**Health care reform inches forward on Capitol Hill...
**Beer meeting roundup...
**Is 'Cash for Clunkers' tapped out already?
5192097HEALTH CARE: "As recently as two weeks ago it might not have looked like much of a victory. But after a series of delays and some rancorous disputes over President Barack Obama's top domestic priority, final House committee action on a health overhaul bill is sure to be hailed as a big step forward," reports the Associated Press' Erica Werner.
"The House Energy and Commerce Committee, the final of three House committees to act, was expected to complete work Friday on sweeping legislation that seeks to hold down costs and provide health care to nearly all the 50 million uninsured.
"It comes on the House's final day in session before lawmakers leave Washington for their annual monthlong summer recess. With committee action completed majority Democrats will be able to return to their districts claiming momentum on health care — even though up until recently the goal was to have legislation all the way through the House by the recess."
Meanwhile, in the Senate…
"Baucus was facing pressure from fellow Democrats to schedule a committee vote before the Senate's Aug. 7 recess. The last House panel plans to wrap up debate today, and both the House and Senate have already put off full chamber votes until September, defying Obama's target of August," add Bloomberg News' Laura Litvan and Kristin Jensen.
"Democrats wanted to show more progress amid concern the monthlong break will give opponents time to galvanize public opinion against their proposals to expand coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans and curb health-care costs, which account for a sixth of the nation's economy. Republicans say Democrats will end up raising taxes to pay for the measure and limiting choices for patients. ...
"The Senate finance panel is struggling to reach consensus on issues such as whether to set up a government-run insurance program, whether to require that employers offer coverage and how to pay for the most sweeping changes in the nation's health- care system in more than four decades."
The Los Angeles Times' Noam N. Levey and James Oliphant point out that liberals in both chambers are quite unhappy at the direction the health care bills are moving.
"In the House, liberals are furious at their leaders for striking a deal with conservative Democrats that would weaken the proposal to create a government insurance program, a dream long cherished on the left. …
"Meanwhile in the Senate, a growing number of Democrats and Republicans were taking aim at an effort led by finance committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to develop centrist healthcare legislation that could attract GOP support -- in part by eliminating a government plan entirely."
The Washington Post's Shailagh Murray and Paul Kane add that it's not just liberal Democrats who are irked.
5196009"In a setback for President Obama, Senate GOP negotiators sought Thursday to slow down health-care talks, likely delaying a long-awaited bipartisan deal until after the August recess. ... Thursday, two of the GOP lawmakers, Sens. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) and Mike Enzi (Wyo.), bristled at pressure from Democratic leaders to complete work on the bill by Aug. 7, when the Senate departs for a month-long recess.
"Asked if the talks had collapsed, Enzi said, 'I hope not.' But he added: 'We're being rushed. Deadlines in this thing should be irrelevant. Getting it right has to be the relevant issue. . . . It is possible to get it right. It just can't be done by next weekend.'"
And just because Congress is heading home for their August recess soon doesn't mean they won't be worrying about work, reports the Wall Street Journal's Janet Adamy and Naftali Bendavid.
"August is shaping up as a make-or-break month for a health-care overhaul -- not because Congress will be hard at work in Washington, but because it won't.
"Home for summer recess, lawmakers will be more accessible to constituents worried about the direction of the unfinished legislation.
"Supporters and opponents plan to pour millions of dollars into television ads, phone banks and other efforts to shape public opinion."
USA Today's John Fritze adds, "A House Democratic memo obtained by USA TODAY shows the steps the party is taking to coordinate its message over the break. Lawmakers are encouraged to hold town-hall-style meetings, post videos on the Internet and find small-business owners 'whose testimony can provide a powerful narrative,' the memo states."
Meanwhile, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced late last night that they're "launching a month-long major advertising and grassroots offensive against more than two-dozen targeted Republicans on health insurance reform"
Per the DCCC, the "offensive" includes: "Radio ads in seven (7) Republican Members districts; Volunteer live calls, automated calls to 25 targeted Republican Members; Volunteer live calls to talk radio stations in targeted Republican Members' districts; Three (3) million e-mails; Letter writing drive in Republican Members' districts; Letter to the editor drive in Republican Members' districts; On-line petition campaign; Fact check Republicans' lies about health insurance reform; Tele-town halls in targeted Republican Members' districts."
Politics Daily's Jill Lawrence, "Health Care Marathon: Sleepless Legislators Trudge Toward Recess"
Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib, "Compromise May Be Better Than Nothing"
Washington Post's Michael D. Shear, "Polling Helps Obama Frame Message in Health-Care Debate"
New York Times' Carl Hulse, "In House, Freshman Democrats Make a Stand"
Politico's David Rogers, "Blue Dogs pulled in two directions"
Washington Post's Dan Eggen, "Blue Dogs Receive More Health Industry Backing Than Other Democrats"
Wall Street Journal's John D. McKinnon, "Proposed Tax Tests Obama on Campaign Vow"
Associated Press, "Abortion measure passes, then fails, in House"
"The White House, which carefully choreographed the event, kept reporters out and would not disclose what was said after the unlikely trio, joined by Vice President Joe Biden, sipped their cold ones. But after the images of a peaceful dialogue were beamed live on television, Crowley said he and Gates had agreed to meet again and will continue discussing their differences."
CBSNews.com's Brian Montopoli adds that the president released a statement after the event saying, "'I am thankful to Professor Gates and Sergeant Crowley for joining me at the White House this evening for a friendly, thoughtful conversation.
"'Even before we sat down for the beer, I learned that the two gentlemen spent some time together listening to one another, which is a testament to them. I have always believed that what brings us together is stronger than what pulls us apart. I am confident that has happened here tonight, and I am hopeful that all of us are able to draw this positive lesson from this episode.'
"At a press conference after the event, Crowley said that he and Gates had a 'cordial and productive discussion' in which they 'agreed to disagree.' ...
"According to Crowley, no apologies were made at the meeting. …
"The president, as promised, drank Bud Light, while the vice president drank Bucker, a non-alcoholic beer. Gates sipped Sam Adams Light, brewed in his home state of Boston, while Crowley opted for Blue Moon, which he had earlier told the president was among his favorites."
Meantime, the Washington Post's Jon Cohen asks, "Did President Obama accelerate his public image problems by venturing into the racial politics swirling around the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.?
"The intriguing possibility comes from a Pew Research Center analysis released Thursday: The poll finds that Obama's overall approval rating among whites tumbled seven percentage points from just after his July 22 news conference through last weekend, as the focus turned increasingly to his handling of the situation. The percentage of whites who 'like' the kind of person he is fell by six points.
"In a callback survey Monday evening, more than twice as many whites disapproved than approved of how Obama was dealing with the matter (45 percent disapproved, 22 approved and 33 percent said they did not know).
"Many things were shifting in Washington at the tail-end of last week, when Pew was interviewing for this poll, but the new numbers are stark, as the Gates story took up nearly a third of all news coverage by last Friday, according to a separate analysis by Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism."
New York Times' Helene Cooper and Abby Goodnough, "Over Beers, No Apologies, but Plans to Have Lunch"
Los Angeles Times' Peter Wallsten and Mike Dorning, "Racial Furor pauses for White House happy hour"
McClatchy Newspapers' Margaret Talev, "Obama's 'beer summit' yields symbolic image, but little else"
"Obama administration officials warned congressional leaders Thursday it planned to suspend the program at midnight. But the White House released a statement late Thursday saying that completed deals would be honored and the program is still under review.
"A White House official said, 'We are working tonight to assess the situation facing what is obviously an incredibly popular program. Auto dealers and consumers should have confidence that all valid [cash-for-clunker] transactions that have taken place to-date will be honored.'
"Lawmakers are discussing with White House officials where to find funding -- including possibly tapping the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, a congressional aide said."
Bloomberg News' Angela Greiling Keane and John Hughes, "Auto 'Clunkers' Offer in Doubt After Going Through $1 Billion"
Palin's spokeswoman attempted to clear the issue up in a posting on Palin's Facebook page last night.
"As repeatedly stated to several in the media over the last week, former Governor Sarah Palin is not committed to attend the Simi Valley Republican Women's event at the Reagan Library and in fact is not attending the event. Neither the Governor's state staff nor SarahPAC has ever committed to attending this event or speaking at this event, and even requested that the Governor's name be removed from the invitation several weeks ago. The Governor has other work and commitments to take care of at that time. "She looks forward to visiting her friends in California soon.
"All event requests must be confirmed with Meghan Stapleton of SarahPAC. Additionally, all invitations bearing the Governor's name must be approved by her attorney before proceeding.
PRESIDENT OBAMA TODAY: Per the White House, this morning, "the President will receive the Presidential Daily Briefing, the Economic Daily Briefing, and meet with senior advisors in the Oval Office. ... In the afternoon, the President will have lunch with business leaders in the Private Dining Room. ... Later, the President and the Vice President will meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. ... In the evening, the President and the Vice President will host a meeting for members of the Cabinet at Blair House."
ALSO TODAY: First Lady Michelle Obama is in Norfolk, Va., where she will speak at a welcoming ceremony for the USS Eisenhower and USNS Comfort. She will also meet with Navy leaders and military families.
IRAQ / AFGHANISTAN
Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran, "In Afghanistan, U.S. May Shift Strategy"
Associated Press' Anne Gearan and Lara Jakes, "US general may ask for more troops for Afghan war"
NY Times' Michael R. Gordon, "U.S. Adviser's Blunt Memo on Iraq : Time 'to Go Home'"
KARL ROVE / U.S. ATTORNEY FIRINGS
NY Times' David Johnston, "Rove Says His Role in Prosecutor Firings Was Small"
Washington Post's Carrie Johnson, "E-Mails Show Larger White House Role in Prosecutor Firings"
GOV. TIM PAWLENTY
San Diego Union Tribune's John Marelius, "Pawlenty gives national stage a try"
Minneapolis Star Tribune's Mark Brunswick, "Pawlenty's conservative message received politely"
Associated Press' Michael R. Blood, "Minn. Gov: GOP must welcome others, broaden base"
The Hill's J. Taylor Rushing, "Baucus: 'No idea' how he'll vote on Sotomayor"
Washington Examiner's Julie Mason, "Obama tries to reboot after rough July"
Washington Post's Dan Balz, "Obama's Poll Numbers Don't Add Up to Whole Story"
NY Times' Rachel L. Swarns, "Obama's Sister Is Coming to Washington"
McClatchy Newspapers' Steven Thomma, "Here's the truth: 'Birther' claims are just plain nuts"
Agence France-Presse's Laurent Lozano, "Obama's holiday plans under the microscope"
Associated Press' Anne Flaherty, "Congress wants say on Wall Street pay"
Washington Post's Carol D. Leonnig, "Ethics and Appropriations Make Strange Bedfellows"
Politico's Abby Phillip and Manu Raju, "Despite absence, Senate giants deliver"
Politico's Alex Isenstadt, "Town halls gone wild"
2009 NJ Governor: Time Magazine's Jay Newton-Small, "Corruption and the Economy: Corzine's Re-Election Woes in New Jersey"
2009 VA Governor: Northern Virginia Daily's Garren Shipley, "Dems liken McDonnell campaign to the Bush era"
2010 NY Governor: NY Daily News' David Saltonstall, "Depends on how bad it is: Rudy Giuliani says he might have to save state and run for Gov."
2010 TX Governor: Wall Street Journal's Leslie Eaton, "Hutchison vs. Perry Promises a Texas-Size Brawl"
2010 NY Senate: NY Times' Clyde Haberman, "A Primary for Senator? Get Serious"