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Browner considers energy bill possible before year's end, while GOP tries to stop lame-duck session. Plus: BP declares leak successfully plugged.

Congress: GOP Plans Push For Budget Amendment

• "Senate Republicans are planning a new push for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution when lawmakers return to Washington after the August recess," The Hill reports. "GOP Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John McCain (Ariz.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.) will lead the charge in the fall."

• "The House will vote next week on a Republican measure that would prevent Democratic leaders from passing controversial policy initiatives during a lame-duck session of Congress this year," The Hill reports. "Republican Study Committee (RSC) Chairman Rep. Tom Price (Ga.)... explained that his resolution says that a lame-duck session should not occur unless there were to be a national emergency."


• "Liberal Democrats said they will vote for a $26.1 billion state aid bill when the House reconvenes this week but are committed to restoring the food stamps program funding that is being used to pay for it," The Hill reports.

• "A crucial test for defense lobbyists, companies and lawmakers alike will be how many earmarks make it into the Senate's version of the" defense spending bill, The Hill reports. "The Senate this year appears to be the only conduit for for-profit firms and their congressional benefactors to add funding for projects the Pentagon has not requested. Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who also leads the defense-spending panel, is expected to take up the Pentagon's fiscal year 2011 budget in September."

White House: Students Spared In Immigration Crackdown

• "The Obama administration, while deporting a record number of immigrants convicted of crimes, is sparing one group of illegal immigrants from expulsion: students who came to the United States without papers when they were children," the New York Times reports. "In case after case where immigrant students were identified by federal agents as being in the country illegally, the students were released from detention and their deportations were suspended or canceled, lawyers and immigrant advocates said."


• "With midterm elections looming, the White House has started debating how to unleash an untapped political weapon: Michelle Obama," Politico reports. "And just as the Bush administration used Laura Bush on the mid-terms stump, all signs say the White House will likely deploy Obama to help Dems keep the majority in both chambers."

• Obama assembled "a virtual dream team of college and pro basketball players for a presidential pickup game in front of wounded veterans and participants in a White House mentoring program," the Washington Post reports. Obama on Sunday "took to the court for a game with a stunning list of all-stars, including" LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Bill Russell.

Politics: Cash-Strapped RNC Limits Races It Can Help

• "The Republican National Committee is entering the fall election season with dire financial problems and, to an unprecedented degree, will be forced to rely on outside groups to fund activities traditionally paid for by the national party," Politico reports. "With $11 million on hand at the end of June -- and about $2 million in reported debt -- the RNC's paid get-out-the-vote (GOTV) effort will be limited to just targeted House races."

• "Some leading tea party activists are concerned that their efforts to reshape American politics, starting with the 2010 elections, are being undermined by a shortage of cash that's partly the result of a deep ambivalence within the movement's grassroots over the very idea of fundraising, and partly attributable to an inability to win over the wealthy donors who fund the conservative establishment," Politico reports.


• "Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is expected in Georgia" today "to stump for her candidate in the state's hotly disputed GOP gubernatorial primary on Tuesday -- a race in which red-meat conservative issues like gay marriage and abortion have taken center stage," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "Palin is working, to the surprise of some in the GOP, to elect former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, a relatively centrist Republican from metro Atlanta who is opposed by the state's most influential anti-abortion group and who local gay activists once considered an ally."

• "Florida Democratic Senate candidate Jeff Greene challenged Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) Sunday to join him in calling on embattled Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) to resign," Politico reports.

Economy: Social Security Faces Shortfall

• "In one of the most striking fallouts from the bad economy, Social Security is facing a rare shortfall this year as more people opt to collect payments before their full retirement age," the Washington Post reports. "Adding to the strain on the trust are reduced tax collections due to unemployment levels hovering at 9.5 percent."

• "The government has exhausted traditional measures to get the economy growing more briskly, having already cut interest rates to near zero and committed to more than $800 billion in fiscal stimulus," and "it might take a 'Hail Mary' pass from policy makers to recharge the economy if an anemic recovery slows even further," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports.

Energy & Environment: BP Declares Plug A Success

• "BP said Sunday on its Web site that a cement plug had been successfully put in place after a procedure to seal the leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico," the New York Times reports. "The cement plug was poured into the well last Thursday, after tons of mud had been dumped into the well in a operation called a static kill."

• "White House Energy Adviser Carol Browner said Sunday that while the Obama administration is "deeply disappointed" that an energy bill was unable to make its way through Congress, the president has not given up hope that it can get done this year," The Hill reports.

• "Stung by the failure to secure a Senate vote on climate and energy legislation and wary of a possible GOP-led Congress, leaders of some of the country's most influential green groups are moving cash and staff away from cap and trade," Politico reports. "Environment America, the Sierra Club and the Union of Concerned Scientists, with more than 2.5 million members combined, now consider it their top job to defend the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to write climate rules against attacks in the courts and on Capitol Hill."

Health Care: Rural Doctors Will Be Hard To Keep

• "Nearly 5,000 recent medical school graduates accepted federal grants to pay off tuition and school loans averaging $150,000 per student. The awards come with contracts that obligate the young doctors to remain in what are typically rural areas for three to five years," the Washington Post reports. But "several young doctors who were interviewed said they are struggling with whether to spend a career in rural settings. Experts said they expect retention to be a problem."

Technology: Does U.S. Already Have A BlackBerry Deal?

• The New York Times reports that "although it is unclear precisely what" the United Arab Emirates and other countries are asking of the company behind BlackBerry, "one demand is for the same kind of access to BlackBerry's encrypted services that they think the company already gives authorities in the United States and other industrialized democracies."

• "Encrypted or not, several Internet privacy advocates warn that the high level of data security provided by some BlackBerrys does not necessarily bring users a corresponding level of privacy," the Times also reports. "Indeed, a variety of software tools that" Research in Motion "provides to corporations to monitor and record nearly everything employees do with their BlackBerrys -- including where they carry them -- potentially makes the devices powerful tools for surveillance by companies and governments."

• "Shrinking budgets and national rivalries increasingly are undermining European space programs, even as the U.S. seeks expanded partnerships for future manned exploration efforts," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "Debates over financial commitments for space projects by individual countries -- and the number of jobs they expect in return -- have intensified as a result of the region's economic woes."

National Security: Administration To Sell Fighter Jets To Saudis

• "The Obama administration plans to sell advanced F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia but won't equip them with long-range weapons systems and other arms whose inclusion was strongly opposed by Israel, diplomats and officials said," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "The proposed $30 billion, 10-year arms package, which would be one of the biggest single deals of its kind, has been a source of behind-the-scenes tension during months of negotiations."

• "North Korea on Sunday seized a South Korean fishing boat that apparently had sailed into an East Sea zone that the North views as its own, a move that could agitate already tense relations on the peninsula," the Washington Post reports. "The boat, carrying seven people, is now being held by North Korean authorities, the South's coast guard said in a statement."

• "The killings of the Nuristan Eye Camp Expedition, a medical team from the relief group, the International Assistance Mission, brought to 17 the number of aid workers killed in Afghanistan this year, with another 19 abducted, according to the Afghan NGO Safety Office, a group that gives security advice to the 1,500 aid groups registered in the country," the New York Times reports.

• "Afghan President Hamid Karzai lashed out at foreign interference and called for a ban on the private security companies that protect many Western installations" in Kabul, "in a speech that ratchets up recent tensions with the U.S. over two American-backed anticorruption agencies," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports.

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