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EARLYBIRD

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Kagan deals in laughs during her second day of hearings, and Clinton endorses Bennet's challenger in Colorado. Plus: Holder travels to Afghanistan to pursue corruption.

Congress: Conferees Approve New Reform Package

• "Negotiators approved a revised conference report Tuesday for the financial regulatory overhaul by striking an almost $18 billion tax on large firms, and replacing it with a more politically palatable revenue generator: ending the maligned Troubled Asset Relief Program," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

• "The latest draft of the supplemental spending bill House Democrats plan to bring to the floor this week scales back funding for veterans exposed to Agent Orange to $10 billion from $13.4 billion, and aid to school districts to prevent teacher layoffs to $10 billion from $23 billion," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., "said Tuesday that he expects to bring the bill to the floor this week, but that no decisions have been made as to exactly when."

 

• "The body of the late Sen. Robert Byrd... will lie in repose in the Senate chamber Thursday before being honored in his home state of West Virginia and ultimately laid to rest in Arlington, Va.," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "A noted lover of history and the dean of the Senate, Byrd will be only the third Senator since World War II to lie in state in the Senate chamber."

• "Byrd's death has sparked a battle between two Democrats for control over an Appropriations subcommittee that covers environmental disasters and terrorism," The Hill reports. "Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is fighting party leaders' decision to name Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) interim chairman of the Appropriations Homeland Security subcommittee. Landrieu says the post should be hers."

Supreme Court: Kagan, The Comedian

• "Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan yukked it up with Senate Judiciary members in the second day of her hearing Tuesday, using an unusual number of jokes that seemed to soften her interrogators between serious exchanges," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

 

• "During the first day of questioning at her confirmation hearings, Kagan said that she respects legal precedent that upholds people's right to own guns and that she supports the use of military commissions to prosecute enemy combatants -- positions favored by many conservatives," the Washington Post reports. "But she also suggested that a controversial requirement in the new federal health-care law that most Americans obtain insurance has a legal basis -- a question that is likely to come before the courts."

• "The Supreme Court on Tuesday affirmed without comment a ruling upholding a ban on so-called soft-money contributions to political parties," the New York Times reports. "Three justices -- Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas -- did vote to hear the case, suggesting the possibility that the court might take up a similar question down the road."

White House: Obama To Give Immigration Speech

• "President Obama is mounting what appears to be a final effort to advance immigration reform legislation this year -- even though Senate Republicans insist they will not come to the negotiating table," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. "Obama plans to give a speech Thursday stressing the need for Congress to overhaul the nation's immigration laws and give an estimated 10 million illegal immigrants in the country a path to legalization or citizenship."

• "House Members and the downtown business community are rallying behind a renewed White House call for a free-trade agreement with South Korea," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "With Obama's backing, the Korea measure's backers believe it may now have a chance."

 

• "Broaching a sensitive subject, President Obama assured the visiting king of Saudi Arabia on Tuesday that he remains committed to closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a continuing source of friction between their governments," the Washington Post reports.

Politics: Clinton Endorses Bennet's Challenger In Primary

• "Bill Clinton has been a huge political asset to Dems this year, but his latest endorsement stands in notable contrast to the establishment's wishes," Hotline On Call reports. Clinton said on Tuesday "he will support ex-CO House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D), the insurgent challenger running against Sen. Michael Bennet (D)."

• "Democratic political arms went into overdrive Tuesday to blast House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) for saying that the retirement age should be increased to 70," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

• "House Democratic leaders are mounting a major push this week to wrest outstanding party dues payments from their rank and file, racing to fill their coffers before the close of the second quarter," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "The move was the first of its kind this cycle and comes in the wake of House Republicans kicking off their Member fundraising drive."

Energy & Environment: Kerry Offers To Revise Bill

• Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., "said he would scale back the carbon-pricing mechanism in the climate and energy bill he and" Sen. Joe Lieberman, I/D-Conn., are sponsoring, CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports. Meanwhile, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., "said Tuesday he has a draft proposal on a measure capping greenhouse gas emissions of the utilities sector only."

• "In a setback for the Obama administration, a panel of judges at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruled on Tuesday that the Energy Department could not withdraw its application to open a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada," the New York Times reports.

Economy: Recession Fears Trip Up Markets

• "Growing fears of a double-dip recession, driven by signs of a slowdown in China, worry over the strength of the European banking system and a big drop in U.S. consumer confidence, pushed stocks on Tuesday near their lowest levels of the year," the Washington Post reports.

• "Joe Cassano finally will speak," the Washington Post reports. "The former leader of the unit that wrecked insurance giant American International Group" testifies today "on Capitol Hill before the 10-member Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission."

• "When the government began rescuing it from collapse in the fall of 2008 with what has become a $182 billion lifeline, A.I.G. was required to forfeit its right to sue several banks -- including Goldman, Société Générale, Deutsche Bank and Merrill Lynch -- over any irregularities with most of the mortgage securities it insured in the precrisis years," the New York Times reports. "But after the Securities and Exchange Commission's civil fraud suit filed in April against Goldman for possibly misrepresenting a mortgage deal to investors, A.I.G. executives and shareholders are asking whether A.I.G. may have been misled by Goldman into insuring mortgage deals that the bank and others may have known were flawed."

Health Care: Credits Eyed As Way To Cut Costs

• "An area of health reform that has received little attention is getting a new look as deficits mount: what happens when someone receives larger health insurance subsidies than they are eligible for because they made too much money," CongressDailyAM (subscription) reports.

Technology: Google Attempts To Hold On In China

• "Google's move Tuesday to assuage China by severing a direct Internet link to an uncensored companion search site in Hong Kong could buy the company a reprieve from losing its operating license, but in the long run, Chinese officials will not tolerate efforts to expand Internet freedom if that threatens the regime, analysts said," the Washington Post reports.

• "When two young State Department officials took a delegation of Silicon Valley executives to Syria recently, they billed it as a chance to use the promise of technology to reach out to a country with which the United States has long had icy relations," the New York Times reports. "Instead, the visit will be remembered for a series of breezy Twitter messages that the two colleagues sent home, riffing about how visitors can buy an American-style blended iced coffee at a university near Damascus and how one of them had challenged a Syrian communications minister to a cake-eating contest."

National Security: Attorney General Makes Trip To Kabul

• "US Attorney General Eric Holder was in Kabul" today "to discuss efforts to battle corruption and enforce the rule of law in Afghanistan, just days after billions of dollars in US aid was blocked because of graft concerns," Agence France-Presse reports.

• "Obama's nomination of Gen. David Petraeus to be the next top commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan was reported out of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday on a unanimous voice vote," Roll Call (subscription) reports. "The Senate is scheduled to hold a confirmation vote at noon" today.

• "In remarks that could further strain peace efforts, Israel's foreign minister said Tuesday that there was no chance that a Palestinian state would be established in the next two years," the New York Times reports.

• "A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry" on Tuesday "dismissed American calls for a tough line against North Korea, most recently for the sinking of a South Korean naval ship," the New York Times reports. He "suggested that Mr. Obama had overreached when he accused Beijing of 'turning a blind eye' to what an international investigation concluded was a North Korean torpedo attack in March on the ship."

Lobbying: Chamber Makes Early Stand On Cuban Embargo

• "Business associations are raising the lobbying stakes on legislation that would remove the American travel ban and boost U.S. farm sales to Cuba," The Hill reports. "In an unusual move, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a letter to House Agriculture Committee members warned it could score House floor votes on the bill that the panel is marking up Wednesday. Such letters typically aren't sent until a day before a floor vote."

• "With the BP spill generating a gush of legislation, lobbyists for the energy industry, trial lawyers and environmental groups are scrambling to tweak bill language and either slow down or nudge forward measures aimed at tightening federal oversight of drilling," Roll Call (subscription) reports.

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