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Eye Opener: Nov. 19, 2008

By Ed O'Keefe

Good morning! Today we shift away from Eye-themed humor and bring you the Red Rockers song, "China." Why? Because the Food and Drug Administration is sending food inspectors overseas to work with importers and food safety inspectors and will open its first overseas offices today in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, China.

Send your news tips, suggestions or event listings to federaleye@washingtonpost.com.

In other news...

Eye Opener

The Next Attorney General: The Post and several other news organizations say that prominent Washington-area attorney and former deputy attorney general Eric Holder has been offered the job of attorney general. The Post calls him "the leading candidate," Politico calls Holder "the top choice" but adds it's “not necessarily a done deal." The Old Grey Lady reports Obama’s transition team "has signaled" to Holder "that he will be chosen as attorney general, but no final decision has been made." So basically the drape-measuring has begun. Holder first met Obama at a Washington-area dinner party, proving once again that it's not what you know, it's who you know.

The Next OMB Director: Peter Orszag, who's served as head of the Congressional Budget Office for the past two years, leads all other candidates to head up the Office of Management and Budget, reports The Post's Michael Fletcher. "Another person who has been mentioned as a possibility for the OMB post is Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who each year publishes a dire alternative report on the federal budget. Orszag, who turns 40 next month, is an expert on entitlement spending. He is a co-founder with former Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin -- an Obama adviser -- of the Hamilton Project, which aims to address income inequality in the United States without hindering American competitiveness." He would be yet another Clinton administration veteran to serve in the Obama administration, notes Government Executive.

More Transition News: The Post's Karen DeYoung does a fantastic roundup of the decisions Obama has to make regarding his national security team. "Among Obama's earliest decisions will be whether to retain the separate National Economic Council created by Clinton, as well as Bush's Homeland Security Council, and whether to establish new White House-level panels on policy priorities such as energy and the environment. Sources close to the Obama team said neither will be determined until the national security team -- the adviser and the secretaries of state and defense -- are chosen." And you thought picking a school for his daughters was tough!

Lieberman's Fate: The Democrat-turned-independent senator from the Nutmeg State gets to keep his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, following a Senate Democratic caucus vote on Tuesday. He surrenders his position on the Environment and Public Works Committee as part of the deal. "The more than two-hour meeting was held in the Old Senate Chamber, where senators convened for most of the 19th century and where several grand deals were hatched, including the Missouri Compromise of 1820," says The Post's Paul Kane.

Stevens' Fate: Sen. Ted Stevens, the most senior Senate Republican lost his close reelection battle to Anchorage mayor Mark Begich. "Begich's win gives Democrats control of 58 seats in the Senate, including two independents who caucus with them. That is two shy of the number needed to prevent Republicans from filibustering, with two races still undecided. Democrats have not controlled 60 seats since 1978." Adding insult to injury, Stevens celebrated his 85th birthday on Tuesday.

The Air We Breathe: "The Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing new air-quality rules that would make it easier to build coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and other major polluters near national parks and wilderness areas, even though half of the EPA's 10 regional administrators formally dissented from the decision and four others criticized the move in writing," reports The Post's environmental reporter Juliet Eilperin. "The proposal would change the practice of measuring pollution levels near national parks, which is currently done over three-hour and 24-hour increments to capture emission spikes during periods of peak energy demand; instead, the levels would be averaged over a year. Under this system, spikes in pollution would no longer violate the law."

VA Hiring Spree: The Veterans Affairs Department plans to hire 400 people at its regional offices by March 1, reports the Federal Times. "The Post-9/11 GI Bill, which takes effect Aug. 1, is so popular and generous in comparison to existing benefits that VA officials are preparing to have 526,000 benefits claims next year, said Keith Wilson, director of the VA’s education service." Fed Times also reports that " The percentage of veterans hired into federal agencies has increased steadily in the last nine years. Nearly 23 percent of the 229,000 employees hired by all agencies in fiscal 2007 were veterans, compared with 15.7 percent of federal hires in fiscal 1999, according to data released last week by the Office of Personnel Management."

Why Don't You Build Me Up? "Business and labor groups are ramping up a lobbying campaign to persuade President-elect Barack Obama and the next Congress to back a huge boost in infrastructure spending in an effort to create jobs and kick-start economic growth," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Over the past couple of years, construction lobbies have repeatedly failed to get lawmakers to approve big increases in infrastructure spending. Their only recent success was getting Congress in September to put $8 billion into the rapidly depleting Highway Trust Fund, the main source of federal transportation dollars."

Events: The Atlantic Magazine hosts the "Green Intelligence Forum" today at the Newseum. It's a "full day conference for top public officials and private business leaders on energy and environmental issues." Conversation will focus on "smart" sources, markets, policy and usage. Odd timing since most D.C.-area folks related to this issue are in Boston this week for the Greenbuild International Conference.

Today in History: Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address on this date in in 1863. More here.

By Ed O'Keefe  | November 19, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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