POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 2/10

Republicans Won’t Block Solis Over Tax Issues

Republicans aren’t going to derail Rep. Hilda Solis’ nomination for Labor secretary over her husband’s tax problems, according to Politico

“But they are still exploring the congresswoman’s ties to a pro-union organization, and a vote on her nomination has yet to be scheduled.”

Pawlenty Broadens Policy Palette

The Fix notes Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) travelled to both Israel and Germany over the last two months.

“Such trips allow Pawlenty, who is widely seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2012, to shore up his one obvious weakness (and the weakness of any governor running for national office): lack of foreign policy experience and know-how.”

However, in the near term, Pawlenty “must decide whether to run for a third term in 2010. His advisers paint him as genuinely undecided but for a man with obvious national ambitions, Pawlenty has to weigh whether the benefits of being a sitting office holder are greater than the possibility that he might come up short at the ballot box next fall.”

Stimulus Negotiations Begin

Now that an economic stimulus bill has passed in the House and the Senate, the work to reconcile the two different bills and create a new one begins. 

According to NBC News, President Obama already met this morning with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to weigh in “on what should — and should not — be in the final bill.” And the first meeting with negotiators from both chambers takes place this afternoon. 

Marc Ambinder says the stimulus conference will likely be “a closed process and focused on reconciling the three Republican Senators who voted in favor of their bill with the desire of Speaker Pelosi and chairman Dave Obey to restore cuts in state and education aid. The White House will preside, as presidents can do — and I think the House will conclude, in the end, that some of what’s been cut from their first go-round can be funded through later appropriations. The pressure from the White House to get Obama a bill will warp political spacetime more than the density pressure of Democrats in the House.”

CQ Politics quotes Reid saying they “were expected to get most of their work done within 24 hours.”

Quote of the Day

“We are exploring a range of different structures for this program, and will seek input from market participants and the public as we design it.”

— Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, in effect announcing his plan to have a planto stabilize the banking system. The speech was remarkably short on specifics.

Senate Passes Stimulus Bill

The U.S. Senate voted 61-37 in favor of the $838 billion economic stimulus bill, withthree Republicans voting to pass the plan, the Wall Street Journal reports. 

“Lawmakers in the House and Senate will now gather to iron out the considerable differences between the two versions of the legislation, with the goal on both sides of completing the bill within a week so that President Obama can sign the stimulus plan into law.”

How Close We Came to Total Meltdown

On C-Span, Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) explained how the Federal Reserve told members of Congress about an electronic run on the banks “to the tune of $550 billion dollars” within “an hour or two” last fall. 

According to Kanjorski, on September 18, 2008 the Fed tried to “stem the tide” by pumping money into the financial system but it didn’t work and decided instead to announce an immediate increase in deposit insurance to $250,000 per account to stop the panic.

Said Kanjorski: “If they had not done that, their estimation is that by 2 p.m. that afternoon, $5.5 trillion would have been drawn out of the money market system of the U.S., would have collapsed the entire economy of the U.S., and within 24 hours the world economy would have collapsed. It would have been the end of our economic system and our political system as we know it.”

Green Wants Back In

Mark Green (D), New York City’s first public advocate, has told NY1 he will once again run for the office. He held the position from 1994 to 2001.

Ben Smith: “Green was almost elected mayor in 2001, and likely would have been if not for the September 11 terror attacks; he’s an old-line liberal figure, a one-time Naderite, who New Yorkers either love or love to hate.”

Dinner with the Blue Dogs

The Hotline notes that President Obama is scheduled to have dinner with members of the Blue Dog Coaltion tonight after he returns to Florida.

“Eleven House Democrats voted with Republicans against the president’s economic plan. Stay tuned to see if he woos any of them successfully back into the fold. The tete-a-tete is closed to reporters.”

Dodd’s Approval Sinks to New Low

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) scores his worst approval rating ever in a newQuinnipiac poll with Connecticut voters disapproving his job performance, 48% to 41%. 

In contrast, Gov. Jodi Rell (R) has a 75% to 19% approval rating and tops any likely Democratic challenger by 21 to 40 points — which is the main reason Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) announced he will not challenge her.

Interestingly, Blumenthal would crush Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) in a 2012 Senate race, 58% to 30%.

Obama’s Audiences Not Pre-Screened

White House aides note that during President Obama’s trip to Elkhart, Indiana yesterday he faced an audience that had not been pre-screened and who had instead received their tickets on a first come, first served basis. The same will be true for his trip to Fort Myers, Florida later today.

During the previous eight years, the local Republican party often screened audiences and handled ticket distribution for President Bush’s visits.

New Bank Rescue Plan Coming Today

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will unveil today the administration’s plans for the second half of the $700 billion bank bailout approved by Congress last fall. However, with leverage and private funds, the Washington Post says the plan may commit up to $1.5 trillion “and possibly more.”

Bloomberg notes the financial-rescue plan may ultimately determine how effective the separate economic stimulus package will be. “Without the ability to borrow to invest in new business projects, or credit for purchases of new cars, homes and appliances, companies and households won’t be able to follow through on Obama’s tax cuts and spending programs.”

As for the internal politics of developing the plan, the New York Times says Geithner prevailed in internal debates over some of Obama’s political advisers.

Iran Ready for Talks with United States

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “opened the door today to the prospect of talks with the US, less than 24 hours after Barack Obama said face-to-face discussions could take place within months,” the Guardian reports.

Said Ahmadinejad: “The new US administration has announced that they want to produce change and pursue the course of dialogue. It is quite clear that real change must be fundamental and not tactical. It is clear the Iranian nation welcomes real changes. The Iranian nation is ready to hold talks, but talks in a fair atmosphere with mutual respect.”

But as the New York Times notes, “he coupled the offer with an attack on former President Bush, calling for him to be ‘tried and punished’ for his policies and actions in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region.”

Obama’s Press Conference

President Obama used a combination of the bully pulpit of the presidency and his strong approval ratings to assert his dominance over the legislative process in Washington, D.C  at his first prime time White House press conference. It was an impressive performance that may prove to be the tipping point for achieving his first major legislative victory within days.

Most interesting: Nearly every question was about a policy concern facing America. There was not a single question on the process stumbles of Obama’s first few weeks in office.

Bredesen Hopes Obama Listened to His Speech

Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) — a possible candidate to become the next Secretary of Health and Human Services — used his state of the state address to campaign for the job, the Nashville Post reports.

Last Lion

The Fall and Rise of Ted KennedyIn the mail: Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy, written by the Boston Globe staff and edited by Peter Canellos.

From the book jacket: “No figure in American public life has had such great expectations thrust upon him, or has responded so poorly. But Ted Kennedy — the youngest of the Kennedy children and the son who felt the least pressure to satisfy his father’s enormous ambitions — would go on to live a life that no one could have predicted: dismissed as a spent force in politics by the time he reached middle age, Ted became the most powerful senator of the last half century and the nation’s keeper of traditional liberalism.”

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