**Deficit spending receives scrutiny...
**Sotomayor confirmation hearings begin July 13; Senate Republicans livid...
**Health care reform begins to take shape on Capitol Hill...
**Who speaks for the GOP?
**Deeds vs. McDonnell for Virginia Governor...
The New York Times' David Leonhardt reports on today's front page: "There are two basic truths about the enormous deficits that the federal government will run in the coming years. The first is that President Obama's agenda, ambitious as it may be, is responsible for only a sliver of the deficits, despite what many of his Republican critics are saying. The second is that Mr. Obama does not have a realistic plan for eliminating the deficit, despite what his advisers have suggested."
"Mr. Obama's main contribution to the deficit is his extension of several Bush policies, like the Iraq war and tax cuts for households making less than $250,000. Such policies — together with the Wall Street bailout, which was signed by Mr. Bush and supported by Mr. Obama — account for 20 percent of the swing. About 7 percent comes from the stimulus bill that Mr. Obama signed in February. And only 3 percent comes from Mr. Obama's agenda on health care, education, energy and other areas. If the analysis is extended further into the future, well beyond 2012, the Obama agenda accounts for only a slightly higher share of the projected deficits.
"How can that be? Some of his proposals, like a plan to put a price on carbon emissions, don't cost the government any money. Others would be partly offset by proposed tax increases on the affluent and spending cuts. Congressional and White House aides agree that no large new programs, like an expansion of health insurance, are likely to pass unless they are paid for. Alan Auerbach, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and an author of a widely cited study on the dangers of the current deficits, describes the situation like so: 'Bush behaved incredibly irresponsibly for eight years. On the one hand, it might seem unfair for people to blame Obama for not fixing it. On the other hand, he's not fixing it.' 'And,' he added, 'not fixing it is, in a sense, making it worse.'"
"House appropriators on Tuesday unveiled spending numbers for the coming fiscal year that push up domestic outlays by 10.4%, after lawmakers used gimmicks to get around the pay-as-you-go rules Mr. Obama is embracing. 'This is like quitting drinking, but making an exception for beer and hard liquor,' said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan watchdog group."
Meantime, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy announced Tuesday that Sotomayor's confirmation hearing will begin July 13, upsetting the committee's Republicans, who argue there's not enough time to prepare.
"Republicans say they need more time to scrutinize the Supreme Court nominee's 17 years on the federal bench, during which she produced more than 3,600 opinions. But Democrats worry that a later start for her confirmation hearings would give critics too much time to undermine her -- a concern Mr. Leahy cited in announcing the schedule Tuesday," reports the Wall Street Journal's Naftali Bendavid.
"Democrats hope the full Senate can confirm Ms. Sotomayor before Congress's summer recess, scheduled to begin on Aug. 8. Republicans say there is nothing wrong with holding her confirmation vote in September, since the Supreme Court's next session doesn't begin until Oct. 5."
New York Times' Fernanda Santos, "A Supreme Court Nominee Stirs Up Bad Memories"
"Kennedy, whose fight to reshape the healthcare system spans more than 40 years, would require all Americans to get medical insurance, establish complex new insurance exchanges to facilitate near-universal coverage, and dramatically step up government oversight of the insurance industry. Among other things, private insurers would be required to cover people with preexisting conditions, co-payments for preventive care would be limited, and doctors and hospitals that provided high-quality care would be rewarded. Those goals are broadly shared by lawmakers from both parties. But reaction to the 615-page bill -- written with little GOP involvement -- was an ominous preview of the potential for a return to the kind of partisan conflict that sank previous efforts to reshape the troubled medical system."
"A broad consensus on the contours of legislation to remake the nation's health care system appeared to be developing among Democratic leaders on Tuesday as three House committee chairmen outlined a bill generally similar to one being written in the Senate," writes the New York Times' Robert Pear.
5013485"Democratic leaders in both houses said they would require individuals to carry insurance and employers to help pay for it. But they have yet to decide how to raise the necessary tax revenue. Leaders in both chambers said they wanted to establish a new public health insurance program, which would compete with private insurers. But they have not settled on the details."
Associated Press' Richard Alonso-Zaldivar, "Kennedy health plan includes long-term care"
Washington Post's Shalaigh Murray, "On Health Care, Congress Must Navigate Tricky Political Terrain"
McClatchy Newspapers' Eric Pianin, "Blue Dog Democrats could have major role in shaping health care bill"
REPUBLICAN PARTY: "Republicans, out of power and divided over how to get it back, are finding even the most basic questions hard to answer," writes USA Today's Susan Page.
4762464"Here's one: Who speaks for the GOP? The question flummoxes most Americans, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, which is among the reasons for the party's sagging state and uncertain direction. A 52% majority of those surveyed couldn't come up with a name when asked to specify 'the main person' who speaks for Republicans today. Of those who could, the top response was radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh (13%), followed in order by former vice president Dick Cheney, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former House speaker Newt Gingrich. Former president George W. Bush ranked fifth, at 3%. So the dominant faces of the Republican Party are all men, all white, all conservative and all old enough to join AARP, ranging in age from 58 (Limbaugh) to 72 (McCain).
"They include some of the country's most strident voices on issues from Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court to President Obama's policies at home and abroad. Two are retired from politics, and one has never been a candidate. Only McCain holds elective office, and his age and status as the loser of last year's presidential election make him an unlikely standard bearer for the party's future."
In a piece for CBSNews.com, I asked if the GOP even needs a "spokesperson" right now.
"As President Obama basks in a 63 percent approval rating according to the most recent CBS News/New York Times poll (taken three weeks ago), not many Americans are listening to the Republicans, mainly because they're content with how the president is doing.
"But as unemployment numbers rise and the economy continues in its funk, some of those solid poll numbers are beginning to show slight cracks, just enough to get the Republicans fired up. They're now firing at the president and, especially, at Congressional Democrats, on the economy, the economic stimulus plan, health care, the president's handling of the auto and financial bailouts, and other issues.
"The questions that will determine whether the GOP will ultimately find success in the near future are these: Do they have attractive alternative ideas? And will the political climate be conducive to many Republicans, not just one Republican, selling those ideas? If the answers are yes, the Republicans could possibly pick up seats in the 2010 midterm elections, and much of the discussion about a fractured, rudderless and leaderless GOP will quickly dissipate. If the answers are no, brace yourselves for even more analysis about the confused state of the Republican Party as the 2012 presidential race heats up."
Washington Post's Dan Balz, "Palin Sideshow Highlights Cracks in the GOP"
"Virginia Democrats today stuck to a tried-and-true formula for winning. In their three-way gubernatorial primary, they said no to a national figure with close Clinton ties and a liberal with a brother in Congress," writes Politics Daily's Jill Lawrence.
"Instead, they overwhelmingly picked state Sen. Creigh Deeds -- a moderate whose manner is the opposite of flamboyant. If that sounds like Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine and his predecessor, Democrat Mark Warner, well, why mess with a good thing? Deeds sailed past Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman with Clinton connections and a personality often described as over-caffeinated, and Brian Moran, a former legislative leader who presented himself as the only true liberal in the race. Both are longtime residents of densely populated Northern Virginia and had expected to do well there. Moran's advantages even included Rep. Jim Moran, his well-known brother. But Deeds, a rural legislator who supports gun rights, cleaned up in the region -- including the counties that Moran and McAuliffe call home."
The Washington Post's Rosalind S. Helderman looks ahead: "When they last ran against each other four years ago, Democrat R. Creigh Deeds and Republican Robert F. McDonnell were little-known local politicians who battled to within 323 votes of each other out of 2 million cast in a race for attorney general.
"This time, the two men with deep roots in the state will not only battle for Virginia's highest office, but will do so in an election that is expected to draw intense national attention and be viewed as a bellwether for the Democratic Party. Their 2005 race for attorney general was dominated by law-and-order issues.
"Now, the campaign will emphasize the serious pocketbook concerns facing Virginia voters and will trace the themes that dominated the primary: jobs, the environment, energy. Already, the two have unveiled competing plans to expand access to college and have signaled that they will fight to convince Northern Virginians that they are best positioned to solve transportation woes. Their past go-round, which ended with a lengthy recount that left Deeds embittered and itching for another opportunity to knock off McDonnell, could carry with it a sense of déjà vu, with closely matched rivals battling into the fall."
Virginia has trended Democratic in recent elections - Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., narrowly defeated incumbent Sen. George Allen, R-Va., in 2006; Warner replaced the retiring Sen. John Warner, R-Va., last year and Barack Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Virginia since LBJ won in 1964.
Republicans are trying to stem that trend, which is reflective of their problems nationwide. McDonnell, as one of two Republicans running in statewide races this year (Chris Christie in the New Jersey governors race is the other) bears a heavy burden: a win will be touted by his party as a fortune-changing event; a loss, especially if he and Christie lose, potentially brings another year of soul-searching for the GOP.
ALSO TODAY: "The Obama administration is ready to issue broad new guidelines that would rein in pay at financial institutions," reports the Associated Press' Jim Kuhnhenn.
Politico's David Rogers, "War bill tally could top $105B"
Washington Post's Al Kamen, "Dollar Signs Point to Many a U.S. Embassy"
2009 NJ Governor: PolitickerNJ, "Quinnipiac: Christie leads 50%-40%"
2010 AK Governor: Anchorage Daily News' Sean Cockerham, "Potential Palin challengers mull Alaska's 2010 governor race"
2010 FL Governor: Orlando Sentinel's Aaron Deslatte, "Sink has slight lead over McCollum in governor's race"
2010 NY Governor: NY Times' David M. Halbfinger and Dalia Sussman, "Poll Finds Paterson Deeply Unpopular"
2010 U.S. House, MI-02: Grand Rapids Press' Kyla King, "Former U-M, Buffalo Bills football player Jay Riemersma files paperwork to seek U.S. House seat"
Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown, "Barack Obama's gov't-mandated diet plan"
NY Times' John M. Broder, "House Republicans Draft Energy Bill With Heavy Focus on Nuclear Power"
Washington Times' Chuck Neubauer, "U.S. House quietly restricts ethics probes"