CBSN

Morning Bulletin – Monday, May 4, 2009

A roundup of news, schedules, and key stories from CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:
(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
President Obama will lay out proposals to reform international tax laws this morning at 11am ET. He and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will "call for reforms to ensure that our tax code does not stack the deck against job creation here on our shores," the White House says.

"Second, they will seek to reduce the amount of taxes lost to tax havens – either through unintended loopholes in the law that allow companies to legally avoid paying billions in taxes or through the illegal use of hidden accounts by well-off individuals." The White House estimates that these reforms "combined with further international tax reforms" to be unveiled later will raise $210 billion over the next 10 years.

"Officials described the administration's plan ahead of the announcement on the condition of anonymity so they wouldn't upstage the president's remarks. However, they acknowledged the political challenges facing the plan," writes the Associated Press' Philip Elliot.

"The administration won't seek a complete repeal of overseas tax benefits and, although the rule changes are narrower than some anticipated, business leaders still oppose them as a tax hike. Obama aides countered that the plan is a step toward a massive overhaul of international financial regulations the president has promised. In exchange, Obama said he was willing to make permanent a research tax credit that was to expire at the end of the year and is popular with businesses.

"Officials estimate that making the tax credits permanent would cost taxpayers $74.5 billion over the next decade. But administration aides said 75 percent of those tax credits paid workers' wages; given the struggling economy, aides were reluctant to do anything that could add more Americans to the unemployment rolls."

REPLACING SOUTER:

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
"[T]he likelihood of a partisan debate over the president's first nominee for the high court already is clear, with a leading Senate Republican warning that Obama has spoken of finding a nominee with "empathy'," writes the Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva.

"'Usually those are code words for an activist judge... who is going to be partisan on the bench,'' said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), on [ABC's] 'This Week'. 'We all know he's going to pick a more liberal justice.... A pro-abortion justice - I don't think anybody has any illusions about that.' The president, as a senator, voted against the confirmations of both Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel Alito, Hatch noted. 'He doesn't need to use code words. He speaks very plainly, directly,' [Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick] Leahy [D-Vt.] said of Obama."

(CBS)
On CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, Judiciary Committee member and newly-minted Democrat, Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., said he supports "a broader range of experience on the Court and said the future Justice should represent minorities. 'I would like to see more diversity,' he said.

"'I think another woman. Ultimately maybe now we need a Hispanic; African Americans are underrepresented.'

"'Would you favor anyone who was not pro-choice on the issue of abortion?' [host Bob] Schieffer asked. "'I would not use a litmus test, Bob,' Specter responded, noting that he had supported Justices Rhenquist, Scalia, Ginsberg and Breyer, who have ruled on opposite sides of the abortion issue. He said he would not support someone who was not mainstream. 'I would like to see someone with broader experience,' he said, arguing that all of the current Justices came from the Appeals Court which he said limits their breadth of experience.

"Specter also said that he could envision, and could support, someone who was not a lawyer for the opening seat, acknowledging that there is no Constitutional requirement that a Supreme Court Justice be an attorney."

Leahy echoed Specter's comments on "This Week": "I would like to see more people from outside the judicial monastery, somebody who has had some real-life experience, not just as a judge," Leahy said.

"President Barack Obama is likely to seek a nominee for the Supreme Court who will not only defend the liberal jurisprudence that reshaped American society in the mid-20th century, but who may also aim to build a progressive legal vision for the century ahead," writes the Wall Street Journal's Jess Bravin.

"Mr. Obama's ideal candidate, speculates Harvard University professor Laurence Tribe, would 'bring majorities together [on the court] around a compelling vision of the law with the elfin touch of someone like [William] Brennan, someone who can move the ocean liner without making terrible waves.'

"Mr. Tribe taught constitutional law to Mr. Obama and today is among the president's legal confidants. ... Few scholars of any ideological stripe dispute the intellectual acumen of Justice Souter, or his fellow liberal justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. But it is conservative members of the court, such as Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and John Roberts, who have in recent years seized the public imagination, whether through their backgrounds, wit or charisma.

"Thus, said Mr. Tribe, the president would want not merely a nominee of academic and professional excellence, but one who -- like Mr. Obama himself -- can 'articulate the vision in a way that speaks to ordinary people.' ...

"An initial list of candidates, Mr. Tribe said, likely would include federal circuit judges Sonia Sotomayor, Kim Wardlaw and Diane Wood; Stanford law professor Kathleen Sullivan; and Solicitor General Elena Kagan, former dean of Harvard Law School."

"It's hard to predict exactly when President Obama might announce his nominee to replace David H. Souter on the Supreme Court. But if recent history is any guide, expect a Senate confirmation vote before Congress leaves for its August recess," writes CQ Politics' Seth Stern.

(AP)
"The best recent parallel to the current situation is probably the two Supreme Court vacancies President Clinton faced early in his presidency. (Put aside the situation in 2005 when Sandra Day O'Connor waited until the end of the court's term in July and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist's death threw off the process further.)

"Both Byron R. White and Harry Blackmun announced their retirements in the spring: White in March 1993 and Blackmun in April 1994. Three months passed before Clinton announced the nomination of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to replace White in June 1993 and only about five weeks to name Stephen G. Breyer as Blackmun's successor.

"The task was easier the second time since Breyer had already been identified as a top candidate the first time around. In both instances, the Clinton administration heeded the lesson of Robert Bork's failed nomination in 1987 about the importance of not leaving a nomination hanging over the August recess when opposition can coalesce. The Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed both Breyer and Ginsburg before leaving for their August recesses."

The Los Angeles Times' David G. Savage looks at the legacy of Justice David Souter.

SPECTER SWITCH: The Republicans may have found a candidate to run against Specter, though that candidate isn't guaranteed to jump into the race. "Newly-minted Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter would whip old Republican rival Pat Toomey 53 – 33 percent if the 2010 Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race were held today, but if popular former Gov. Tom Ridge becomes the Republican candidate, he trails Specter by just 46 – 43 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Independent voters, who back Sen. Specter over Toomey 45 – 36 percent, switch to Ridge 47 – 37 percent if he becomes a candidate. The former Republican Governor also gets 14 percent of the Democratic vote."

On CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, Specter told host Bob Schieffer that the party should stop listening to far-right activists like the Club for Growth, which has campaigned against (and sometimes helped defeat) moderate Republicans in primary races, thereby weakening the party's chances in the general election by fielding far-right candidates, writes CBSNews.com's David S. Morgan.

"Specter said his vote to pass President Obama's stimulus bill caused a 'precipitous drop' in support among right-wing GOP members. 'The prospects were very bleak to win the Republican primary,' Specter said. 'Knowing that right-wing conservatives were more likely to participate in primary voting,' Specter said, 'I simply was not going to put my 29-year record before the Republican primary electorate.' ... Specter said the GOP should 'try to bring back the party to the Reagan big tent,' advocating more diversity. 'I was sorry to disappoint many people,' he said of Republicans who had voted for him out of party loyalty. 'Frankly, I was disappointed that the Republican Party did not want me as their candidate.' He added that, 'as a matter of principle I am becoming much more comfortable with the Democrats' approach.'"

"When he announced Tuesday that he was turning Democrat, Specter cited polling that showed his approval rating plummeting by half among Pennsylvania Republicans, with the party's increasingly conservative base inflamed by his stimulus vote," reports the Philadelphia Inquirer's Tom Fitzgerald.

(CBS)
"The numbers convinced the five-term senator he could not win the 2010 primary against conservative former Rep. Pat Toomey, who had headed the Club for Growth, which targets moderate Republicans it considers soft on fiscal issues. At the same time, top Democrats had engaged in a behind-the-scenes effort to persuade Specter to switch parties - especially Biden, a close friend from their Senate days.

"For years, the two men rode the Amtrak train home from Washington together, Biden to Wilmington and Specter to Philadelphia. 'I believe and I kidded him all along since January that he was going to switch,' Biden said in an interview. 'He said, 'No, I'm not going to switch from the Republican Party. I can change their minds.' It was clear to me that he was so principled and independent . . . that there would come a point where he hit a wall.'

"Specter, in an interview, confirmed that Rendell and Biden in recent weeks had intensified their efforts to persuade him to become a Democrat. 'Biden has been persistent,' Specter said. Indeed, White House officials said the vice president had 14 telephone conversations or meetings with Specter since the stimulus vote Feb. 13. 'I didn't count 'em, but I have seen a lot of him just in the general course of business,' Specter said of their contacts. 'He didn't talk to me about changing all the time, but Biden has pushed it consistently.'

"There was no 'hard sell,' Specter said, adding that everybody knew such an approach would be counterproductive with him. Biden agreed: 'No one induces Arlen,' though he said their conversations are 'unfettered.'... Specter, 79, said his decision to switch was sealed after final survey results from his own campaign pollster, Glen Bolger, came in April 24. 'The most important number was the approval rating - it dropped from the 60s to 31' percent just in the last few months, Specter said."

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Meantime, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz criticized the media's coverage of Specter's party switch. "Most journalists assumed the role of handicappers, accepting as a given that this is the way the game is played. So what if Specter had promised to serve six years as a Republican? So what if Specter had told Newsweek less than three weeks earlier that 'I'm a Republican and I'm going to run in the Republican primary and on the Republican ticket?' He was acting to save his skin; no further explanation necessary.

"This value-neutral reporting was reflected in the headlines: 'Specter Switches Parties; More Heft for Democrats' (New York Times). 'Specter Gives Dems a Boost in Stifling Dissent' (USA Today). 'Specter Leaves GOP, Shifting Senate Balance' (Washington Post). Not a hint that he had done anything untoward. There were some exceptions among mainstream journalists. Doyle McManus wrote in the Los Angeles Times that Specter was 'cheerfully open about the cynicism of his move.' Time's Michael Grunwald said the move highlighted his 'desperate opportunism.'

"The question surfaced only briefly on two Sunday shows: CBS's Bob Schieffer asked Specter about Republicans who voted for him and whether 'you let them down,' while NBC's David Gregory asked about David Broder's criticism, in The Washington Post, of the senator's 'willingness to do whatever will best protect and advance the career of Arlen Specter.'

"Correspondent Carl Cannon, on AOL's new Politics Daily site, says conservatives are right in complaining that much of the media have 'a double standard regarding party-switchers . . . When Republicans morph into Democrats, we tend to act like they finally saw the light, and quote them ad nauseam about how the Republican Party has gotten too narrow, etc., etc.' But when a Democrat joins the GOP, 'we concentrate on the tactical advantage to the party switcher.'

"When it comes to commentators, their analysis often turns on the direction of the defection. In 1994, when Democratic Sen. Richard Shelby switched parties days after the Republicans won control of Congress, a New York Times editorial said: 'Talk about slipping out of the hills to bayonet the wounded! . . . His desertion to the victorious Republicans this week was hardly a huge surprise.' But when Jim Jeffords flipped control of the Senate to the Democrats by leaving the GOP in 2001, the Times said approvingly that the Vermont lawmaker had given George W. Bush 'an embarrassing lesson' for having pulled a 'conservative bait-and-switch' on the country."

4859462JOHN EDWARDS: "Federal investigators are sifting through the records of money that helped John Edwards' presidential campaign to determine if any was used to keep quiet his affair with Rielle Hunter," reports the Charlotte News & Observer's Mandy Locke.

"Edwards, a Democrat and former U.S. senator, acknowledged the investigation to The News & Observer. 'I am confident that no funds from my campaign were used improperly,' Edwards said in a statement. 'However, I know that it is the role of government to ensure that this is true. We have made available to the United States both the people and the information necessary to help them get the issue resolved efficiently and in a timely matter. We appreciate the diligence and professionalism of those involved and look forward to a conclusion.'"

"A review of Edwards' campaign money will turn up a cluster of nonprofits, some not subject to the same rules of transparency as official campaign organizations. Records of one that does disclose donors, the Alliance for a New America, show that Edwards' 2008 campaign got a huge boost from a single source: $3.48 million from a holding company for Rachel 'Bunny' Lambert Mellon, a 98-year-old matriarch of the late industrialist Andrew Mellon's family.

"The riches that bankrolled Edwards' bid for president will be tough to sort, campaign finance experts say. ... Records show that Hunter was paid by a political action committee aligned with Edwards. She received $114,000 to film Edwards as he hopscotched the nation to rally crowds in the fight against poverty. She followed him to Uganda, where he met with starving children orphaned by attacks by rebel forces. Her 'webisodes' live still on the Internet. The investigation is being conducted by the office of U.S. Attorney George Holding, and a federal grand jury could consider evidence. Holding, a Republican based in Raleigh, declined to comment on Edwards. Holding has helped prosecute several prominent Democrats."

TODAY'S WHITE HOUSE SCHEDULE: This evening at 5:15pm ET, President Obama and Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan will speak at a Cinco de Mayo event in the East Room. The First Lady, the Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden will also attend.

At 11am ET, Vice President Biden "will attend the official kickoff event for the restoration and renovation of the Wilmington Train Station. ... At 1:00 PM, the Vice President and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will hold an event at the University of Delaware, highlighting offshore wind power and the Administration's commitment to building a clean, domestic energy policy for the 21st Century," per the White House.

ALSO TODAY: Israeli President Shimon Peres, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Reps. Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address conference via satellite.

ECONOMY / STIMULUS / BAILOUTS

NY Times' David Leonhardt, "Tests of Banks May Bring Hope More Than Fear"

Associated Press' Michael Tarm, "Flushing government stimulus cash down the toilet?"

USA Today's Brad Heath, "Traffic set to slow as stimulus gears up"

Wall Street Journal's Leslie Eaton, "Stimulus Rejection Splits Town"

SWINE FLU

LA Times' Thomas A. Maugh II and Ken Ellingwood, "Swine flu threat appears to be easing, officials say"

NY Times' Denise Grady and Alan Cowell, "W.H.O. Reports Swine Flu Up to Almost 1,000 Cases"

Associated Press, "Leading US health expert urging cautious approach"

CONGRESS

NY Times' Carl Hulse, "Credit Card Law Is First Up in Congress This Week"

Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown, "After decades, Ted Kennedy may see results of his work on health care reform"

Washington Times' Tom LoBianco, "Lobbyists write climate change bill – Lawmakers bristle at Bush parallel"

Politico's Lisa Lerer and Patrick O'Connor, "Democrats duel over climate bill"

FOREIGN POLICY:

Associated Press' Lara Jakes, "Gates plans to reassure allies on Iran outreach"

NY Times' David E. Sanger, "Pakistan Strive Raises U.S. Doubts on Nuclear Arms"

Washington Post's Karen DeYoung, "U.S. Options in Pakistan Limited"

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

Washington Post's Shalaigh Murray, "Proposals Would Transform College Aid"

Washington Post's Lois Romano, "Locke Says 2010 Census 'Will Not Be Politicized'"

GOP'S FUTURE

Politico's Josh Kraushaar and Patrick O'Connor, "Republicans launch a listening tour in Democratic-leaning suburbs"

Politico's Alex Isenstadt, "GOP turns to Bush aides for advice"

Politico's Jonathan Martin, "Some Republican leaders prefer not to discuss Sarah Palin"

FUTURE RACES

2010 AZ Senate: Politico's David Catanese, "Chris Simcox wants to dethrone McCain"

2010 DE Senate: Politico's Alex Isenstadt, "Which door will Rep. Mike Castle choose?"

2010 FL Senate: St. Petersburg Times' Adam C. Smith, "After Specter's switch, focus turns to Crist's future in GOP"

2010 FL Senate: Lakeland Ledger's Gary Fineout, "Foes Prepare for Crist Senate Bid"

2010 New Orleans Mayor: NY Times' John Schwartz, "Term Limits Say New Orleans Mayor Can't Return; Residents Say They Don't Mind"

JACK KEMP

Politico's Jonathan Martin and Harry Siegel, "Jack Kemp recalled as early leader of GOP"

Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva, "Jack Kemp: 'Bleeding-heart conservative'"

Wall Street Journal's Louise Randofsky, "GOP Remembers Kemp, a Shaper of Its Economic Policy"

ETC.

Washington Post's Alec MacGillis, "4th-Grader Questions Rice on Waterboarding"

Boston Globe's Robert Gavin and Keith O'Brien, "Globe negotiations continue"

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    Steve Chaggaris is CBS News' senior political editor.