Morning Bulletin – Tuesday, May 5, 2009

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

4989608REPLACING SOUTER: President Obama called his newest Senate Democrat, Arlen Specter, D-Pa., and former Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Monday to "follow through on his commitment" to reach out to both sides as he consults with senators during his search for a nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, according to the White House.

Following their call, Hatch told speculated to reporters that there might be an announcement from the president very soon, reports CBS News' John Nolen. "I'd be surprised if it went beyond this week," Hatch said. "I would think by the end of this week or over the weekend, he'll nominate somebody."

The White House, however, downplayed Hatch's speculation, suggesting that an announcement isn't imminent.

Meantime, "Republicans are set to name conservative Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama as their point man on President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, signaling that they won't shy away from a protracted fight despite risks of being cast as obstructionist," reports the Associated Press' Ben Evans.

(CBS)
"Sessions' ascension as the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee comes more than 20 years after the panel rejected him for his own federal judgeship during the Reagan administration over concerns that he was hostile toward civil rights and was racially insensitive.

"Ironically, Sessions would replace Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, a moderate who was one of just two Republicans in 1986 to oppose Sessions as a U.S. district court judge. Specter left the GOP last week to become a Democrat, creating the vacancy atop the committee just as Justice David Souter announced his retirement. The choice of Sessions has excited conservatives who see him as a sharp lawyer with well-established legal views after a career as a prosecutor and Alabama attorney general."

"Getting off to a bipartisan start, Obama yesterday called Specter and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), a former Judiciary Committee chairman, beginning the process of consulting with senators as he weighs potential nominees.

"'He's not going to pick some radical,' Hatch told reporters after the conversation, saying the president suggested he would take a 'pragmatic' path," writes the Washington Post's Paul Kane.

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
"While Hatch and others have warned against appointing an 'activist' judge, Obama starts the selection process with 59 members in the Democratic caucus and 40 GOP senators. And a once-formidable outside network of conservative groups now controls only a fraction of the eight-figure budgets they used to promote the Bush White House nominees earlier this decade. The selection of Sessions, which came in a compromise brokered with more senior Republican senators, gives the GOP an experienced hand at the rough-and-tumble politics of confirmation wars. His diminutive stature and Southern drawl belie his instinct for confrontation.

"Unlike the moderate Specter, Sessions is a staunch conservative who opposes abortion rights and same-sex marriage while promoting a strict view that judges should adhere to the original intent of the Founding Fathers in their rulings. He has demonstrated political independence on several occasions, helping lead the fight to kill President George W. Bush's proposed changes to immigration law in 2007 and publicly challenging Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's competency to run the Justice Department amid a series of scandals two years ago."

The Minneapolis Star Tribune writes about the importance of the outcome of the Minnesota Senate recount, which is currently before that state's Supreme Court. "As speculation on who will succeed retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter reaches fever pitch in Washington, some conservatives are eyeing Minnesota's still-vacant U.S. Senate seat as the cushion between whether a new justice will be a moderate liberal or one from the 'hard left,'" writes the Start Tribune's Kevin Diaz.

"'It's pretty huge,' said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel for the Liberty Legal Institute, a conservative legal group in Texas. 'The only thing that could stop Obama from choosing a hard-left radical judicial activist is the Republicans having the ability to filibuster.' That ability may depend on Minnesota's Senate seat, which would provide a 60th vote for the Democrats -- a filibuster-proof super majority -- if DFLer Al Franken prevails over Republican Norm Coleman's appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

(AP)
"Coleman is challenging an election-trial ruling last month that Franken won by 312 votes. Others say a Franken victory would merely give the White House a little more breathing room in the Senate's Supreme Court confirmation battle. 'Maybe around the edges, it will create some comfort level to have the 60th vote there,' said Marge Baker, executive vice president of the left-leaning People for the American Way. Baker said she expects Obama's choice to line up closely with her group on 'core constitutional values of justice, equality and opportunity for all.' 'He would do that whether he had 58, 59 or 60 senators,' she added. 'But having 60 senators will certainly make it easier to get that nominee through.'"

FY 2010 BUDGET: "President Barack Obama's detailed budget will include a ramped-up effort to put thousands more budgetary cops on the beat to crack down on fraud and error in politically sensitive social programs," reports the Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman. "The budget, scheduled for release Thursday, will include funds for what the White House is calling a 'program integrity' initiative, enough to fund 1,100 field officers in the Social Security Administration, and for the Department of Labor to interview 188,000 unemployment-insurance recipients over the next fiscal year, a senior budget office official said Monday.

"Other efforts are planned for Medicare and Medicaid. That's in addition to 2,300 additional full-time Internal Revenue Service workers. In all, the official said, the White House will request $13.7 billion for stepped-up oversight in the next five years, which the White House estimates will save the government a net $35 billion, through added tax collection and lower benefit payments."

(AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)
ELIZABETH EDWARDS: "Elizabeth Edwards writes of forgiveness in her forthcoming memoir, Resilience, in which the cancer-battling wife of the former senator from North Carolina and Democratic nominee for vice president addresses the physical pain she suffered as a result of her husband's infidelity with a campaign videographer. But now the wife of the candidate who had spoken of bridging the "two Americas,'' one for the poor and one for the wealthy, is taking her story to American's biggest daytime TV stage, the Oprah Winfrey Show, where Edwards addresses the question of whether she still is in love with her husband," reports the Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva.

"'You know, that's a complicated question,'' Edwards replies, in an excerpt provided to the Associated Press by Harpo Productions. Winfrey asks Edwards: 'Is it a day by day thing?' Edwards says: 'Neither one of us is out the door, so I guess it's day by day, but maybe it's month by month.'

"The show airs Thursday. The book is out May 12. Winfrey traveled to Chapel Hill, N.C., where the Edwards live with their children, Cate, Jack and Emma Claire, and spoke with the former candidate's wife about her husband, his affair and her battle with terminal cancer. Winfrey also spoke with John Edwards for the show.

"There was one restriction, however: Winfrey could not mention the name of John Edwards' mistress, videographer Rielle Hunter, by name. according to Harpo. John Edwards publicly acknowleged the affair in August after the National Enquirer reported he was the father of Hunter's daughter. He has denied paternity.

"'I've seen a picture of the baby,' Elizabeth Edwards tells Winfrey. 'I have no idea. It doesn't look like my children but I don't have any idea.' Edwards, who writes of crying, screaming and vomiting when she learned of the affair, tells Winfrey that she had asked her husband for one gift when they were married 31 years ago. 'I wanted him to be faithful to me,' Edwards says. 'It was enormously important to me.'"

TODAY'S WHITE HOUSE SCHEDULE: This morning, President Obama will receive the Presidential Daily Briefing and the Economic Daily Briefing followed at 10:30am ET by a meeting with Vice President Biden and Congressional Democrats to discuss energy independence and health care reform, among other topics. Later, at 2pm, Mr. Obama will meet with President Shimon Peres of Israel. And at 3pm, Mr. Obama the President will meet with senior advisers in the Oval Office.

ALSO TODAY: First Lady Michelle Obama is in New York City today to address the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and to attend the Time 100 Gala tonight, honoring Time Magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Vice President Biden and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

**NY Times' Neil A. Lewis, "At Annual Meeting, Pro-Israel Group Reasserts Clout"

Also this morning, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is on Capitol Hill to give his economic outlook to the Joint Economic Committee.


OBAMA TAX LOOPHOLE PLAN

Bloomberg News' Ryan J. Donmoyer, "Obama's Bid to End Offshore Tax Havens Faces Hurdle in Congress"

Wall Street Journal's John D. McKinnon, "President's Tax Proposal Riles Business"

Associated Press' Michael Liedtke, "Obama's tax plan raises high-tech hackles"

NY Times' Lynnley Browning, "Obama Plan Leaves One Path to Lower Taxes Wide Open"

ECONOMY / STIMULUS / BAILOUTS

Washington Post's Binyamin Applebaum, "Major Banks Get Stress Test Results Today"

Wall Street Journal's Damian Paletta and Deborah Solomon, "More Banks Will Need Capital"

Washington Times' Kara Rowland, "Bipartisan probe of economy nears nod"

USA Today's Dennis Cauchon, "Federal aid is top revenue for states"

HEALTH CARE

Time Magazine's Karen Tumulty, "The Health Care Talks: Will Obama Get More Involved?"

Wall Street Journal's Janet Adamy, "Need for Cost Data Slows Health-Care Overhaul"

Politico's Mike Allen, "Sebelius says health care reform is urgent"

NY Times' Robert Pear, "Schumer Offers Middle Ground on Health Care"

Boston Globe's Peter S. Canellos, "Lessons of the '93 healthcare war muddle the current debate"

FOREIGN POLICY

Boston Globe's Farah Stockman, "Kerry, Lugar aim to triple nonmilitary aid to Pakistan"

Associated Press' Steven R. Hurst, "Obama tests Afghan, Pakistan strategy'"

Washington Post's Glenn Kessler and Michael D. Shear, "Human Rights Activists Troubled by Administration's Approach"

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

Wall Street Journal's Greg Hitt, "Obama Rebuffed on Funds to Close Guantanamo"

Philadelphia Inquirer's Brittany Talarico, "Biden, others tout rails, offshore wind power in Del."

Associated Press' Dina Cappiello, "White House, House GOP convene meetings on climate"

Associated Press' Libby Quaid, "White House to seek input on education law"

NY Times' Mark Leibovich profiles Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, "G.O.P. Resume, Cabinet Post, Knack for Odd Jobs"

MINNESOTA SENATE RECOUNT

Politico's Manu Raju and Josh Kraushaar, "For GOP, it's Coleman or bust"

FUTURE RACES

2010 AK Governor: Anchorage Daily News' Sean Cockerham, "Palin firm on refusing some stimulus money"

2010 NY Governor: PolitickerNY's Steve Kornacki, "Out of the Running, Paterson Starts Sprinting"

2010 CO Senate: The Hill's Aaron Blake, "For Colorado GOP, nominee for Senate may be a fresh face"

2010 FL Senate: St. Petersburg Times, "Rubio tells Univision he's in for Senate"

2010 IL Senate: Lincolnwood Review's Kathy Routliffe, "Schakowsky: Polling shows my strength as Senate candidate"

2010 KY Senate: CQ Politics, "In Kentucky, Another Strike on Bunning's Ratings"

2010 NH Senate: Nashua Telegraph's Kevin Landrigan, "Gregg, John E. Sununu lead Hodes in Senate race"

2010 PA Senate: Politico's Josh Kraushaar, "After Specter switch: buyer's remorse?"

2010 PA Senate: Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, "Ridge May Run for Specter's Senate Seat"

2010 PA Senate: The Bulletin's Bradley Vasoli, "Poll Shows Ridge, Specter In A Dead Heat"

ETC.

Washington Post's Carol D. Leonnig and Alice Crites, "Murtha's Nephew Got Defense Contracts"

The Hill's Michael M. Gleeson and Bob Cusack, "The most partisan and bipartisan House members"
  • Steve Chaggaris

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

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