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EARLYBIRD

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Obama criticizes U.S. immigration policy, and the Minerals Management Service will be split up. Plus: Pelosi vows to end 'don't ask, don't tell' this year.

White House: Obama Cites Need For Progress On Immigration

• Mexican President Felipe Calderon, "who will speak to Congress in a joint session today, attended a series of White House events Wednesday as part of a two-day visit to discuss pressing issues with" President Obama "including immigration reform," Roll Call reports. "During a joint press appearance, Obama talked forcefully about the need to move on the issue and pointed the finger at Republicans for blocking progress."

• Obama "vowed to help South Korea defend itself against any further 'acts of aggression,' the White House said on Wednesday as it backed Seoul in its accusation that North Korea sank one of its navy ships," Reuters reports.

 

World: Bangkok Protests Mostly Quelled, Thai Government Says

• "The Thai government declared" today "it had mostly quelled ten weeks of violent protests in the capital while buildings smoldered, troops rooted out small pockets of resistance and residents attempted a return to normal life," AP reports.

• "A reactor being built by Russia at Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant is scheduled to begin operating in August, the head of Russia's state nuclear corporation told journalists," Reuters reports.

Health Care: Lawmakers, Doctors Dig In Over Reimbursement Fix

• "The major sticking point in negotiations on a package of tax break and benefits extensions continues to be the length of a Medicare reimbursement rate freeze for physicians, as lawmakers cautioned Wednesday a five-year fix is unlikely to fly in the Senate and Republicans demanded offsets for the legislation," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

 

Energy & Environment: MMS To Be Split Up

• Interior Secretary Ken Salazar "announced Wednesday he is splitting the Minerals Management Service into three agencies," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "The White House is expected to soon announce a multi-billion dollar package of new loan guarantees for nuclear and renewable energy projects to be supported by adding $180 million to a pending war funding bill," Politico reports.

• Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., "said Wednesday that a major new scientific report on global warming demonstrates the 'urgency' of passing the climate change and energy bill he unveiled last week," The Hill reports.

• "Tensions between the Obama administration and the scientific community over the gulf oil spill are escalating, with prominent oceanographers accusing the government of failing to conduct an adequate scientific analysis of the damage and of allowing BP to obscure the spill's true scope," the New York Times reports.

 

• "A proposal to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean as early as this summer received initial permits from the Minerals Management Service office in Alaska at the same time federal auditors were questioning the office about its environmental review process," the New York Times also reports.

• "Two-thirds of Americans say it is 'very important' for Congress to pass legislation addressing energy policy, but only one-third put climate change in the same category in a recent poll," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

Congress: Boehner Warns Caucus Not To Break Earmark Ban

• "Minority Leader John Boehner," R-Ohio, "on Wednesday warned House Republicans that anyone who ignores the Conference-wide earmark ban and fails to withdraw their earmark requests will risk losing their committee assignments next year," Roll Call reports.

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• "Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin," D-Iowa, "said Wednesday he thinks he will need 60 votes to attach an amendment providing $23 billion to reduce teacher layoffs to a $59 billion war supplemental spending bill Senate Democratic leaders want to pass by the Memorial Day recess," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

National Security: Pelosi Vows To End 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' This Year

• "The Pentagon's 'Don't ask, don't tell' policy will be nothing but a memory by year's end, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declared Wednesday," The Hill reports. "Pelosi, in an interview with The Hill, stopped short of laying all of her strategic cards on the table."

• "The House Armed Services Committee was moving towards approval of the FY11 defense authorization bill Wednesday night, readying a $760 billion measure for floor debate, which is expected to begin next week," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "Key lawmakers said Wednesday they have resolved their differences over a massive FY10 intelligence authorization bill and, on the thorniest issue, reached a compromise with the White House over changes in the way members of Congress are informed about covert activities," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

Economy: Geithner Pushes China To Level Field For U.S. Companies

• "Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said he will urge China to ensure a 'level playing field' for U.S. companies trying to invest in the world's third-largest economy," Bloomberg News reports.

• "Democrats crafting an overhaul of U.S. immigration laws are bringing a new approach into a long-stalled debate: giving a federal commission some power over the future flow of legal foreign workers," Bloomberg News reports. "Senate Democratic leaders are drafting a measure that would let a commission recommend levels of employment-based visas and green cards -- and require Congress in certain cases to vote if immigrant labor is deemed out of line with demand."

Supreme Court: OFA Getting Behind Kagan

• "Organizing for America, the grass-roots arm of the Democratic National Committee, unveiled a new website Wednesday aimed at building support for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan in the lead-up to her confirmation hearings in late June," Roll Call reports.

• Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., "announced Wednesday morning that he will begin Elena Kagan's Supreme Court confirmation hearings on June 28, a move that would allow the panel to complete its questioning before the July Fourth recess," Roll Call reports.

Politics: California Gubernatorial Primary Could Top $100 Million

• "The Republican gubernatorial primary in California could cost more than $100 million as the two wealthy front-runners continue to spend their own fortunes attacking each other," The Hill reports.

• "Shortly after Representative Joe Sestak won an improbable victory Tuesday over Senator Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate primary," Obama "called Mr. Sestak to congratulate him," the New York Times reports. "The president pledged his full support, aides said later, and offered to campaign for him in the fall -- if Mr. Sestak believes it will help."

Transportation: Oberstar Predicts FAA Authorization Before July 4

• "House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar," D-Minn., "predicted Wednesday that a multiyear FAA authorization bill will be signed into law by July 4," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "The U.K.'s Court of Appeal" today "cleared the way for a strike by cabin crew at British Airways PLC after it ruled that a ballot conducted by unions was valid," the Wall Street Journal reports.

Technology: Lawmakers Want Action In Google Wi-Fi Controversy

• "Energy and Commerce ranking member Joe Barton," R-Texas, "and Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., a senior member of the Energy and Commerce panel... urged the FTC to examine recent revelations that Google has collected information from private but unsecure Wi-Fi networks," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "Adding an anti-porn amendment to a science authorization bill failed to assuage House Republicans, who blocked passage of the bill for the second straight week Wednesday," Roll Call reports.

• "Comcast's bid for NBC Universal received a boost this week after two House lawmakers urged the Federal Communications Commission to keep to its timeline for reviewing the deal," The Hill reports.

• "The southwest corner of Virginia... is evolving into a mini-Silicon Valley, thanks to Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee and overseer of the nation's trillion-dollar telecommunications sector," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

Lobbying: Transportation Groups Raise Concerns About Energy Bill

• "Major transportation industry groups have 'grave concerns' about a draft Senate climate and energy plan because it imposes new fees on the industry and diverts too much of that revenue elsewhere," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "Although 'K Street' is virtually synonymous with the lobbying profession, most of Washington's major firms are not on K Street anymore," the Washington Post reports.

Commentary: A Bad Day For Obama?

• In Earlybird's Pundits & Editorials section, Karl Rove dissects Tuesday's primary votes and says Sen. Arlen Specter (D) would have been a better November matchup for Republican Pat Toomey than Democrat Joe Sestak.

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