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Politics Today: Obama Focuses On Fatherhood

Politics Today is CBSNews.com's inside look at the key stories driving the day in Politics, written by CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:

**President Obama focuses on fatherhood...

**Health care reform hits snag due to high cost estimates...

**Latest on Iran reaction...

**Ensign affair details emerge...

(CBS)
PRESIDENT OBAMA TODAY: President Obama focuses on fatherhood today, two days before Father's Day, by visiting a local non-profit organization and holding an event at 3:15pm ET to discuss fatherhood and mentoring. Mr. Obama will be joined by Military Father of the Year Chief Quartermaster John Lehnen. He'll also deploy various staffers, politicians, celebrities and leaders to visit other local non-profits to deliver the same message. Among those taking part are basketballers Dewayne Wade and Eton Thomas, former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, Washington Redskins wide receiver Antwan Randle El, pro skateboarder Tony Hawk, Morehouse College President Robert Franklin, Motorola President and CEO Greg Brown, Tony award winning actor BD Wong, chef Bobby Flay and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos.

At 4pm, the president will kick off a mentoring session with local youth.

"The day's events were intended to kick off a White House effort on fatherhood and mentoring," writes the Associated Press' Ben Feller. "The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will host forums around the country this summer and fall to gather ideas on good programs and to help promote them. 'We think if we can lift some of that up, we can inspire more activity and engagement on these issues,' Joshua DuBois, the director of the office, told The Associated Press. 'Is everything going to change because of one day at the White House and a sustained commitment throughout the year? No. But the president thinks it's important to lead by example, and to do something about these matters.'"

In addition to the day's events, the president also penned an essay for Sunday's Parade Magazine, "We Need Fathers to Step Up."

"I observe this Father's Day not just as a father grateful to be present in my daughters' lives but also as a son who grew up without a father in my own life," he writes according to excerpts published on Parade's website. "My father left my family when I was 2 years old, and I knew him mainly from the letters he wrote and the stories my family told.

"And while I was lucky to have two wonderful grandparents who poured everything they had into helping my mother raise my sister and me, I still felt the weight of his absence throughout my childhood. In many ways, I came to understand the importance of fatherhood through its absence—both in my life and in the lives of others. I came to understand that the hole a man leaves when he abandons his responsibility to his children is one that no government can fill. We can do everything possible to provide good jobs and good schools and safe streets for our kids, but it will never be enough to fully make up the difference."

His essay repeated some of the sentiments he shared during a speech he delivered last June, during his presidential campaign, as CBS News' Maria Gavrilovic reported at the time.

"Barack Obama delivered a passionate speech on fatherhood today at a south side African American church, where he called on men to take greater responsibility for their families. He spoke from the pulpit at the Apostolic Church of God, while his wife and two daughters sat with parishioners. 'We need fathers to recognize that responsibility doesn't just end at conception. That doesn't make you a father,' Obama said to applause and hoots from the parishioners, 'What makes you a man is not the ability to have a child - any fool can have a child. That's doesn't make you father. It's the courage to raise a child that makes you a father.'

"Obama, whose father abandoned him when he was two years old, said he understands the difficulties of growing up in a single parent home. He added that his father's absence has taught him how to be a better parent to his two daughters, Sasha and Malia. 'I resolved many years ago that it was my obligation to break the cycle, that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father to my children; that if I could give them anything, I would give them that rock, that foundation, on which to build their lives.'"

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
HEALTH CARE REFORM: "President Obama's campaign for health care reform by this fall, once considered highly likely to succeed, suddenly appears in real jeopardy," report Politico's Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei. "Top White House advisers, especially Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, are still privately predicting massive changes to the health care system in 2009. But for the first time, Democrats on Capitol Hill and in the administration are expressing frank worries about stronger-than-expected opposition from moderate Democrats and worse-than-expected estimates for how much the plan could cost. Business groups, which had embraced the idea of reform and have been meeting quietly with Democrats for months in an effort to shape the legislation, now talk of spending millions of dollars to oppose the latest proposals out of Capitol Hill.

"And Democrats themselves are not united, with leading party figures making contradictory declarations about how far they should go to overhaul the system when deficits are soaring and prospects for an economic recovery remain cloudy. And top Democratic officials tell POLITICO they are increasingly pessimistic about getting any more Republican votes than they did on the stimulus package, with some aides referring to the idea of a bipartisan bill as 'fools' gold' — an unattainable waste of time."

"President Obama's hopes for quick action on comprehensive health-care reform ran headlong this week into the realities of Congress, as lawmakers searching for the money to pay for a broad expansion of coverage discovered that it wasn't easy to find and descended into partisan -- and intraparty -- bickering," reports the Washington Post's Ceci Connolly. "A set of unexpectedly high cost estimates -- arcane data that nevertheless carry enormous import in the legislative process -- sent shockwaves along Pennsylvania Avenue and forced one key committee to delay action on its bill, probably until after the July 4 recess.

"In a high-level meeting at the White House yesterday, Obama conveyed his concern over early pronouncements by the Congressional Budget Office that a bill drafted by the Senate health committee would cover just 16 million additional people at a cost of $1 trillion, said one official with knowledge of the session who was not permitted to talk to reporters and so spoke on the condition of anonymity. 'That is not his idea of good, affordable, universal coverage,' said this adviser. The preliminary estimate, pounced on by Republicans, 'has rattled everyone.'

House Democratic leaders, meanwhile, said they will wait until next month to unveil plans for financing their bill. 'All I know is that health-care reform is on life support because the Senate can't figure out how to pay for it,' said Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who was touting his bipartisan bill."

(CBS/AP)
"The Senate Finance Committee has significantly scaled back its health care bill in reaction to the $1.6 trillion price tag that congressional budget analysts gave to an earlier version of the bill," reports Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown. "The committee is considering smaller subsidies for low-income families to purchase insurance, and a limited expansion of Medicaid, according a 10-page outline distributed Thursday to Democratic health policy aides on the Finance Committee. The proposal does not include a public insurance plan, although it does detail an idea offered by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) to create nonprofit insurance cooperatives. It was labeled an 'open issue,' as was the parameters of the employer mandate. The Finance Committee outline reflects the concern among key senators about the Congressional Budget Office projections of how much a reform bill would cost over 10 years. The office provided an estimate this week on earlier version that shocked members, topping $1.6 trillion.

"The outline provides a glimpse into the substantial differences between the more moderate Finance Committee and the more liberal Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee honchoed by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). The committees are writing separate bills, but the chairmen say they would merge the two versions before they are sent to the floor. ... In the Finance Committee outline, the tax credit for individuals and families to purchase insurance would be available to those with incomes of 300 percent above the poverty line – the lowest level considered by the committee. By contrast, the HELP committee bill included subsidies for families with incomes 500 percent above the poverty line. ... The Finance Committee is also considering a more limited expansion of Medicaid, capping eligibility for children and pregnant women at 133 percent of poverty and for parents and childless adults at 100 percent of poverty. The outline also details options for the employer mandate and several alternatives."

Washington Post's Lori Montgomery and Shalaigh Murray, "Senate's Health-Care Draft Calls for Most to Buy Insurance, Nixes Obama's 'Public Option'"

Meantime, on the House side, the chairmen of the House Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor Committees will hold a press conference at 1pm ET to unveil their discussion draft for health care reform.

Also, "House Democrats have lots of potential targets for higher taxes as they aim to expand health care coverage to reach the roughly 50 million that experts say are uninsured," the Associated Press' Erica Werner reports. "Also under consideration are higher alcohol taxes, increases to the Medicare payroll tax and a value-added tax, a sort of national sales tax, of up to 1.5 percent or more. The list of options being weighed by the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, and obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, aims to raise some $600 billion over 10 years to partially pay for President Barack Obama's goal of overhauling the nation's health care system to tame costs and cover the 50 million uninsured. The final price tag for that effort could top $1 trillion, with cuts to Medicare and Medicaid covering the rest of the cost."

New York Times' Kevin Sack, "On Health Care, Obama Tries to Seize the Moment"

Associated Press' Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, "Promises, Promises: Obama's health plan guarantee"

(AP Photo/IRIB)
IRANIAN ELECTION: "President Obama is taking heat for his measured comments about the post-election protests in Iran," writes USA Today's David Jackson. "Obama has said he is troubled by violence against protesters in Tehran, but insists it's up to Iranians to settle their election dispute themselves. For that, he's accused of meddling by the government of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Meanwhile, Republicans such as John McCain, Obama's rival in last year's U.S. election, accuse the president of not doing enough to help democratic supporters in Iran. Obama 'really is up against a rock and a hard place on this,' said Suzanne Maloney, author of Iran's Long Reach: Iran As a Pivotal State in the Muslim World. 'He can hurt as much as he can help.' Maloney said Obama is playing it right because Iran would use stronger words by Obama to cast supporters of Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi as U.S. puppets. McCain and other critics said Obama is missing a chance to isolate the militant Islamist regime in Tehran and promote democracy."

Associated Press' Robert Burns, "US has limited inroads to understanding Iran"

New York Times' Helene Cooper, "In a Staff Shuffle, Signs of Obama's Direction on Mideast"

(CBS)
ENSIGN AFFAIR: "In a letter dated five days before Sen. John Ensign's public confession of an extramarital affair, Doug Hampton pleaded to a national Fox News anchorwoman for help in exposing the senator's 'heinous conduct and pursuit' of Hampton's wife," write the Las Vegas Sun's Jeff German and Lisa Mascaro. "Hours before the Sun obtained an unsigned copy of the letter, Ensign's spokesman said the senator disclosed the affair with Cynthia Hampton because her husband had approached 'a major television news channel before Tuesday,' the day Ensign admitted the affair. 'We learned of this fact before the news conference,' the spokesman noted in an e-mail. In his letter, Hampton, a former top administrative aide in Ensign's Capitol Hill office, said: 'The actions of Senator Ensign have ruined our lives and careers and left my family in shambles. We have lost significant income, suffered indescribable pain and emotional suffering. We find ourselves today with an overwhelming loss of relationships, career opportunities and hope for recovery. Our pursuit of justice continues to place me and my family in harm's way as we fear for our well being.' Hampton could not be reached for comment, and his Las Vegas lawyer, Daniel Albregts, declined to comment on the letter."

Click here for the text of the letter.

Meantime, the Associated Press' Kathleen Hennessey reports, "Sen. John Ensign helped his mistress's husband get two jobs during the time the rising Republican senator acknowledges carrying on an extramarital affair, an Ensign spokesman said Thursday. 'Just as he has done for many other staff members, Senator Ensign made recommendation calls for Mr. Hampton,' Ensign spokesman Tory Mazzola said in a statement. Mazzola was responding to questions about the employment of Doug Hampton, a former aide to the Nevada senator. Ensign on Tuesday admitted having a nine-month affair with Doug Hampton's wife, Cindy, who also worked for the senator. Ensign's office has said that both Cindy and Doug Hampton left their jobs in May 2008, and the affair ended in August 2008. In the months after leaving his post, Doug Hampton quickly landed two positions with companies connected to Ensign."

ALSO: President Obama will attend the 65th Annual Radio-TV Correspondents' Dinner tonight.

FINANCIAL INDUSTRY REGULATIONS
Bloomberg News' Bradley Keoun and Jonathan D. Salant, "Obama Plan Gets Wary Reception From Banks, Lawmakers"

Wall Street Journal's Michael R. Crittenden and Maya Jackson Randall, "Geithner Defends Push for New Rules"

LA Times' Jim Puzzanghera, "Proposed expansion of Federal Reserve may trip up Obama financial reform plan"

SOTOMAYOR
Mother Jones' David Corn, "Kenneth Starr Endorses Sotomayor"

NY Times' Charlie Savage and Michael Powell, "In New York, Sotomayor Put Focus on the Poor"

WAR FUNDING BILL
McClatchy Newspapers' David Lightman, "Senate approves spending for Iraq and Afghan wars"

Washington Post's Perry Bacon Jr., "Senate Approves War Funding Bill After Obama Presses Democrats"

DEMOCRATS' FUND-RAISING
NY Times' Jeff Zeleny, "Obama Pledge on Donations Faces Reality"

LA Times' Andrew Malcolm, "What Joe Biden is telling the Democrats' donors these days"

CQ Politics' Adriel Bettelheim and Emily Cadei, "Democrats Welcome Donations, Not Lobbyists"

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION
Wall Street Journal's Jake Sherman, "White House Looks to Include Same-Sex Unions in Census Count"

FUTURE RACES
2009 NJ Governor: Newark Star-Ledger, "GOP candidate Chris Christie plans to make urban education focal point of campaign"

2010 FL Senate: Orlando Sentinel's Mark K. Matthews, "Rep. Kendrick Meek is no mild contender"

2010 IL Senate: Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet, "Obama will not endorse Madigan for Senate but encouraging her to run"

2010 IL Senate: Chicago Tribune's Rick Pearson and John McCormick, "Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan meets with President Barack Obama about Senate bid"

2010 LA Senate: New Orleans Times-Picayune, "Melancon ready to run against Vitter in Louisiana's 2010 Senate race, columnist reports"

2010 OH Senate: Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mark Naymik, "U.S. Senate candidates Rob Portman, Lee Fisher, and Jennifer Brunner show off wallets and then some"

ETC.
NY Times' Karen Ann Culotta, "Federal Inquiry Into Blagojevich Turns to University Admissions"

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