**President Obama meets with Democratic senators today to talk health care...
**Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is on the Hill to meet with Senators...
**Mr. Obama leaves for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia later today for a five-day trip to the Middle East and Europe...
**The Minnesota Supreme Court is "skeptical" of Republican Norm Coleman's arguments...
Last night, the White House released a report concluding that it'll be impossible to fix the economy without bringing down health care costs.
The Washington Post's Ceci Connolly and Lori Montgomery report, "Slowing the growth in health-care spending from 6 percent a year to 4.5 percent would have enormous benefits for the nation's economy, creating as many as 500,000 jobs a year and increasing annual income for the average family of four by $2,600 over the next decade, the president's chief economic advisers said yesterday. ...
"The report contains few details about how those ambitious goals would be achieved, however, and does not address any increased federal spending needed to implement health reform. And the White House economists acknowledge that shaving 1.5 percentage points off the rate of growth in health spending would be extraordinarily difficult -- 'probably near the upper bound of what is feasible.'"
Meantime, the Wall Street Journal's Janet Adamy writes, "Health-care providers plan to help cut up to $1.7 trillion of costs over the next decade by improving care for chronic diseases, streamlining administrative tasks and reducing unnecessary care, major industry groups said Monday. Their proposals offer the first detailed glimpse into how hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, health insurers, medical-device makers and a big labor union aim to make good on the cost-cutting promise they made to President Barack Obama last month.
"The savings are key to helping fund the Obama administration's plan to overhaul the nation's health system. Under the groups' proposals, certain types of care could see cutbacks, potentially sparking concerns among consumers. For example, the American Medical Association, which represents doctors, is proposing to curb what it deems 'overuse' in areas including Caesarean sections, back-pain management, antibiotic prescriptions for sinusitis and diagnostic imaging tests."
5013485"Two Senate committees are crafting legislation: the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee led by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.," adds the Associated Press' Erica Werner.
"The Democrats on Kennedy's committee were meeting Tuesday for a first look at an outline of Kennedy's plans. It wasn't clear if Kennedy, who has been diagnosed with brain cancer, would be present. Neither committee has released a full bill yet. Both have circulated proposals and differences have emerged, leading Kennedy and Baucus to issue a joint statement over the weekend promising to work together. Majority Democrats in the House and the Senate want to bring the legislation to the floor by August."
On the GOP side, "Senate conservatives have a bill. House moderates have a bill. The House GOP study group is looking at writing one. So is a group of physicians in the House. Then on Monday, New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg put in his own plan. Republicans have no shortage of ideas about how to tackle the issue of health reform," report Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown and Patrick O'Connor. "What they don't have is agreement — between the Senate and the House or between conservatives and moderates. Now some in the party are nervous that the array of options might add up to nothing, leaving Republicans without a cohesive strategy as President Barack Obama edges closer to delivering health care reform."
"They will have a chance, in private, to get beyond the public debate over Sotomayor's personal experience - the depth of legal experiences and breadth of life experiences which President Barack Obama has cited as her best credentials for the high court, as well as her own expressions of the meaning of those experiences - the wisdom of a Latina jurist relative to the experiences of the mostly male court which he has cited and which opponents have taken as a warning sign of 'judicial activism,''' points out Tribune's Mark Silva.
"This could all become a ritualistic visit, however, with signs pointing toward a sure confirmation this summer, in time for the start of the court's fall term."
"Sotomayor's schedule Tuesday is packed with roughly half-hour meetings — known as 'courtesy calls' — that are as important for the courtly tone they set for the debate as they are for offering a few moments of candid conversation with the nominee," writes the Associated Press' Julie Hirschfeld Davis.
"Conservatives are demanding that Senate Republicans take a harder line on Sonia Sotomayor, with new signs of tension between the Hill GOP and elements of the Republican base over the direction the opposition should move in the Supreme Court fight," reports Politico's Manu Raju.
"In a letter to be delivered to Senate Republicans Tuesday, more than 145 conservatives – including Grover Norquist, Richard Viguerie and Gary Bauer — call for a filibuster of Sotomayor's nomination if that's what it takes to force a 'great debate' over judicial philosophy.
"But in an interview with POLITICO, Manuel Miranda – who orchestrated the letter – went much farther, saying that Mitch McConnell should 'consider resigning' as Senate minority leader if he can't take a harder line on President Barack Obama's first Supreme Court nominee. Miranda accused McConnell of being 'limp-wristed' and 'a little bit tone deaf' when it comes to judicial nominees."
As for the timing of her confirmation vote, while signs are pointing to August, Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., "said Monday he doubted a final vote on Sonia Sotomayor could be held before the congressional recess in August, a day before the Supreme Court nominee visits Capitol Hill. Sessions (Ala.) said he planned to consult with Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on a schedule for Sotomayor's confirmation hearings, but repeatedly said he disagrees with the need for the process to conclude by the end of July. The Obama administration is urging a vote before August to allow Sotomayor the chance to be ready for the Court's October work session," reports The Hill's J. Taylor Rushing.
"But Sessions noted that retiring Justice David Souter has pledged to stay on the bench until October, and that Sotomayor's 17-year record as a judge is longer than previous nominees like Samuel Alito and will take more time to scrutinize."
"With Democrats holding 59 Senate seats, one short of the 60 needed to break a filibuster, and moderates in both parties already sending favorable signals about Sotomayor," write the Washington Post's Michael Fletcher and Shalaigh Murray.
"Republican opponents are unlikely to find enough votes to block her confirmation. But they may be able to stall the process, pushing final floor action into September. That would still allow Sotomayor to take her seat as of Oct. 1, when the court will reconvene."
5025813Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele writes an op-ed in today's Politico: "Republicans will mount a rigorous review of her thoughts on the role of the courts in American life. Where we agree, we will say it. Where we disagree, we will say it loudly. Senate confirmation hearings serve as a platform to examine the judicial philosophy of potential Supreme Court justices. ...
"There have also been concerns raised about Judge Sotomayor's courtroom temperament. Can she demonstrate a collegial working relationship with the justices, their clerks, and attorneys that appear before the court? Finally, Judge Sotomayor needs to address her comment made in 2001 when she stated, 'I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.' Judge Sotomayor must explain this statement."
Meantime, Mr. Obama, "told the BBC he believes his country can help to get serious Middle East peace negotiations back on track. ... On Iran, he said he hoped to see progress by the end of the year, through 'tough, direct diplomacy'. But he said, rather than imposing its values on other countries, the US should act as a role model.
"Speaking to BBC North America Editor Justin Webb, Mr Obama said he believed the US was 'going to be able to get serious negotiations back on track' between Israel and the Palestinians. 'Not only is it in the interest of the Palestinian people to have a state, it's in the interest of the Israeli people to stabilise the situation there,' he said. 'And it's in the interest of the United States that we've got two states living side by side in peace and security.'
"Asked about Israel's rejection of his call for a halt to Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the president urged patience, saying it was early in the conversation. 'Diplomacy is always a matter of a long hard slog. It's never a matter of quick results,' he said."
The Los Angeles Times' Christi Parsons previews Mr. Obama's speech in Cairo on Thursday, "When President Obama takes the podium in Cairo this week for his much-anticipated speech to the Muslim world, he'll stand before them as an American leader born of an African Muslim father and raised partly in Indonesia, as well as a politician who cut his political teeth in an Illinois political culture that has a sizable Muslim population.
"And he will talk, aides say, about those roots he shares with the Muslim world. It is a politics of biography rapidly becoming synonymous with the Obama presidency. The message he hopes to deliver to Muslims, outlined by advisors ahead of the president's departure Wednesday for the Middle East, will draw on the same storytelling instincts Obama has employed with great success at home.
"Now, as Obama attempts to forge new relations with a Muslim community that is at best suspicious of American motives, he relies on a diplomacy of personality that rests on the hunch that the best way to make friends for his country is by winning them over himself. ...
So when Obama arrives in the region Wednesday, advisors say, he won't be carrying detailed policy proposals, but rather an appeal focusing on common experience and mutual respect."
His foreign trip itinerary: Wednesday, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; meets with King Abdullah. Thursday, in Egypt for meetings with President Hosni Mubarak, his speech and a visit to a mosque.
Friday, he's in Germany for a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, a speech at the Buchenwald concentration camp and a visit with injured troops at Landstuhl medical center.
On Saturday, he's in France for a meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy and D-Day commemoration in Normandy.
"The Minnesota Supreme Court this morning grilled lawyers for apparent winner Al Franken and former Sen. Norm Coleman, as they laid out what could be their final arguments — to the relief of many Minnesotans, undoubtedly — before the election is finally and conclusively decided.
"Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg hammered home the point that a three-judge panel that heard Coleman's appeal of the results applied different standards than county elections officials on whether to accept or reject absentee ballots that proved crucial to the outcome of the race.
"'To use the vernacular, you've changed the rules after the game's been played,' Friedberg said. But several justices asked tough questions of Friedberg, including whether state rules on absentee votes are clear and forcing him to concede that there was no widespread fraud in the election."
"Coleman is asking the court to reverse the trial panel's decision and order it to reconsider 4,400 absentee ballots from among those that were rejected by local election officials," add the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Pat Doyle and Kevin Duchschere. …
"When will the Minnesota Supreme Court decide this case and will that be the final decision in the long, drawn out Senate fight? "There's no telling when the court will rule on the case, but it is expected to come relatively quickly," the Pioneer Press' Hoppin adds. "Coleman has not said whether he will appeal the case to the federal courts if he loses."
ALSO TODAY: Vice President Biden and several members of Mr. Obama's cabinet are fanned out across the country to tout the president's economic recovery plan. Mr. Biden is in New York City for a roundtable discussion at Pace University; he'll be joined by Gov. David Paterson, D-N.Y.
The Senate Armed Services committee holds its confirmation hearing for Gen. Stanley McChrystal to be commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Wall Street Journal's Jess Bravin and Justin Scheck, "Look for Sotomayor to Add Heat"
Detroit Free Press' Justin Hyde, "Obama expresses confidence in new GM"
NY Times' David E. Sanger, "Obama's Test: Restoring G.M. With a Limited U.S. Role"
Detroit News' David Shepardson and Robert Snell, "CEO Henderson: Chapter 11 will make General Motors more competitive"
Washington Post's Neil Irwin, "Confidence in U.S. Economy Builds Even as Recovery Still Seems Distant"
Washington Post's Ariana Eunjung Cha and Annys Shin, "Geithner Tells China Its Holdings Are Safe"
2009 NJ Governor: Newark Star-Ledger's Claire Heininger, "GOP governor race tops ballot as N.J. heads to the polls"
2010 FL Governor: Tampa Tribune's William March, "McCollum could face GOP primary foes"
2010 OK Senate: The Oklahoman's Chris Casteel, "Fight against 'attack' drives U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn's bid"
2010 UT Senate: Salt Lake Tribune's Cathy Mckitrick, "Granato announces run for U.S. Senate in 2010"
2012 President: Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, "Romney Draws Contrast With President"
2012 President: Des Moines Register's Thomas Beaumont on Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., "Trip to Iowa sets off presidential alarms"
Washington Post's Dan Eggen, "Cheney Endorses Gay Marriage on a 'State-by-State Basis"
The Hill's Reid Wilson, "Cheney mixes up Obama, Osama"
Associated Press' Mike Robinson, "Blago talked to Durbin about Senate"
Washington Post's Peter Slevin, "Slaying Raises Fears on Both Sides of Abortion Debate"
Vanity Fair, "Nancy Reagan Speaks Out About Obamas, the Bushes, and Her Husband"
Politico's Jonathan Martin, "'Renegade' cliff notes"