**President Obama to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel today...
**House takes up climate bill...
**Has Congress lowered health reform tab?
**Mark Sanford latest...
**Click here for my take on Michael Jackson's death.
Also, reports Deutsche Welle's Michael Knigge, the fact that other leaders of smaller European countries have met with the president at the White House, has some Germans wondering if there's an iciness to the Obama-Merkel relationship.
"British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was the first major European leader to pay a visit to President Barack Obama in the White House. That was back in March of this year, shortly after Obama had been sworn in. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was next in April, followed by French President Nicholas Sarkozy in June. Even Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, embroiled in a major scandal back home in Italy, was finally granted a meeting with Obama in the White House in June. Only the leader of Europe's biggest economy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has not yet visited the White House, sparking media speculations that relations between Merkel and Obama were cooler than with Obama's predecessor George W. Bush."
Officially, the economy and global climate change are on the agenda, but given the latest in Iran, it's hard to imagine that won't come up as well.
"Unrest in Iran after the Islamic Republic's disputed presidential poll, the war in Afghanistan and a U.S. request that Germany take prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are also issues likely to be on the agenda," reports Reuters' Jeff Mason.
"Obama presided over a $787 billion U.S. economic stimulus package shortly after taking office earlier this year, while Merkel has spoken against massive spending to fix the world's economic ills. A senior German official said the chancellor wanted to discuss an 'exit strategy' for short-term economic fixes such as stimulus spending. 'It's an issue for the future but one we feel needs to be discussed now,' the official said. Obama and Merkel disagree on international security topics as well. Berlin has shunned U.S. calls that it commit more troops to the war in Afghanistan, which is deeply unpopular in Germany. Merkel's government has also resisted U.S. requests that it accept inmates from the Guantanamo prison that Obama plans to close by early 2010."
From Wikipedia (Hat Tip: Rob Hendin): Michael Jackson had five albums in Germany that reached platinum status. They are Thriller, Bad, Dangerous, HIStory, and Invincible.
Jackson had 16 top ten hits on the German Top 100 singles charts.
Jackson had 29 top 40 hits on the German Top 100 singles charts.
"The House could vote today on a measure to cap U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, with Democratic leaders predicting a tight victory for a behemoth bill that has grown more complex with each compromise," report Paul Kane, Ben Pershing and David A. Fahrenthold.
"The heart of the bill, which now runs to 1,201 pages, is a plan to reduce emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. To do that, it would create a cap-and-trade system, in which polluters would be required to accrue buyable, sellable credits for all the greenhouse gases they produce.
"But the bill also contains a system of caveats, safety valves and rule changes meant to satisfy unhappy Democrats. The result is legislation that could transform the U.S. energy industry -- and allow both Wall Street and the Corn Belt to build a side business in carbon.
"Yesterday, Democratic leaders said they had gathered enough votes to win passage of the bill, which could be voted on today or tomorrow.
"A handful of undecided Democrats hold the key to whether the House will confront global warming and begin a shift away from fossil fuels to cleaner sources of energy," add the Associated Press' H. Josef Hebert and Dina Cappiello.
"House Democratic leaders were scrambling to round up additional votes to pass the climate legislation Friday before lawmakers depart for a weeklong July 4 holiday recess. President Barack Obama, in both individual phone calls and in remarks from the White House Rose Garden on Thursday, urged lawmakers to pass the bill, calling it 'a vote of historic proportions ... that will open the door to a clean energy economy' and green jobs.
5033880"The president and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has staked her prestige on passage of climate legislation, sought to counter a drumbeat of criticism from Republicans who have characterized the bill as a massive energy tax on every American and a 'job killer,' especially in energy intensive parts of the economy."
Wall Street Journal's Stephen Power and Greg Hitt, "Trade Penalties Weighed in Climate Bill"
5099149HEALTH CARE REFORM: "Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said the cost of health-care options being weighed by his panel can be cut to $1 trillion over 10 years and won't add to the deficit, citing the Congressional Budget Office," writes Bloomberg News' Laura Litvan and Nicole Gaouette.
"The non-partisan budget office last week delivered an informal cost estimate of $1.6 trillion for the legislation to overhaul the health-care system, sparking protests from both Republicans and Democrats and prompting Baucus to say his panel may delay consideration of a bill until next month. 'CBO now tells us we have options that would enable us to write a $1 trillion bill, fully paid for,' Montana Democrat Baucus, who set that amount as his goal, told reporters at the Capitol. CBO spokeswoman Melissa Merson declined to comment."
"The package also is expected to include just over $300 billion in new taxes on health insurance benefits that millions get from their employers," write the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray and Lori Montgomery.
"The leading proposal would tax as income any premiums exceeding about $17,000 a year, starting in 2013. Currently, the average cost of family coverage provided by employers is about $12,500 a year, and premiums for employer-sponsored coverage -- whether paid by the employer or the worker -- are tax-free. Many Democrats oppose the new tax, and President Obama campaigned against the idea. But lawmakers said they could identify few acceptable alternatives."
"Sen. Baucus said he and Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the panel's top ranking Republican, would continue discussions. He declined to predict when the sweeping package would be unveiled publicly. 'We're ready when we're ready,' he said," add the Wall Street Journal's Janet Adamy and Greg Hitt.
"The slow pace of action underscores the difficulties lawmakers are having in making good on President Obama's demand for a health care package. Fundamental decisions about how to finance the package, and how best to extend coverage, still remain to be ironed out. Sen. Baucus has hopes of convening the Finance Committee, which has broad jurisdiction over health policy, when lawmakers return to town after the July Fourth recess. Sen. Baucus is working on a centrist plan that would expand coverage, but not by creating a public plan to compete with insurers. Instead, he would create a network of nonprofit cooperatives that would compete in the private sector."
Gov. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., called a cabinet meeting for 12:30pm ET today and told reporters last night he is not resigning after admitting an extramarital affair.
"A Republican national committeeman, an Upstate newspaper and the governor's former spokesman called for Sanford's resignation. Early polls show a majority of state residents think the governor should step down," reports The State's John O'Connor.
"But a flood of calls for Sanford's resignation from the state's political class might not materialize because of the impact such a move would have on next year's race to replace him. 'It's (Sanford's) decision to make right now,' said former S.C. GOP chairman Katon Dawson, though he said of the camps working behind the scenes, 'These are competitors working here.'
"Few opponents in the Republican field want to give Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer a test run before 2010 to prove himself in a potential field of U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, state Sen. Larry Grooms, state Rep. Nikki Haley, Attorney General Henry McMaster and Furman University political scientist Brent Nelsen. Democrats think they can use Sanford as an albatross if he remains in office."
Wall Street Journal's Alex Roth and Valerie Bauerlein, "Gov. Sanford Struggles to Hang On"
McClatchy Newspapers' Kevin G. Hall, "Sanford's trade mission to Argentina Contradicted U.S. policy"
Washington Post's Philip Rucker and Carol D. Leonnig, "South Carolinians Stunned by Governor's Admissions"
Washington Post's Manuel Roig-Franzia, "The Political Enclave That Dare Not Speak Its Name"
ALSO TODAY: At 11:45am ET, Vice President Biden and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett will announce the appointment of new White House Advisor on Violence Against Women.
Washington Post's Thomas Erdbrink and William Branigin, "Ahmadinejad Demands Apology From Obama"
Wall Street Journal's Margaret Coker, "Iran's Mousavi Vows to Continue Election Protests"
CBS News' Stephanie Condon, "Obama Introduces First Steps To Immigration Reform"
NY Times' Jeff Zeleny and Ginger Thompson, "Republicans Focus on Guest Workers in Immigration Debate"
LA Times' Peter Wallsten, "As Obama sets course for immigration reform, roadblock appears"
NY Times' Neil A. Lewis, "Old Confirmation Wars Fueling Some Critics Now"
Politico's Carol E. Lee, "Joe Biden reaches out to gay community"
Christian Science Monitor's Linda Feldman, "Rahm Emanuel redefines bipartisanship"
Politico's Carol E. Lee, "Media sinks press secretary"
2009 NJ Governor: Newark Star-Ledger's Claire Heininger and Herb Jackson, "Chris Christie ends congressional testimony on federal contracts, calls hearing 'political circus'"
2009 VA Governor: Stafford County Sun's Andrew McCain, "McDonnell's TV ad to run 10 days"
2010 NY Governor: CQ Politics' Emily Cadei, "Lazio Off To Stealth Start In Bid To Become New York Governor"
2010 IL Senate: Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet, "Rahm Emanuel says Lisa Madigan, mulling Senate bid, the '800 pound gorilla'"
2010 NH Senate: Manchester Democrat Examiner's Paul Briand, "Senate race is Sununu's if he wants it"
2010 NY Senate: NY Daily News' Michael Saul, "Obama aide: President has Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's back"
2010 NC Senate: Washington Daily News' Ted Strong, "Dems chairman seeks tough campaign against Burr"
2010 PA Senate: Lancaster New Era's Bernard Harris, "Specter's popularity sinking, F&M poll finds"
2010 House: NY Times' John Branston, "Memphis Mayor, in 5th Term, Resigning to Run for Congress": "Willie W. Herenton, this city's first elected black mayor, announced Thursday that he would resign next month to prepare for a 2010 campaign for Congress. Mr. Herenton, 69, who is in the middle of his fifth four-year term, confirmed what many political observers said they had suspected before he was re-elected in 2007. ...
"Mr. Herenton announced in February that he planned to run for the Congressional seat, which is held by Stephen Cohen, a fellow Democrat. In 2006, Mr. Cohen, who is white, captured the seat in the black-majority district that had been held for 32 years by members of the politically powerful Ford family. The seat became open when Representative Harold E. Ford Jr. decided to run for the Senate after a decade in the House, where he had succeeded his father, Representative Harold E. Ford Sr., who served for 22 years."