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Morning Bulletin – Monday, March 9, 2009

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

Pro-research folks are ecstatic and anti-abortion rights folks are livid as President Obama keeps his campaign promise to allow federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Mr. Obama will sign an executive order at 11:45 a.m. ET that will overturn President George W. Bush's ban on the funding. He will also issue a presidential memorandum on science, which will say that politics and science should be kept separate.

"The long-awaited move on embryonic stem cells makes good on a campaign promise, but it is also certain to draw criticism from anti-abortion and religious groups that question the science and ethics behind the research," writes Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown.

"Obama was a frequent critic of former President George W. Bush's 2001 executive order, which said federal dollars could be spent for research only on stem cell lines created before Aug. 9, 2001. On the campaign trail, Obama accused the Bush administration of allowing political ideology to interfere with scientific decisions.

"The research is controversial because the stem cells are harvested from embryos that must be destroyed in the process. But supporters of stem-cell research say the cells hold the promise of cures for Parkinson's disease, spinal injuries and other afflictions. That's because embryonic stem-cells can transform into any cell in the body—making them a potentially powerful tool in the hands of scientists."

(AP Photo/Richard Lewis)
The Washington Post's Rob Stein adds, "When President Obama lifts restrictions on funding for human embryonic stem cell research today, he will also issue a presidential memorandum aimed at insulating scientific decisions across the federal government from political influence, officials said yesterday.

"'The president believes that it's particularly important to sign this memorandum so that we can put science and technology back at the heart of pursuing a broad range of national goals,' Melody C. Barnes, director of Obama's Domestic Policy Council, told reporters during a telephone briefing yesterday. ...

"The decision by President George W. Bush to restrict funding for stem cell research has been seen by critics as part of a pattern of allowing political ideology to influence scientific decisions across an array of issues, including climate change and whether to approve the morning-after pill Plan B for over-the-counter sales."

Meantime, "The Senate will try to complete work on the stalled $410 billion spending bill this week, but not before Democrats are forced to navigate a series of politically charged Republican amendments," reports the New York Times' Carl Hulse.

"After Democrats came up short in their attempts to cut off debate on the bill last Thursday, Republicans won the ability to call for votes on a series of proposals beginning Monday, including a tricky one that would require lawmakers to vote affirmatively for any future Congressional pay raises – always a treacherous vote."

"Congressional Republicans, determined to revive their image as the party of fiscal restraint, helped push the earmark issue to the fore as they hammered a $410 billion catchall spending bill for 2009 that has about $12.8 billion worth of earmarks. However, about 40 percent of the earmarks in the omnibus bill were requested by Republicans," writes the Washington Times' S.A. Miller.

"The roughly 9,000 pet projects in the spending package, known as an omnibus bill, include $951,500 for a 'sustainable Las Vegas' study, $238,000 for the Polynesian Voyaging Society in Honolulu, $190,000 for the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo., and $24,000 for a program in Pennsylvania to promote sexual abstinence. Debate over earmarks reinforces Republicans' criticism that the bill is more of Democrats' 'borrow-and-spend' governing.

"They say the federal spending spree - a $700 billion Wall Street bailout, a $787 billion economic stimulus and a $410 billion omnibus, all on top of Mr. Obama's proposed $3.55 trillion budget for fiscal 2010 - is bankrupting the country. The fight will continue Monday as Senate Democratic leaders fend off cuts to earmarks or other moves to reduce the bill's price tag, which would boost spending 8 percent over 2008 levels - more than twice the rate of inflation. ...

"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, last week defended earmarks as an 'appropriate function' of Congress, even as she pledged to work with the White House to cut the number and increase transparency - but only after passage of the omnibus bill. 'The idea is lower number, more transparency, total accountability,' Mrs. Pelosi said."

"Passage of the $410 billion, leftover-from-last-year omnibus spending bill was supposed to be a perfunctory, pro forma task. Instead, it's become a congressional CT scan, diagnosing some serious maladies afflicting Senate Democrats and complicating House-Senate relations," adds Politico's Glenn Thrush and Manu Raju.

"Pelosi was reportedly so furious at the Senate's slow-walk on the omnibus that she initially rejected any new changes to the bill, saying the House would substitute a stop-gap resolution stripping the omnibus of earmarks and freezing government spending at current levels until the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. In the end, Pelosi withdrew the proposal after Reid assured her Senate Democrats had enough votes to reject a series of GOP amendments Monday. If that deal holds — and it's always possible it won't — it would be a victory for Pelosi, who wanted the House bill approved without changes.

"For his part, Reid dismissed the idea of a rift, saying his miscalculation has less to do with his grip on Democrats than it does with the traditional role of the upper chamber."

ALSO TODAY: Vice President Joe Biden travels to Brussels, Belgium today for a Tuesday meeting with the North Atlantic Council. "The purpose of his trip is to consult with allies on Afghanistan and Pakistan and to ensure that their views help inform the strategic review ordered by President Obama," the White House says.

The Senate Finance Committee holds a confirmation hearing for U.S. Trade Representative nominee Ron Kirk.

Council of Economic Advisers chair Christina Romer talks about the president's economic recovery plan at the Brookings Institution at 1:30pm ET.


Wall Street Journal's Neil King Jr. and John D. Stoll, "Task Force Visits Detroit As Deadline Looms on Aid"

Washington Post's Alec MacGillis, "Money Stimulates Debate in States Over Plan's Goals"

USA Today's William M. Welch, "Illegal immigrats might get stimulus jobs, experts say"


LA Times' Greg Miller and Usama Redha, "U.S. to pull 12,000 troops from Iraq as withdrawal begins"

Wall Street Journal's Charles Levinson, "Housing Spat Strains Israeli-U.S. Ties"

Reuters' Sayed Salahuddin, "Obama's call on moderate Taliban useless: analysts"


Associated Press' Liz Sidoti, "Health overhaul tests Obama's political skills"

NY Times' Edmund L. Andrews and Stephen Labaton, "Geithner, With Few Aides, Faces a Wave of Challenges"

Bloomberg News' Edwin Chen, "Obama Nominates Three for Assistant Tresaury Secretary Posts"

Politico's Kenneth P. Vogel, "Tax cop trips up W.H. nominees"


LA Times' James Oliphant, "A bumpy beginning for RNC Chairman Michael Steele"

The pro-Democratic Americans United for Change releases their second Rush Limbaugh-focused TV ad today. The ad says that Republican leaders have "created the worst economic crisis in a generation" and accuses them of "saying yes to" Limbaugh. The ad then goes on to play Limbaugh's "I want Barack Obama to fail" line.

Washington Times' Tom LoBianco, "Gingrich: Rush flap contrived"

NY Times' John Harwood, "Is Focus on Limbaugh Blurring the Big Picture?"


Associated Press' Brian Bakst, "Minn. Senate race leaves voters tired of law drama"


LA Times' Mark Z. Barabak, "GOP sees its 2010 chances improve"

2010 CT Senate: Time Magazine's Jay Newton-Small, "Connecticut's Chris Dodd Faces a Backyard Rebellion"

2010 IL Senate: Politico's Josh Kraushaar, "Illinois Dems eye Burris seat"

2010 MO Senate: Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, "In Missouri, Senate Race Represents Struggle for Reins of GOP"

2010 PA Senate: The Hill's Alexander Bolton, "Specter faces make-or-break decision"

2010 HI Governor: Honolulu Advertiser, "Abercrombie wants to extend Obama momentum in gubernatorial run"


CBS News' Nancy Cordes, "Tribute to Teddy"

Chicago Tribune's Mike Dorning profiles White House chief speechwriter Jon Favreau, "Barack Obama's speechwriter Jon Favreau captures the president's voice"

NY Times' Jeff Zeleny profiles White House senior adviser David Axelrod, "President's Political Protecter Is Ever Close at Hand"

Associated Press' Andrew Miga, "Sen. Joe Lieberman now sings Obama's praises"

Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, "Obama Says Hola To a More Inclusive Press Strategy"

McClatchy Newspapers' David Goldstein, "High tech tool has members of Congress all a-Twitter"

Huffington Post's Carol Felsenthal, "Michelle's College and Law School Romances"

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