Morning Bulletin – Monday, March 2, 2009

A roundup of news, schedules, and key stories from CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:

Health care will be President Obama'a focus this week as he announces his (second) choice for Health and Human Services Secretary at 1pm ET.

(AP)
Almost 4 weeks after Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination and over 80 days since Daschle was first nominated, Mr. Obama will announce Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, D-Kansas, as his new HHS Secretary.

"If confirmed by the Senate, Sebelius would assume responsibility for a $730-plus billion budget — almost a fifth of all federal spending — and such well-known programs as Medicare and such agencies as the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But she also would be the public face of Obama's broad effort to move to universal health-care coverage, at an eventual cost projected to be $1 trillion or more," write Dave Helling, David Goldstein and Steve Kraske in the Kansas City Star.

The New York Times' Kevin Sack writes that Sebelius has had trouble with achieving her bipartisan goals in Kansas. "Sebelius is known as a Democrat who can deal with Republicans, a necessity in a state where the opposition party dominates both houses of the Legislature.

"But on matters of health policy, which she will oversee if she is confirmed as President Obama's secretary of health and human services, Ms. Sebelius's efforts to forge bipartisan consensus have rarely succeeded. She recently observed that the greatest frustration of her six years in office had been her inability to persuade lawmakers to raise tobacco taxes for a modest expansion of government health coverage.

"Now, with the backing of a Democratic Congress, Ms. Sebelius will have a chance to achieve in Washington what she failed to accomplish in Topeka, and then some. When he announces her nomination on Monday, Mr. Obama will effectively make her the point person for what may become the largest expansion of taxpayer-subsidized health insurance in more than four decades."

"Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has never lost an election, even as a Democrat in a Republican-dominated state, something analysts attribute to cool competence, a lifelong education in politics and a knack for reaching across the political divide. But even with that record, Sebelius has been mostly frustrated in her attempts to expand health-care coverage in Kansas," reports the Washington Post's Michael A. Fletcher.

"Today, President Obama is scheduled to formally introduce her at a White House ceremony as his nominee for secretary of health and human services, putting Sebelius in the midst of the growing debate over revamping the nation's health-care system. ... As governor, Sebelius has tried twice to raise Kansas's cigarette tax to expand medical coverage. Both times she was thwarted by Republican legislators, who objected to the tax increases and wanted a more market-based solution."

Sebelius is in the middle of her second term as governor – Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson, D-Kansas, will replace her if she's confirmed. Parkinson has said he won't run for election in 2010, leaving the door wide open for a potential Republican pickup in heavily Republican Kansas.

Barring any issues we don't know about yet, it seems the only real controversy - and it won't affect her chances at confirmation - is from Catholic leaders who oppose a Catholic like Sebelius being publicly pro-abortion rights. The fact that she'll be running a department that has direct influence on the abortion issue only adds insult to injury, they say.

Both Republican senators from Kansas – Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts – publicly support Sebelius' nomination. Interestingly, Brownback is an outspoken anti-abortion rights Catholic...

On Thursday, President Obama will hold a health care conference where he'll outline his plan for universal health care. The NY Times' Robert Pear writes today, "Obama's Health Plan, Ambitious in Any Economy, Is Tougher in This One"

The Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler adds, "Health-Care Effort Ascends Agenda"

ALSO TODAY: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and King Hamad of Bahrain as she continues her Middle East trip.

(AP Photo/Lewis Whyld)
THIS WEEK: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, left, meets with President Obama at the White House; on Wednesday, Prime Minister Brown addresses a joint session of Congress.

Also tomorrow: the primary for Illinois' 5th Congressional District. There 23 candidates – 12 Democrats, 6 Republicans and 5 Green Party – vying to fill the seat vacated by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Tomorrows winners face off in the special election on April 7. Wall Street Journal's Douglas Belkin previews tomorrow's primary, "Race to Fill Emanuel's Seat Is a Free-for-All":


FEDERAL BUDGET / ECONOMY

(AP)
Associated Press' Philip Elliot, "Obama will sign spending bill despite earmarks": "President Barack Obama will break a campaign pledge against congressional earmarks and sign a budget bill laden with millions in lawmakers' pet projects, administration officials said.

"Administration budget chief Peter Orszag and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel both downplayed the $410 billion spending bill and signaled Obama would hold his nose and sign it. Orszag said: 'We want to just move on. Let's get this bill done, get it into law and move forward.' Said Emanuel: 'That's last year's business.' The House last week passed the measure that would keep the government running through Sept. 30, when the federal budget year ends."

Washington Times' S.A. Miller, "Obama's cap, trade irk some in party"

Wall Street Journal's Robert A. Guth and Mike Spector, "Charities Say Tax Changes Add to Pain"

NY Times' John Harwood, "Running on Risk, Then Sticking With It": "[I]n his first 100 days as president, he would not have sought $1 trillion from affluent Americans and a similar sum from businesses to finance health care, education and energy initiatives.

"All that while simultaneously trying to save the auto industry, revive financial markets, end the Iraq war and redouble efforts to battle Islamic extremists in Afghanistan. Mr. Obama's closest aides have long embraced that pattern, even if it still startles official Washington. As his campaign manager, David Plouffe, put it last fall, 'We are always better off on the high wire.'"

(CBS)
Bloomberg News' Hans Nichols and Lizzie O'Leary, "Obama's Economic Team Lacks Two Top Aides as Senate Delays Vote": "President Barack Obama's economic advisers are increasingly concerned about the U.S. Senate's delay in confirming the nominations of Austan Goolsbee and Cecilia Rouse to the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

"Without Senate confirmation, the two economists are barred from advising the president as the administration tackles the worst financial crisis in 70 years and tries to advance the spending plan Obama submitted to Congress last week. ...

"Goolsbee and Rouse appeared before the Senate Banking Committee on Jan. 15 and were slated for a full Senate confirmation before Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, according to a senior administration official. Instead, they were approved by the panel Feb. 10. They weren't placed on the confirmation slate for the full chamber, leading some administration officials to conclude that Senate Republicans were retaliating against the Democrats because President George W. Bush's nominations for the same slots languished in the Senate for months at the end of his second term. ...

"A Senate Democratic aide said Republicans had relayed some concerns about the nominations that the administration and party lawmakers are working to address. Under Senate rules, any senator can block consideration of a nominee."

Washington Post's David Cho, "On Economy, Two United Voices Steer Obama Agenda": "Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and National Economic Council Chair Lawrence H. Summers pushed for weeks for a strict cap on the nation's debt. And while other advisers argued that the administration needed a more flexible spending plan, they could not deter the president from ultimately agreeing with the views promoted by the partnership of Geithner and Summers. The approach advanced by the two men proved formative, providing White House budget officials the critical guidepost for the overall spending plan, an administration official said. When the pair team up in policy debates, as they often do, they are a potent force within the administration, officials said."

House Budget Committee Ranking Member Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., writes a Wall Street Journal op-ed, "Republican Road to Recovery"

FINANCIAL BAILOUT

Bloomberg News' Hugh Son and Scott Lanman, "AIG Gets More Aid After Record $61.7 Billion Loss"

NY Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin and Mary Williams Walsh, "A.I.G. Reports $61.7 Billion Loss as U.S. Gives More Aid"

FOREIGN POLICY:

(AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Wall Street Journal's Charles Levinson, "Clinton Vows 'New Path in Mideast As She Arrives With Seasoned Team": "U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in Israel Tuesday, vowing to pursue a 'new path' in the region and leading a team of Mideast peacemakers with a rare depth of first-hand experience in the area. But she lands at a time when the region's enduring conflict between Israel and the Palestinians seems as intractable and complex as at any point in its century-long history. Complicating the effort, conservative parties opposed to Palestinian statehood dominated parliamentary elections here last month."

NY Times' Mark Landler, "Clinton Starts Mideast Diplomacy With Cash for Gaza": "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton embarked on her first foray into Middle East diplomacy, attending an international donors' conference in Red Sea resort that opened on Monday and carrying a pledge of $300 million for war-torn Gaza."

LA Times' Paul Richter, "U.S. to limit its aid for Gaza": "The Obama administration intends to spend most of a $900-million Palestinian aid package on support for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, rather than in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip communities that were badly damaged in the recent weeks-long Israeli offensive, a State Department official said Sunday. Robert A. Wood, the department's chief spokesman, said that about $300 million of the money would be spent on humanitarian relief for Gaza, and the remainder would help offset the Palestinian Authority's budget shortfall and fund its economic development, security and other projects in the West Bank. The authority is run by the more moderate Palestinian faction Fatah."

SEN. ROLAND BURRIS

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Chicago Tribune's Rick Pearson and Deanese Williams, "Sen. Dick Durbin addresses racial issues in seating of Sen. Roland Burris": "Sen. Dick Durbin, who advised Sen. Roland Burris last week to step down from the Senate, acknowledged Sunday that racial considerations were at play in the decision by majority Democrats to seat Burris. Durbin, a fellow Democrat and Illinois' senior senator, noted that Rep. Bobby Rush, a Chicago Democrat, appeared at Gov. Rod Blagojevich's announcement of his appointment of Burris and used racially charged language to defend the appointment. 'My colleague from Illinois, Congressman Bobby Rush, made strong statements along those lines,' Durbin said on WGN-AM 720. 'They were painful and hurtful, and it became part of this calculation.'"


MINNESOTA SENATE RECOUNT

Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Senate decision: Are we there yet?"

FUTURE RACES

Politico's John Bresnahan, "Boehner's job on the line in 2010"

2010 IL Senate: NY Times' Monica Davey, "A Line Forms to Succeed Burris"

2010 IL Senate: Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet, "Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias opens exploratory bid for Senate today"

2010 IL Senate: Politico's Daniel Libit, "The senator who wasn't Obama": "Behold, the perfect Republican to run for the Senate in Illinois in 2010. He's a fiscal conservative with deep pockets, he has a reputation as a reformer battling the machine and he's even got a background in banking. The hitch: Peter Fitzgerald has already done it once, and that was enough."

2010 KY Senate: LA Times' James Oliphant, "Jim Bunning: Republican Senator, Republican Irritant"

2010 LA Senate: CQ Politics' Greg Vadala, "After Scandal, Sen. Vitter Regains Political Footing"

2012: Politico's Jonathan Martin, "Huntsman takes aim at GOP"

ALSO:

Associated Press' Jim Kuhnhenn, "White House, GOP avoid direct confrontation": "Congressional Republicans show no desire to demonize President Barack Obama, so they're condemning Democratic leaders instead. Democrats are finished with their favorite target, George W. Bush, so they're linking Republicans to a famous talk show host instead. Call it deflection politics."

LA Times' James Oliphant, "D.C. vote clears one hurdle to face more"

NY Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "Behind the Open Door, an Exercise in Politics"

Associated Press' Darlene Superville, "Obama kicks up White House entertaining"

Washington Post's Jose Antonio Vargas, "Web-Savvy Obama Team Hits Unexpected Bumps": "Obama, for example, would like to send out mass e-mail updates on presidential initiatives, but the White House does not have the technology in place to do so. The same goes for text messaging, another campaign staple. Beyond the technological upgrades needed to enable text broadcasts, there are security and privacy rules to sort out involving the collection of cellphone numbers, according to Obama aides, who acknowledge being caught off guard by the strictures of government bureaucracy."
  • Steve Chaggaris

    Steve Chaggaris is CBSNews.com's Executive Editor, Washington.

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