachusetts state Sen. Scott Brown (R) has thrown a major scare into the Democratic establishment in his bid to win next Tuesday's special Senate election over once heavily favored Attorney General Martha Coakley," the Washington Post reports.

• "Coakley has released the first negative television ad of the Massachusetts Senate race, reinforcing the perception that Democrats are worried about holding onto Edward M. Kennedy's seat," the New York Times reports.

• "'American Idol' starlet Ayla Brown morphed into campaign pit bull yesterday for" Scott Brown, her father, "as she tore into" Coakley "for plunging the U.S. Senate race into the gutter," the Boston Herald reports.

 

Technology: After Cyber Attack, Google Recoils From China

• "Google said Tuesday that it would stop cooperating with Chinese Internet censorship and consider shutting down its operations in the country altogether, citing assaults from hackers on its computer systems and China's attempts to 'limit free speech on the Web,'" the New York Times reports.

• "Desperate for more airwaves to bolster emergency communications, public safety officials worked the halls of Congress Tuesday to press for legislation to grant them rights to spectrum the FCC failed to auction on their behalf," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "Google CEO Eric Schmidt will join" Obama "and former President Bill Clinton as speakers at this week's House Democratic Caucus retreat," CongressDailyPM (subscription) reports.

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World: Haiti Devastated By 7.0 Earthquake

• "A mighty earthquake rocked the small, impoverished island nation of Haiti on Tuesday, collapsing a hospital, the presidential palace and other buildings, triggering massive panic and claiming an as-yet uncounted number of lives -- perhaps thousands," the Los Angeles Times reports.

National Security: Obama To Seek Record $708 Billion For Defense

• "Obama will ask Congress for an additional $33 billion to fight unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on top of a record $708 billion for the Defense Department next year... a request that could be an especially hard sell to some of the administration's Democratic allies," AP reports.

• "Using a Predator drone, the U.S. military this week fired a Hellfire missile into a crowd of suspected insurgents in Helmand province, killing 13 people and wounding three others, military officials said Tuesday," the Washington Post reports.

Economy: WH Says Stimulus Saved Or Created Nearly 2 Million Jobs

• "The Obama administration, offering evidence that its much-maligned efforts to spur economic recovery have begun to take hold, said Tuesday that the $787-billion stimulus program saved or created 1.5 million to 2 million jobs last year," the Los Angeles Times reports.

Energy & Environment: Dems Push Against Murkowski Amendment

• "Senate Environment and Public Works Democrats" on Tuesday "unanimously pressed other senators to oppose" Alaska Republican "Lisa Murkowski's effort to block EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions," CongressDailyPM (subscription) reports.

• "In a decision protested by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, the White House budget office recently rejected DOE's request for $46 million to terminate the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository project in fiscal 2011, a decision that if finalized might anger Hill appropriators by forcing DOE to divert fiscal 2010 Yucca funding for that purpose," Energy Daily (subscription) reports.

• "Newly constructed hospitals, schools, shopping malls and homes in California will be some of the greenest in the world, after a state commission voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the most stringent, environmentally friendly building code standards of any state in the nation," the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Transportation: TSA Sent Mixed Signals On Scanners And Privacy

• "The Transportation Security Administration has promised not to store or transmit nude images of airline passengers made by whole-body scanners, but when it asked manufacturers to submit bids for such machines, it required that the scanners have exactly those capabilities, according to agency documents obtained in a lawsuit," the New York Times reports.

• "Exhaust from cars and trucks exacerbates asthma in children and may cause new cases as well as other respiratory illnesses and heart problems resulting in deaths, an independent institute that focuses on vehicle-related air pollution has concluded," the Times also reports.

• "General Motors Co. has freed up cash to fund a major update of its full-size pickups, a bet that consumers and businesses will resume buying trucks after a long lull in sales," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports."Chairman and Chief Executive Edward E. Whitacre Jr. has agreed to fund the move, said GM product chief Tom Stephens. The remodeling could cost the company close to $1 billion, a person familiar with the matter said."

• A new federal organization announced Tuesday "will combat driver cellphone use," the Washington Post reports. "The group, FocusDriven, grew out of a meeting on distracted driving sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation in the District last year."

Lobbying: Health Insurers Funded Chamber Attack Ads

• "Just as dealings with the Obama administration and congressional Democrats soured last summer, six of the nation's biggest health insurers began quietly pumping big money into third-party television ads aimed at killing or significantly modifying the major health reform bills moving through Congress," NationalJournal.com reports. "That money, between $10 million and $20 million, came from Aetna, Cigna, Humana, Kaiser Foundation Health Plans, UnitedHealth Group and Wellpoint, according to two health care lobbyists familiar with the transactions. The companies are all members of the powerful trade group America's Health Insurance Plans."

• "A defense contractor accused of diverting money from an earmark provided by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) has been scheduled for sentencing at the end of February, suggesting that his cooperation with federal agents investigating earmarks is coming to a close," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

• "U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue blasted a range of White House policies Tuesday as the business lobby's fight with" Obama "bounced back into the spotlight," The Hill reports.

• "A congressional commission examining the causes of the financial crisis is drawing fire even before its first public hearing gets under way" today, "with business interests complaining that some panel members' ties to a major plaintiffs law firm could aid litigants seeking to sue financial firms," the Wall Street Journal reports.

Commentary: Bank Fee Stirs Debate About Populism As Policy

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, the New York Times says Obama's plan to impose a fee on banks is in the interest of "fairness" but David Reilly says it's in the interest of winning elections.

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