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Morning Bulletin – Friday, March 6, 2009

New unemployment numbers: 8.1%. "The U.S. economy continued to bleed jobs last month near rates not seen since the end of World War II, signaling that there's still no end in sight to the severe recession that began more than one year ago," reports the Wall Street Journal's Brian Blackstone.

"The report suggests that households, already seeing the value of their homes and investments plunge, face added headwinds from the labor market, which could put more pressure on consumer spending in coming months."

President Obama heads to Columbus, Ohio today with Attorney General Eric Holder where Mr. Obama will speak at the Columbus Police Graduation Exercises at 11am ET.

"The 25 Columbus police recruits graduating Friday learned in January that instead of being sworn-in as officers, they would be let go. However, Mayor Michael Coleman announced last week that he would use money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to pay the recruits' salaries so they could keep their jobs," the White House said in a release.

When he signed the bill on Feb. 17, Obama cited saving the Ohio police recruit class as one use for stimulus money," writes the Associated Press' Darlene Superville.

"Obama has been highlighting programs to be funded by the legislation, along with the jobs he says are being saved or created by those dollars. He has practically staked his presidency on his promise that the stimulus package, which drew scant Republican support in Congress, will save or create 3.5 million jobs within the next two years."

Meantime, the $410 billion spending bill to keep the government running through FY '09 hit a snag in the Senate last night as Democratic leaders realized they were one vote short from preventing a filibuster. Criticism of the thousands of earmarks in the bill in recent days has turned what's normally routine legislation into a flashpoint.

"Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had been confident Thursday evening that he had the 60 votes needed to cut off debate. But a half hour after the roll call was to begin, Reid admitted he was still one vote short, forcing a late night meeting in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office over where to go next," writes Politico's David Rogers.

"The upshot is another extension –through Wednesday—of a stop-gap spending bill that would otherwise expire Friday. The House was preparing to take up the measure Friday morning, with the Senate poised to follow. But the whole episode was a major embarrassment and leaves President Barack Obama exposed to another weekend of Republican calls on television news shows, demanding that he veto the $409.6 billion package."

"The ability of the diminished minority to delay the bill signaled growing unease in Congress, among Democrats and Republicans, over the levels of government spending in recent months and the staggering increase in the federal deficit," reports the New York Times' David M. Herszenhorn.

"The delay of the bill was an embarrassment for Democrats and a striking, if temporary, victory for critics of so-called earmark spending initiatives, who had criticized the bill as bloated with wasteful expenditures. Among those critics were Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and two Democrats who opposed the measure, Senators Evan Bayh of Indiana and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. But there were other reasons that Democrats came up short of the 60 votes needed to advance the bill. Two Hispanic senators — one Democrat, one Republican — opposed it over provisions that would have eased some travel and trade restrictions on Cuba. Senate Republican aides said they expected the bill to be approved next week after Republican lawmakers were allowed to offer additional amendments."

"The huge, 1,132-page spending bill awards big increases to domestic programs and is stuffed with pet projects sought by lawmakers in both parties. The measure has an extraordinary reach, wrapping together nine spending bills to fund the annual operating budgets of every Cabinet department except for Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs," adds the Associated Press' Andrew Taylor.

"The measure was written mostly over the course of last year, before projected deficits quadrupled and Obama's economic recovery bill left many of the same spending accounts swimming in cash. And, to the embarrassment of Obama — who promised during last year's campaign to force Congress to curb its pork-barrel ways — the bill contains 7,991 pet projects totaling $5.5 billion, according to calculations by the GOP staff of the House Appropriations Committee."

ALSO TODAY: Vice President Joe Biden visits the Miami Police Department to talk about the economic stimulus.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Geneva for a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

LATER THIS MONTH: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will travel to Europe from March 31 through April 5, Secretary of State Clinton announced yesterday. Mr. Obama will attend a G-20 summit in London, a NATO meeting in France and Germany as well as hold meetings with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Mr. Obama will end his trip at a conference between the U.S. and the European Union in Prague.


CBS News' Mark Knoller, "President Obama's Health Care Forum"

Washington Post's Ceci Connolly, "Ex-Foes of Health Care Reform Emerge as Supporters"

The Hill's Jeffrey Young, "Discord lurks beneath health summit": "President Obama sounded all the right notes Wednesday as he hosted 120 lawmakers, interest group executives and experts at a summit on comprehensive healthcare reform. ... But amid those notes were faint hints of the discord to come as Republicans made clear they were willing to talk — but not willing to roll over.

"Less than two hours before the summit, Rep. Joe Barton (Texas), the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, issued a statement that said, in part, 'Not all of the Democrats' ideas are objectionable. Just nearly all.'

"During a breakout session, Barton also bragged about helping to stop President Bill Clinton and then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's health reform plan. 'I don't see what happened in the '90s as a failure,' Barton said. 'I'm one of the ones who worked really hard to kill Hillarycare.' Obama is attempting to slay a political dragon that has bested many presidents before him, dating back — as Obama said — to Theodore Roosevelt. If he is going to succeed, his rhetoric about working together with Democrats, Republicans, employers, labor unions and healthcare interests will have to become reality."

Associated Press' Liz Sidoti, "Obama: Every voice must be heard on health reform"

NY Times' Robert Pear and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "Obama Says He Is Open to Altering Health Plan"


The Hill's Walter Alarcon, "Devil in the budget details": "President Obama's budget proposal is running into problems on Capitol Hill — from Democrats with their own fiscal priorities.

"Senior Democrats have questioned Obama's proposal to fund healthcare reforms by limiting tax breaks for the wealthy. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), broker of a bipartisan deal on the stimulus, doesn't like Obama's plan to cut out private firms from the student loan industry. Coal-state lawmakers such as Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) say Obama's proposal to cap carbon emissions would drive American manufacturers abroad.

"Farm-state lawmakers such as Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) don't like Obama's proposal to limit farm subsidies. And bourbon-state members worry that the president's budget reforms will lead to higher taxes on liquor makers. The intra-party sniping comes a week after Democrats stood to applaud Obama and his proposals in a joint session of Congress.

Washington Post's David Cho, "U.S. to Invite the Wealthy To Invest in the Bailout"


(AP Images)
The Sun's George Pascoe-Watson, "Yes One can": "THE Queen is to give Barack Obama a private "getting-to-know-you" audience next month. Her Majesty will meet the new US President in advance of an economic summit in London. The private meeting is highly unusual because Mr Obama will not be on a State visit.

"But advisers believe it is important the Queen — who opened an interchange in Hull yesterday — meets him before any official trip. ... President Obama, famed for his Yes We Can slogan, will fly with wife Michelle on Air Force One to Stansted, Essex.

"The private talks will be held the next day at Buckingham Palace. Mr Obama will then join the G20 leaders for a Downing Street dinner on the eve of the summit on April 2."

Washington Post's Howard Schneider, "Israeli Spurns Criticism From Clinton"

LA Times' Paul Richter, "U.S., Iran could meet at conference on Afghanistan"

Associated Press' Robert Burns, "Clinton faces first diplomatic test with Russian"

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION's Political Hotsheet, "Gupta Withdraws From Consideration To Become Surgeon General"

Wall Street Journal's Deborah Solomon, "Top Treasury Candidates Pull Out"

Politico's Jeanne Cummings, John Bresnahan and Josh Gerstein, "Empty Treasury: Geithner alone"


Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, "GOP Fights Back Over Criticism of Limbaugh"

Politico's Jonathan Martin and Manu Raju, "Steele pushes back; rivals gripe"


CQ Politics' Emily Cadei, "What About a 'Do-Over' in Minnesota?"


(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet, "New quid pro quo questions between Burris, Blagojevich": "On the same December day then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich named Roland Burris to fill President Obama's U.S. Senate vacancy, Burris' right-hand political man, Fred Lebed, phoned an associate and told him, 'We'll have to do some things for the governor.'

"That's the recollection of the associate, a health-care and political consultant named John Ruff, who went on to become one of Burris' co-plaintiffs on a January lawsuit that sought to help Burris claim his Senate seat.

"Besides raising new questions about a possible quid pro quo between Blagojevich and Burris, Ruff also recalled Lebed telling him he'd had discussions about Burris' interest in the seat with Blagojevich representatives as far back as October. That claim by Ruff contradicts what Burris said in a Jan. 5 sworn statement that is now part of a state perjury investigation."

Chicago Tribune, "Democrats vote down special election for Roland Burris Senate seat"


2010 IL Senate: The Hill's Reid Wilson, "Daley said to be leaning toward bid for Ill. Senate"

2010 KY Senate: NY Times' Mark Leibovich, "Republicans Look for a Reliever in Kentucky"

2010 PA Senate: Allentown Morning Call's Josh Drobnyk, "Toomey tells friends Senate run is on"


USA Today's Joan Biskupic interviewed Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, "Ginsburg plans to stay on high court for years, despite cancer"

Wall Street Journal's Kris Maher, "Biden Embraces Union Agenda at AFL-CIO Meeting"

Politico's Carol E. Lee, "Obama's safety net: the teleprompter"

NY Times' Peter Baker, "Obama Sticks to the Script, With a Little Help"

The Hill's Sam Youngman, "Gibbs knows the art of war"

Wall Street Journal's Alex Frangos, "Spitzer Is Back in D.C. – in Real Estate"

Washington Post's DeNeen L. Brown, "For a Day, First Lady Becomes a Lunch Lady"

Associated Press' Laurie Kellman, "Capitol Hill goes gaga over Brad Pitt"

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