Morning Bulletin: Monday, June 1, 2009

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

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Before President Obama heads out on a five-day trip to Europe and the Middle East this week, today at 11:55 a.m. ET he'll deal with some important business on the home front: General Motors' bankruptcy filing and the future of the auto industry.

"President Barack Obama couldn't let General Motors fail, but he won't concede he's taking over the company," reports the Associated Press' Jim Kuhnhenn. "With a 60 percent equity stake in the carmaker and $50 billion in taxpayer money riding on GM's success, the federal government isn't exactly a hands-off investor. As GM enters into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Obama's economic team is stressing that its goals are to maximize the return to taxpayers and to exit from its involvement as quickly as possible. But as one administration official put it Sunday night, there is an inevitable tension between those two objectives."

"Even after nine months of extraordinary government intervention, the scope and complexity of the General Motors Corp. rescue present a thicket of conflicts unlike any seen before in Washington," add the Wall Street Journal's Neil King Jr., Jeffrey McCracken and Mike Spector.

(CBS)
"The federal government is likely within weeks to emerge as the principal owner of a storied U.S. corporation whose factories and products touch the lives of tens of millions of Americans. It will simultaneously serve as the company's regulator, tax collector, customer, pension backstop and lender. The administration put out a set of overarching principles Sunday meant to guide its interactions with GM and other companies in which the U.S. has an equity stake. The points stressed that the administration has no desire to own parts of companies and would do so only under extreme conditions. Once helping a company such as GM restructure, the government would manage its stake "in a hands-off, commercial manner" and not get involved in issuing day-to-day directives to GM, the guidelines said.

"Obama aides have wrestled for weeks over how to portray the government's increasing involvement as an active player in the private sector. But given the size of the $50 billion U.S. investment, it will be hard for President Barack Obama and Congress to say they will remain uninvolved in a company saved only by taxpayer largesse."

Detroit Free Press' Tim Higgins, "GM files for bankruptcy"

Detroit News' David Shepardson, "Judge OKs Chrysler, Fiat deal"

PRESIDENT'S FOREIGN TRIP: Mr. Obama "makes a second foray into European diplomacy this week facing pressure to demonstrate his consensus-building foreign policy can produce results where his predecessor George W. Bush's go-it-alone style failed," writes Reuters' David Alexander.

(AP)
"Obama travels to Germany and France after his speech to the Islamic world in Cairo on Thursday. The visit will be steeped in World War Two imagery, with stops at the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany and the allied invasion beaches in Normandy to mark the 65th anniversary of D-Day. Obama has a personal interest in both sites. His great uncle helped liberate one of the Buchenwald subcamps, and the grandfather who helped raise him entered France through Normandy after D-Day as part of General George Patton's army.

"The U.S. leader will meet separately with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy for talks that will touch on the global economic crisis, Iran's nuclear program, the Afghan conflict and Western ties with Russia. Analysts say while the visits to France and Germany are largely symbolic, Obama must begin to show his consultative foreign policy can produce a more unified approach to the shared problems facing the transatlantic allies.

"When he ran for president last year, Obama argued Bush's diplomacy had alienated U.S. friends abroad and promised to deliver international backing for U.S. initiatives by listening to allies rather than dictating to them. The results so far are inconclusive."

Associated Press' Nancy Benac, "Obama's Gramps: Backing Patton's army after D-Day"

Newsweek's Howard Fineman "handicaps" Mr. Obama's Cairo speech. "Barack Obama believes in his voice and his life story. Autobiographical speeches powered his campaign, and he saved his wobbly presidential bid in 2008 with a pensive—and personal—sermon in Philadelphia on the history of race, weaving his own multihued DNA into the tapestry of America," Fineman writes.

"Now comes the ultimate test of autobiographical speechmaking. Obama this week speaks at Cairo University, in the hub of Muslim-Arab culture. Perhaps the results will be Philly II: a skillful blend of grandeur and grit.

"On one level, he isn't risking much. After all, George W. Bush set the bar so low. All Obama has to do to be a success is elicit applause—rather than a fusillade of hurled shoes. But he has privately told friends that his goal is far higher: nothing less than to help 'reconcile Islam and modernity.'"

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
SOTOMAYOR: Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor will meet Tuesday with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. A meeting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other senators are also likely this week.

"Republican senators voiced skepticism yesterday about President Obama's choice for the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, but avoided the name-calling that has come from some conservative activists, notably former House speaker Newt Gingrich and radio host Rush Limbaugh, who have labeled Sotomayor a 'racist,'" writes the Washington Post's Robert Barnes.

(CBS)
CBS News' Michelle Levi adds, "Senator Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., would not say whether the use of the word 'racist' by some Republicans to describe Sonia Sotomayor, based on an 8-year-old comment by President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, was or was not fair, when asked by host Bob Schieffer on Face The Nation Sunday.

"'Bob, I am not going to get drawn into characterizations before I have even met her,' he said, noting that the Judiciary Committee (of which he is a member) will meet with the judge on Capitol Hill Tuesday."

Meantime, the New York Times' John Harwood reports, "Notwithstanding fierce criticism from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich, there is scant evidence of solid opposition from Republican senators. Indeed, strategists on both sides say that one-third or more of the 40 Senate Republicans may vote to confirm her."

(CBS)
CONGRESS RETURNS: "First up as Congress returns from a weeklong recess: Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, partially sidelined by cancer, is convening his health committee's Democrats on Tuesday to begin weighing his proposals to extend health care to all," reports the Associated Press' Erica Werner.

"Later in the week, the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee meets behind closed doors to work on legislation to achieve the same goal. ... Meanwhile, health industry groups are expected Monday to deliver specific plans to the White House backing up their recent pledge to curb their own costs by $2 trillion over 10 years."

"Congress returns this week to face an agenda stuffed with difficult, high-profile issues that will test the ability of Democrats and the White House to deliver health care, energy and spending legislation while simultaneously contending with a Supreme Court nomination," adds the New York Times' Carl Hulse.

"It is a pivotal moment for Democrats. Lawmakers say polls point to a sense of public readiness for major legislation, particularly on health care. Democrats have hefty majorities in the House and the Senate, where they are on the cusp of reaching the 60 votes needed to break any filibuster. Mr. Obama remains popular and retains the momentum of his first months in office. A failure to achieve a breakthrough in some policy areas would be a significant setback, both politically and substantively, heading into the 2010 midterm elections."

(CBS/AP)
MINNESOTA SENATE RECOUNT: "Almost seven months after a U.S. Senate election that was too close to call, five justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court will hear arguments today on whether problems with absentee ballots justify reversing a lower-court ruling that declared DFLer Al Franken a 312-vote winner over Republican Norm Coleman," reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Pat Doyle.

"Partisans across America will be watching, pronouncing judgment on a thousand blogs. The case may cast a blinding national spotlight on the state Supreme Court. A decision upholding the lower-court ruling could end the protracted struggle and allow Franken to join the Senate, giving Democrats an invincible majority. A ruling for Coleman wouldn't return him to the Senate, but could keep his hopes alive and delay a final decision for months. Minnesotans want the dispute to end, recent polls show. Most people say Coleman should concede. Nearly two-thirds believe that Franken ultimately will be declared the winner. But several former Minnesota Supreme Court justices say current members will consider the case carefully, ignoring outside publicity and pressure."

"At issue in the appeal is whether or not the panel overseeing Coleman's election challenge erred in including some absentee ballots while disqualifying others. Coleman's campaign alleges that the court inconsistently allowed ballots," adds The Hill's Michael O'Brien.

"By contrast, Franken has let his lawyers do the work for him. The would-be senator is not an attorney and has instead focused on prepping for the Senate. Perhaps as a marker of the differences in the campaign, Coleman will be in the courtroom Monday for the hourlong arguments, while Franken will likely be absent.

"Still, Franken's campaign hopes to manage a quick turnaround if it wins an election certificate -- though no outcome is certain, and Coleman could opt to appeal the Minnesota Supreme Court's ruling if it doesn't go his way. When Franken can take office largely depends on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Franken's campaign said, though they have tried to ready themselves for office as much as possible. Some senior member of Franken's staff have been identified and hired, and the campaign is working on putting the pieces in place to hire more once they get their budget.

"Still, Franken has not been able to do all the work of a senator as yet: he has been actively referring constituent service requests to his state colleague, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D)."

The Associated Press' Brian Bakst points out the Coleman-Franken contest has cost $50 million so far. "Senate foes Al Franken and Norm Coleman stepped off Minnesota's campaign trail last November after sinking $37 million into commercials, consultants and statewide tours. Lawyers' meters are about the only things running now. Seven months after the Coleman-Franken race was supposed to end, the rivals seldom hold public events and have shaved their payrolls to about a half-dozen employees each. But both still search eagerly for cash — hauling in at least $13 million between them since Election Day — to feed a legal battle that reaches a critical point on Monday."

ALSO TODAY: Former Vice President Dick Cheney speaks at a presentation of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation Journalism Awards in Washington, D.C.

2012 ALREADY?: That's what the legendary Iowa-based Associated Press reporter Mike Glover says. "Potential Republican candidates who have visited the state include Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won the GOP caucuses in 2008.

"More politicians have trips planned, starting with Nevada Sen. John Ensign on Monday, followed by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and another appearance by Huckabee," reports Glover.

"Several other high-profile Republicans thought to be considering presidential runs, including Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, haven't visited Iowa since the election. Of course, politicians typically say their stops in Iowa aren't related to any presidential ambitions. Ensign, for example, will speak as part of a conservative lecture series designed to define the Republican Party heading into next year's congressional elections.

"Huckabee will be the draw at a fundraiser for Bob Vander Plaats, a likely candidate for governor. Phil Roeder, chief spokesman for the Iowa Democratic Party during the 1988 election cycle, said there's a long tradition of politicians traveling to Iowa to help others. 'It's the smoke screen,' Roeder said.

(AP)
Meantime, one potential candidate, former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., denied that he was switching his residence to the traditional first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire to be better positioned for a 2012 run.

He told "Fox News Sunday" yesterday that despite selling homes in Massachusetts and Utah, "my residence is still in Massachusetts. That is my home. That's where I vote. And I'm going to continue to be a Massachusetts resident – I can't tell you how many years that's the case – but for the indefinite future. ... Massachusetts is my home and I'm not looking forward to any particular race, but my residence continues to be Massachusetts and will be."

Romney speaks at the Heritage Foundation today at 11 a.m. ET in Washington, D.C. Topic: "the care of freedom."

SOTOMAYOR
LA Times' David G. Savage, "Sotomayor's decision on firefighters may be overruled by Supreme Court"

Washington Post's Amy Goldstein and Alec MacGillis, "Sotomayor Was a Passionate but Civil Activist"

CBSNews.com's Tucker Reals, "Law Clerks Endorse Sotomayor"

Associated Press' Cristian Salazar, "Singlehandedly raising a Supreme Court nominee"

FOREIGN POLICY

NY Times' Mark Landler, "Cuba Agrees to U.S. Talks in New Sign of a Thaw"


OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

Associated Press' Martin Crutsinger, "Geithner says Obama will bring down deficits"

Washington Post's Lois Romano, "Valerie Jarrett: No. 2 Woman in the White House"

FUTURE RACES

2009 NJ Governor: NY Times' David M. Halbfinger, G.O.P. Rivals In New Jersey Plead for Turnout"

2009 VA Governor: Newport News Daily Press' Kimball Payne, "Deeds, McAuliffe and Moran eye final week of campaign"

2010 NY Governor: NY Daily News' Elizabeth Benjamin, "Governor David Paterson won't get challenge from Andrew Cuomo"

2010 AZ Senate: Arizona Republic's Dan Nowicki, "McCain gears up for 2010 Senate bid"

2010 CT Senate: Hartford Courant editorial, "Dodd's Poll Numbers Tick Upward, But Battle Is Still Uphill"

2010 FL Senate: St. Petersburg Times' Adam C. Smith, "Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville considers run for Senate"

2010 IL Senate: Politico's Manu Raju, "Roland Burris tapes renew questions"

2010 OH Senate: Springfield News-Sun's Jessica Wehrman, "Battle for Voinovich's seat heats up early"

2010 PA Senate: Associated Press' Peter Jackson, "Specter prepares speech to woo state party leaders"

ETC.

Wichita Eagle's Joe Rodriguez, Tim Potter and Stan Finger, "Suspect in shooting death of abortion provider George Tiller may be charged today"

Wall Street Journal's T.W. Farnam, Louise Radnofsky and Elizabeth Williamson, "Lawmakers Keep Expenses Off-Line"
  • Steve Chaggaris

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

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