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Politics Today: Obama Tackles Regulation, Gay Rights

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

**President Obama unveils plan for financial industry regulations...

**Congress continues hammering out health care legislation...

**Latest from Iran...

**President to sign order granting benefits to gay partners of federal employees...

**Sen. Ensign admits extramarital affair...

PRESIDENT OBAMA TODAY: The president and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will unveil their plan to reform the regulation of the financial industry today at 12:50pm ET.

As CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Chip Reid reported last night, "President Obama says the Wall Street melt-down was caused by a dangerous combination: wild risk-taking by financial institutions and a lack of government oversight. Tuesday he said he wants to make sure it never happens again. ..."

"The president will officially roll out his long-awaited plan Wednesday. One major component: he wants to create a brand new Consumer Financial Protection Agency with 'broad authority' to crack down on banks and credit card companies that engage in "unfair and deceptive practices. The plan would also strengthen government oversight of all large financial institutions, toughen regulation of derivatives and other complicated financial instruments at the heart of the Wall Street crisis, and allow the government to take control of massive companies like AIG if their failure threatens the entire economy. But many Republicans in Congress say the plan will lead to too much government intervention and continued reliance on bailouts. ...

"While the president says his plan will streamline regulation, some critics say it would be much more efficient to consolidate the alphabet soup of regulatory agencies - the Federal Reserve, FDIC, SEC, and others - into one or two super-regulators."

"The 85-page proposal is part of an effort by the Obama administration to redraw the rules that govern finance in an attempt to restore confidence in U.S. and global markets," adds the Wall Street Journal's Damian Paletta.

"Obama administration officials want the rules to be tough enough to correct some of the damage caused by the financial crisis last year but not so restrictive that they stifle innovation. The paper says the administration has stopped short of calling for all changes that could be seen as 'desirable' and pushed only for those they see as 'essential' to reform.

The Washington Post's Binyamin Applebaum and David Cho report, "The plan is built around five key points, according to a briefing last night by senior administration officials and a copy of the white paper obtained by The Washington Post. The proposals would greatly increase the power of the Federal Reserve, creating stronger and more consistent oversight of the largest financial firms. It also asks Congress to authorize the government for the first time to dismantle large firms that fall into trouble, avoiding a chaotic collapse that could disrupt the economy.

"Federal oversight would be extended to dark corners of the financial markets, imposing new rules on trading in complex derivatives and securities built from mortgage loans. The government would create a new agency to protect consumers of mortgages, credit cards and other financial products. And the administration would increase its coordination with other nations to prevent businesses from migrating to less regulated venues.

"President Obama is scheduled to announce the full plan today, ending months of political calibration and internal discussion and dropping the details into an already-heated debate on Capitol Hill. Congress is scheduled to hold its first hearings on the proposals tomorrow, and interest groups already are ramping up their campaigns. Congressional leaders say they hope to pass some version of the plan by year's end."

NY Times' Stephen Labaton, "Obama Sought to Enlist a Wide Consensus on Finance Rules"

Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib, "Obama Aspires to a 'Light Touch', Not a Heavy Hand"

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
HEALTH CARE REFORM: Former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle, left, George Mitchell, Bob Dole and Howard Baker unveil a compromise health care reform proposal today in Washington, D.C.

According to a summary provided to CBS News by the Bipartisan Policy Center, their recommendations are "organized around four substantive 'pillars' of health reform. ... to achieve greater health care quality and value ... to make health insurance available, meaningful, and affordable ... to emphasize and support personal responsibility and healthy choices ... to develop a workable, sustainable approach to health care financing."

Their proposal is expected to cost $1.2 trillion over the next decade and to pay for it, they suggest "over $1 trillion in specified financing, divided between federal health system savings and health-related revenues."

Dole and Daschle join CBS News' John Dickerson to talk about their proposal today at 12:30 p.m. on's daily Webcast, "Washington Unplugged."

The leaders' proposal comes as Congress continues hammering out their health care bills and as concerns over the overall cost of their proposals grow.

"Congressional Democrats and the White House are scrambling to regain their footing after a series of setbacks has stalled political momentum to reform the nation's healthcare system," writes The Hill's Jeffrey Young.

"Despite having a popular president in the White House and comfortable majorities in Congress, the Democratic rollout on healthcare reform has encountered significant bumps in the road."

5013485"The Senate Finance Committee wrestled Tuesday to bring down the total cost of its health-care package, after an initial estimate put the price tag for one version at more than $1.6 trillion over 10 years," report the Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler and Greg Hitt.

"The committee's chairman, Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.), quickly moved to disarm critics by putting out word that the final bill would cost less than $1 trillion over a decade. The committee is one of several in Congress trying to craft a deal that aims to reduce the ranks of uninsured Americans and bring down health-care costs over the long term. Other panels have a somewhat simpler task; unlike the Finance Committee, they aren't attempting to strike a bipartisan agreement. The emerging packages make clear that Democrats will have to choose between a more liberal option that most fully achieves their goals, or a compromise with Republicans on key issues."

"Big holes remain to be filled on the most controversial issues in the health care bill authored by the committee's chairman, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.: a new public insurance plan to compete with the private market, and whether employers must provide health care for their workers," adds the Associated Press' Erica Werner.

"Kennedy is suffering from brain cancer and was not expected to be present. But his deputy on health care, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said the committee would move forward anyway with a session to finalize and vote on a bill he said would provide 'successful, affordable, quality health care.' The committee was scheduled to meet daily through next week.

"Disagreements over costs and other issues hung up another key committee, the Senate Finance Committee, which has a more moderate makeup than Kennedy's panel and is considered Congress' best hope for producing a bipartisan bill."

"House and Senate leaders have vowed to have their chambers' bills passed by the end of July. Obama wants a bill to sign by Oct. 15," The Hill's Jeffrey Young adds.

"Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Tuesday sought to downplay the short-term expectations for healthcare reform, telling The Associated Press that the phase-in coverage plan of the legislation could spill into the next presidential term. The longer the phase-in, the less the bill will cost. And cost is arguably the largest hurdle for Democrats to clear on passing healthcare reform. Meanwhile, Republicans on both sides of the Capitol are ramping up their attacks.

USA Today's Richard Wolf, "Budget chief sees 'hard slog' on health"

New York Times' David Leonhardt, "Health Care Rationing Rhetoric Overlooks Reality"

Bloomberg News' Heidi Przybyla, "Obama's Volunteers Find Health Plan Harder Sell Than Candidate"'s Stephanie Condon, Will Small Business Have To "Pay Or Play"?

(AP Photo/IRIB)
IRANIAN ELECTIONS: "Iran's most powerful military force has warned online media of a crackdown over their coverage of the country's election crisis," reports

"The Revolutionary Guard, an elite military force answering to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said through the state news service that Iranian Web sites and bloggers must remove any materials that 'create tension' or face legal action.

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports that Iranian authorities appear to have successfully blocked all access to Facebook, MySpace and Twitter Wednesday morning. Access had been intermittent since the election. The Guards are a separate military with enormous domestic influence and control of Iran's most important defense programs. They are one of the key sources of power for a cleric-led establishment that has been pushed by the crisis into an extraordinary public defense of the Islamic ruling system. It was the Guards' first public statement since the crisis erupted following the presidential election last Friday. Along with the Western social networking sites which are now blocked, Iranian reformist Web sites and blogs have been vital conduits for Iranians to inform the world about protests over the declaration of election victory for hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

Meantime, "Pro-government and opposition demonstrators poured into the streets of Iran's capital Tuesday for a fourth day of sometimes-violent rallies, as the country's religious leaders agreed to a partial recount of Friday's disputed presidential vote," reports the Wall Street Journal's Farnaz Fassihi.

"Amid the unrest, and more shooting by government-backed militia, authorities arrested prominent opposition leaders and clamped down on media covering the crisis. The demonstrations came hours after state media reported the top religious oversight council would examine Friday's vote, which saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad trounce opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and two other challengers. The plan by the Guardian Council for a targeted recount -- aimed at specific voting sites where fraud was alleged -- is the first direct action by authorities to address claims of irregularities by rivals of Mr. Ahmadinejad."

The New York Times' Mark Landler and Brian Stelter report: "The Obama administration says it has tried to avoid words or deeds that could be portrayed as American meddling in Iran's presidential election and its tumultuous aftermath. Yet on Monday afternoon, a 27-year-old State Department official, Jared Cohen, e-mailed the social-networking site Twitter with an unusual request: delay scheduled maintenance of its global network, which would have cut off service while Iranians were using Twitter to swap information and inform the outside world about the mushrooming protests around Tehran.

"The request, made to a Twitter co-founder, Jack Dorsey, is yet another new-media milestone: the recognition by the United States government that an Internet blogging service that did not exist four years ago has the potential to change history in an ancient Islamic country."

Los Angeles Times' Paul Richter, "Obama stays on sidelines after Iran's disputed election"

FEDERAL SAME-SEX BENEFITS: "President Barack Obama, whose gay and lesbian supporters have grown frustrated with his slow movement on their priorities, is extending benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, a White House official said," writes the Associated Press' Philip Elliott.

(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
"Obama planned to announce his decision Wednesday in the Oval Office, the official said. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because Obama had not signed a presidential memorandum putting his plan into place. The decision is a political nod to a reliably Democratic voting bloc that has become impatient with the White House in recent weeks. Several powerful gay fundraisers withdrew their support from a Democratic National Committee event June 25 where Vice President Joe Biden is expected to speak. Their exit came in response to a Justice Department brief last week that defended the Defense of Marriage Act, a prime target for gay and lesbian criticism."

"His action is a significant advance for gay rights and comes days after the Obama administration sparked outrage by filing a legal brief defending the law forbidding federal recognition of same-sex marriage," add the Los Angeles Times' Mark Z. Barabak and Jessica Garrison.

"Obama opposed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act during his presidential campaign. It was not immediately clear whether Obama's latest decision would mollify his critics. Some offered only grudging support Tuesday night after learning of the president's intentions. 'This is a good thing for the small percentage of . . . people that work for the federal government, but it leaves out the vast majority of people who are in same-sex relationships,' said Geoff Kors, head of Equality California, one of the state's largest gay rights groups."

ENSIGN AFFAIR: Sen. John Ensign, R-Nevada, the number 4 Republican in the Senate and possible 2012 presidential candidate admitted Tuesday to having affair with a former campaign staffer.

"I violated the vows of our marriage. It is absolutely the worst thing I have ever done in my life," Ensign said at a Las Vegas press conference.

Multiple reports say that Ensign had an affair with the woman, who worked on his campaign and for his political action committee and that she is married to a former senior member of his Senate staff. The affair occurred between December 2007 and August 2008; both the husband and wife haven't worked for Ensign since May of last year.

Several reports say that Ensign came clean after either the husband or the wife demanded money from the senator.

The fallout for Ensign could be significant. Considered a rising star in the Republican Party, he was appointed the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, making him the number 4 Republican in the Senate after heading the party's largely unsuccessful senatorial election efforts last year. Ensign just recently made several stops in Iowa and his visit sparked talk of a potential 2012 presidential run, which may now be in jeopardy.

Ensign is up again for Senate in 2012 and, even before his admission, he would have a lot of work to do if he chooses to run for re-election; he won in '06 with only 55 percent of the vote against the outraised and outgunned son of former President Jimmy Carter, Jack Carter.

His dalliance is only made more complicated by some of his past statements regarding other politicians' affairs, potentially giving any future challengers the hypocrisy tag to throw at Ensign.

"During his first Senate campaign in 1998 against Sen. Harry Reid, Ensign called for Clinton's resignation in light of his acknowledged affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, saying Clinton 'has no credibility left,'" the Las Vegas Sun's J. Patrick Coolican points out.

"Ensign was head of Senate Republican election efforts last year, an effort that failed badly. He tried to get Sen. Larry Craig to resign his seat after the Idaho Republican pleaded guilty in 2007 to soliciting sex from a man in an airport bathroom. Ensign called Craig 'a disgrace.' A few months later, Ensign's own affair began."

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