Morning Bulletin – Friday, May 8, 2009

A roundup of news, schedules, and key stories from CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
On the heels of the new unemployment numbers released this morning, President Obama will talk about jobs today at 11:30am ET. He'll unveil a plan for the unemployed to pursue education and training while keeping their unemployment benefits.

The Associated Press' Darlene Superville reports, " Under the measures Obama was scheduled to outline, according to the White House: The Labor Department will encourage states to update rules during economic downturns so that the unemployed can enroll in community colleges and other education or training programs without giving up their benefits.

"States generally require people who collect unemployment to be actively looking for work, which can make it difficult to sign up for school or job training. Going to school will satisfy the requirement that they be actively seeking new employment. The Education Department will encourage colleges to increase financial aid packages for the unemployed. Colleges can consider an unemployed worker's situation and make them eligible for Pell Grants, which help low-income students afford college, and other aid. An unemployed person could get a Pell Grant and use it to pay for education or job training without giving up unemployment benefits. Beginning in July, the maximum Pell Grant will be boosted by $500, to $5,350."

PRESIDENT'S BUDGET: "President Barack Obama released details of his $3.6 trillion fiscal-2010 budget Thursday, showing how he would expand the government's reach with programs ranging from a low-cost housing trust fund to adding 50,000 cops on the beat to spreading automatic 401(k) enrollments. What remains unclear in the nearly 1,500 pages is how the president would try to narrow the gaping federal deficit," writes the Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman.

"The added cost of new programs detailed in Mr. Obama's budget appendix will swamp the $17 billion of potential savings anticipated from eliminating or cutting back 121 programs, enumerated in a separate document. At a time when state and local governments are slashing services, the Obama budget for 2010 shows little real sign of belt-tightening."

"Restraint has not been the hallmark of President Obama's first budget," adds the Washington Post's Dan Balz.

"To attack the weak economy and to fulfill campaign promises on health care, energy and education, he has proposed spending and deficits on an unprecedented scale. Obama has long insisted, however, that fiscal restraint is an integral part of his budgetary strategy, and yesterday he sought to prove that by releasing a list of 121 proposals that would cut a total of $17 billion from the 2010 budget.

"They represent a minuscule down payment on a significantly larger problem. By themselves, the proposals are too small to impress his critics but probably too large for Congress to swallow. Obama will have to do much more to make good on his pledges to tame the deficits that will be left once the economy is solidly in recovery. To date, the president's rhetoric about fiscal discipline exceeds his results."

"The cuts represent one-half of 1 percent of the entire budget. Republicans ridiculed the amount, noting Obama is seeking an $81 billion increase in other spending," write Bloomberg News' Roger Runningen and Brian Faler.

"'In Washington, I guess that's considered trivial,' Obama said in remarks after the document was released. 'Outside of Washington, that's still considered a lot of money.' The savings 'are significant. They mean something,' he said. Obama repeated his pledge to halve the deficit -- projected by the Congressional budget office to hit $1.38 trillion in fiscal 2010 -- by the end of his first term. Even modest cuts of programs that the administration has identified as obsolete or wasteful are likely to run into resistance from lawmakers. Some of them, such as farm subsidies, already were rejected by the Democratic-controlled Congress when they were proposed by then-President George W. Bush."

"Republicans said the reductions were insufficient," report the Los Angeles Times' Christi Parsons and Jim Tankersley.

"'It literally will have virtually no impact on the deficit and the debt as we move forward,' said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who earlier this year was Obama's Commerce secretary nominee before changing his mind. 'While you're taking these few dollars out . . . they are adding back in massive amounts of spending.' The administration knows that fights over its proposed spending cuts are coming. Every program has a supporter, Obama's budget director, Peter R. Orszag, acknowledged Thursday on a White House blog, 'and there will be vocal and powerful interests that will oppose different aspects of this budget.'"

"[A]n array of Democratic lawmakers vowed to fight White House efforts to deprive their favorite initiatives of federal funds," add the Washington Post's Lori Montgomery and Amy Goldstein.

"Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she is 'committed' to keeping a $400 million program that reimburses states for jailing illegal immigrants, a task she called 'a total federal responsibility.' Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) said he would oppose 'any cuts' in agriculture subsidies because 'farmers and farm families depend on this federal assistance.' And Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey (D-N.Y.) vowed to force the White House to accept delivery of a new presidential helicopter Obama says he doesn't need and doesn't want.

"The helicopter program, which cost $835 million this year, supports 800 jobs in Hinchey's district. 'I do think there's a good chance we can save it,' he said. The news releases began flying as Obama unveiled the long-awaited details of his $3.4 trillion spending plan, including a list of programs he wants to trim or eliminate. Though the proposed reductions represent just one-half of 1 percent of next year's budget, the swift protest was a precursor of the battle Obama will face within his own party to control spending and rein in a budget deficit projected to exceed $1.2 trillion next year."

4876687CIA INTERROGATIONS: "Congressional leaders were briefed in detail about techniques used in the Central Intelligence Agency's interrogation program, according to a new intelligence document. The document appears to conflict with recent statements from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was then the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee," reports the Wall Street Journal's Siobhan Gorman.

"Ms. Pelosi has said she hadn't been told that the CIA was using the technique known as waterboarding, or simulated drowning. According to the document, Ms. Pelosi was one of the first lawmakers briefed on the interrogations in 2002."

"A chart compiled by the CIA indicates that Pelosi (D-San Francisco) was briefed on Sept. 4, 2002, on the agency's interrogation of alleged Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah, and that the session covered 'the particular [enhanced interrogation techniques] that had been employed,'" adds the Los Angeles Times' Greg Miller.

"The chart does not list the specific methods covered during the briefing. But during the preceding month, the CIA had used the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding on Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times, according to a Justice Department memo released last month. Pelosi has acknowledged being briefed on the CIA's interrogation program, but said she was told only about methods the agency was considering, not about techniques it had actually employed. As recently as a week ago, Pelosi said, 'We were not -- I repeat were not -- told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used.'

"Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Pelosi, disputed the CIA's account. 'As this document shows, the speaker was briefed only once, in September 2002,' he said Thursday. 'The briefers described these techniques, said they were legal, but said that waterboarding had not been used.' The CIA declined to comment on why the chart does not make it clear whether waterboarding was covered in the Pelosi briefing.

"But a federal official familiar with the list indicated that the agency's records may not have been that specific. 'The descriptions don't go beyond what the records themselves say,' said the official, who requested anonymity when discussing intelligence matters."

GITMO PRISONERS: " Seeking to calm fears that al Qaeda terrorists could be set free on U.S. soil, Attorney General Eric Holder pledged [Thursday] that prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay prison facility would not be released in the United States," writes CBS News Justice Correspondent Bob Orr.

"'We would not bring them into this country and release them,' Holder said. The Obama administration promises to close the detainment center in just eight months. Holder did not rule out some of detainees being brought to the United States for trial. The possibility of terrorists coming to America has been met with 'Not in My Backyard' objections from members of both major political parties. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala., asked CBS News this question: 'Do you know of any community in the United States of America that would welcome terrorists?'"

"Across the Capitol, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives introduced what they called the 'Keep Terrorists out of America Act,' legislation aimed at thwarting the administration's efforts to close the controversial camp," adds McClatchy Newspapers' Lesley Clark.

"It would require a state governor or legislature first to approve any transfer or release of a detainee into that state. 'The world suddenly did not become safer on Jan. 20, 2009,' said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. 'Our constituents don't want these terrorists in their neighborhoods.' Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky carried the message to the Senate floor, saying that Republican concerns 'are rooted in the fact that Americans like the fact that we haven't been attacked at home since 9-11, and they don't want the terrorists at Guantanamo back on the battlefield or in their backyards.' Of the 779 people who've been imprisoned at Guantanamo, 538 already have been released or transferred to other countries for detention or trial, the vast majority of them by the Bush administration."

REPLACING SOUTER: " When John G. Roberts Jr. was nominated to the Supreme Court as chief justice, a pro-Republican group called Progress for America had $18 million in the bank. ... But Progress for America is now defunct and Republicans are in the political wilderness, leaving a smattering of opposition groups to make the conservative case against whomever President Obama chooses to replace retiring Justice David H. Souter," reports the Washington Post's Dan Eggen.

"Conservative groups concede that they have little chance of derailing Obama's choice, barring a scandal. But Supreme Court nominations have long been a rallying point and a fundraising opportunity for interest groups, particularly on the right. And now, at a time of ideological drift among Republicans, a loose coalition of conservative organizations has begun mapping strategies. The goal, they say, is to fire up supporters and shake up the debate in the Democratic-controlled Senate, in part as preparation for other court fights to come."

New York Times' Adam Liptak, "Souter's Exit Opens Door for a More Influential Justice"

TODAY'S WHITE HOUSE SCHEDULE: In addition to Mr. Obama's 11:30am remarks on unemployment, he will also hold a closed meeting with Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.

***WASHINGTON UNPLUGGED*** Today at 2pm ET on Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., talks to host Bob Schieffer about the future of the Republican Party. Also, a roundtable discussion on President Obama's challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Goldie Hawn discusses her new philanthropic venture.

***FACE THE NATION*** Sunday on CBS, check local listings: Bob Schieffer sits down with former Vice President Dick Cheney.


Wall Street Journal's David Enrich, Robin Sidel and Deborah Solomon, "Fed Sees Up to $599 Billion in Bank Losses"

NY Times' Edmund L. Andrews, "Ailing Banks Need $75 Billion, U.S. Says"

NY Times' Louise Story and Eric Dash, "Stress Tests Results Split Financial Landscape"

Wall Street Journal's Daren Fonda, "What the Stress Tests Mean for You"


Associated Press' Jim Kuhnhenn, "Slow recovery no help for Obama's plans"

NY Times' William Yardley, "Bids to Push States' Rights Falter in Face of Stimulus"


LA Times' Julian E. Barnes, "In Afghanistan conflict, Pentagon considers structural changes"

Wall Street Journal's Peter Siegel, "U.S. to Appoint Top General to Kabul in Afghan Revamp"

Associated Press' Barry Schweid, "Obama charts active role in Mideast"

Associated Press' Desmond Butler, "Russia, US strike conciliatory tones after talks"

Associated Press, "N. Korea vows to bolster nuclear arsenal"


NY Times' Charlie Savage, "Elite Unit's Problems Pose Test for Attorney General"

Washington Post's Mary Beth Sheridan, "Obama Administration Is Bringing Nuclear Arms Control Back"

NY Times' Gardiner Harris, "Senators Offer Their Support to F.D.A. Nominee"


CQ Politics' Emily Cadei, "Minnesota Republicans: Pawlenty Will Help Coleman"


Politico's Andy Barr, "GOP base rips Cantor's National Council for a New America"

Politico's Ben Smith, "Cheney to GOP: 'It would be a mistake for us to moderate'"


2010 FL Senate: Miami Herald's Beth Reinhard, "GOP focus: Crist's possible Senate bid"

2010 IL Senate: The Hill's Reid Wilson and Aaron Blake, "Burris: Money will factor into reelection decision"

2010 NY Senate: NY Times' Raymond Hernandez, "N.Y.'s Junior Senator Gains a Defender: the Senior Senator"

2010 PA Senate:'s Brian Montopoli, "Ridge Won't Run For Specter's Senate Seat"


NY Daily News' Thomas Zambito, "Norman Hsu, Hillary Clinton fund-raiser, pleads guilty in $20M Ponzi scam"

NY Times' Tim Arango, "The President's Name Trips Up a Would-Be Voice of the News"

LA Times' Scott Martelle, "Book Review: 'Resilience' by Elizabeth Edwards"

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    Steve Chaggaris is CBS News' senior political editor.