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Morning Bulletin – Tuesday, March 3, 2009

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

President Obama hosts British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the White House today, but not without a little controversy. While today's meeting is the president's first with a European leader since his inauguration, the White House will not host a press conference after the meeting, an issue that has the British press fired up.

"[T[he half-hour meeting in the Oval Office will be preceded by a 'pool spray' – a few shouted questions from pool reporters during a photo-opportunity but no substantive discussion. British officials did not elaborate on why the event was not moved indoors. The decision was interpreted as a 'snub' in some quarters of the British media, where it was also noted that the president is due to find time for a meeting with the Boy Scouts of America this afternoon," writes The Guardian's Patrick Wintour.

(AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
"Downing Street officials discovered last night that the Prime Minister would not, as had been announced, hold a joint press conference with President Obama after their talks at the White House today," reports The Times of London's Philippe Naughton.

"If Mr Brown wanted to hold a press conference, he would then have to do so across town at the British Embassy. No 10 had been celebrating a diplomatic success in ensuring that Mr Brown becomes the first European leader received by Mr Obama in the White House – an honour closely sought by President Sarkozy of France and Angela Merkel, the Germany Chancellor.

"Although Mr Obama is by no means as anglophile as his predecessors – he has already returned a bust of Winston Churchill that sat in the Oval Office under President Bush – Mr Brown had hoped to be able to demonstrate a "special partnership" and develop a personal relationship with the President."

The two are expected to focus on the economy during their 11:30am ET meeting, reports the Washington Post's Kevin Sullivan. "British Prime Minister Gordon Brown arrives in Washington this week to press a "global new deal" that he hopes will shore up his sagging poll numbers at home and solidify his place as the international leader of efforts to surmount the deepening financial crisis."

The Guardian's Wintour adds, "Brown will push Obama for strong words on resisting protectionism, and even for a resumption of stalled world trade talks. He will also seek Obama's implicit endorsement of his fiscal stimulus." Also on the agenda: climate change, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, China and Iran.

Tomorrow, Brown will address a joint session of Congress and become the fifth British prime minister to do so.

ECONOMY: In an editorial in today's paper, the Wall Street Journal harshly criticizes President Obama's handling of the economic crisis, writing "As the Dow keeps dropping, the President is running out of people to blame."

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
"Americans have welcomed the Obama era in the same spirit of hope the President campaigned on. But after five weeks in office, it's become clear that Mr. Obama's policies are slowing, if not stopping, what would otherwise be the normal process of economic recovery. From punishing business to squandering scarce national public resources, Team Obama is creating more uncertainty and less confidence -- and thus a longer period of recession or subpar growth."

"The Democrats who now run Washington don't want to hear this, because they benefit from blaming all bad economic news on President Bush. And Mr. Obama has inherited an unusual recession deepened by credit problems, both of which will take time to climb out of.

"But it's also true that the economy has fallen far enough, and long enough, that much of the excess that led to recession is being worked off. Already 15 months old, the current recession will soon match the average length -- and average job loss -- of the last three postwar downturns. What goes down will come up -- unless destructive policies interfere with the sources of potential recovery."

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Meantime, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner heads to Capitol Hill to sell the president's $3.55 trillion FY '10 budget plan to Congress.

An administration official tells CBS News, "He will make two critical points" during his testimony today to the House Ways and Means Committee at 12:30pm ET, tomorrow to the Senate Finance Committee and Thursday to the House Budget Committee. "First, unless we take the steps necessary to cut the federal budget deficit by at least half in four years, we will face higher interest rates as government borrowing crowds out private investment, leading to slower growth and lower living standards for Americans.

"Second, we will never be on a sustainable fiscal path unless we address the long-term budget problem of escalating health care costs. Without a plan to reform and bring down costs throughout our entire health care system, budget deficits will start climbing again as the costs of Medicare and Medicaid increase with rising overall health system costs."

The Associated Press' Stephen Ohlemacher reports that Geithner is expected to defend the proposed tax increases in the president's budget blueprint. "Lawmakers in both parties question Obama's call to reduce high-income earners' tax deductions for the interest on their house payments and for charitable contributions. Also drawing fire is his proposal to start taxing industries on their greenhouse gas pollution — a move sure to raise consumers' electric rates.

"Obama and his top aides have been promoting the budget package since unveiling an outline last week, but Tuesday will provide the lawmakers their first opportunity to publicly question top officials about the details."

White House Budget Director Peter Orszag is also on Capitol Hill today talking to the House Budget Committee. "Orszag is preparing to push back against critics portraying the Obama budget as a massive increase in federal spending," reports the Wall Street Journal's Greg Hitt.

"Mr. Orszag says President Barack Obama's fiscal blueprint would put funding for basic government operations -- outside of the military -- on a downward path over the next decade."

Also, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will lay out economic and budgetary challenges during a Senate Budget Committee hearing today.

ALSO TODAY: The primary for Illinois' 5th Congressional District. There 23 candidates – 12 Democrats, 6 Republicans and 5 Green Party – vying to fill the seat vacated by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Today's winners face off in the special election on April 7. The Chicago Tribune looks at the 12 Democrats, the winner most likely to win next month's special election in this heavily Democratic district.

CQ Politics has an overview of the race.

President Obama visits the Transportation and Interior Departments and holds closed meetings with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and with the Boy Scouts of America.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues her Mideast trip in Jerusalem. She'll meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

First Lady Michelle Obama visits Arlington National Cemetery's Women in Military Service for America Memorial Center today.

HEALTH CARE

Washington Post's Michael A. Fletcher, "Sebelius, DeParle Named to Health-Care Posts"

NY Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "Obama Taps Health Aide With Links to Industry"

Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler, "Tough Questions Dog Health-Care Overhaul"

The Hill's Jeffrey Young, "Healthcare, Obama-style – not Clinton-style"

NY Times' Robert Pear and Jeff Zeleny, "On Health, President Takes Team Approach"

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

Boston Globe's Sasha Issenberg, "Sebelius pick shows Obama personnel strategy"

McClatchy Newspaper's David Lightman, "More on earmarks: Obama's chief of staff has some in bill"

The Hill's Sam Youngman, "Cabinet picks throw wrench into message": "In the short time Obama has been in office, his administration has faced a number of questions about statements made by Cabinet officials that seemed to contradict his policies or put the White House in an awkward position."

NY Times' Jeff Zeleny, "Trade Representative Pick to Pay Back Taxes"

(CBS)
Washington Post's Philip Rucker, "Many Hires Needed For Budget Goals": "President Obama's budget is so ambitious, with vast new spending on health care, energy independence, education and services for veterans, that experts say he probably will need to hire tens of thousands of new federal government workers to realize his goals. The $3.6 trillion plan released last week proposes spending billions to begin initiatives and implement existing programs, and given Obama's insistence that he would scale back the use of private-sector contractors, his priorities could reverse a generational decline in the size of the government workforce. Exactly how many new workers would be needed remains unclear -- one independent estimate was 100,000, while the conservative Heritage Foundation said it is likely to be closer to a quarter-million."

FOREIGN POLICY:

NY Times' Peter Baker, "Obama Offered Deal to Russia in Secret Letter"

Washington Post's Michael A. Fletcher, "Obama Makes Overtures to Russia on Missile Defense"

LA Times' Paul Richter, "Clinton says U.S. diplomacy unlikely to end Iran nuclear program"

Bloomberg News' Viola Gienger, "Clinton Shifts Mideast Diplomacy to Israel Amid Political Rift"

MINNESOTA SENATE RECOUNT

Minneapolis Star Tribune's Pat Doyle and Kevin Duchschere, "Coleman camp asks that election result be 'set aside'"

FUTURE RACES

2009 VA Governor: Washington Post's Anita Kumar, "Divisive Issues No Longer McDonnell's First Words"

2010 Congress: The Hill's Mike Soraghan, "On stimulus, stakes differ for president and Dems"

2010 CA Senate: San Francisco Chronicle's Carla Marinucci, "Carly Fiorina has surgery for breast cancer"

2010 IL Senate: Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet: "Giannoulias aims for Senate seat"

2010 KS Senate: CQPolitics' Leah Nylan, "Kansas Democrats Have Slim Pickings for Senate Race Without Sebelius"

2010 PA Senate: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Ex-congressman Toomey considers challenging Specter"

2010 TX Governor: Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Dave Montgomery, "Fort Worth's Schieffer takes first official step to run for governor"

2012 President: Bloomberg News' Heidi Przybyla, "Pawlenty Says Republicans Need to Move Beyond Reagan to Rebuild" http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=acIDXs85.NPw&refer=us

ALSO:

Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, "White House Lets Limbaugh Be Voice of Opposition"

Politico's Mike Allen, "Steele to Rush: I'm sorry"

Associated Press' Devlin Barrett and Matt Apuzzo, "Officials cite broad power for president in memos"

NY Times' Mark Mazzetti, "U.S. Says C.I.A. Destroyed 92 Tapes of Interrogations"

Chicago Tribune's Monique Garcia, "Rod Blagojevich signs six-figure book deal"

Politico's Nia-Malika Henderson, "Blacks, whites hear Obama differently"

LA Times' James Oliphant, "Tweet, follow or get out of the way"