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Eye Opener: April 1, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Wednesday! No April Fools jokes here, just the breezy review of headlines, as always. Today marks one year until Census Day 2010. You'll hear plenty about it in the next 365 days.

Today's Big Story: Coming to a talk radio or cable news show near you real soon: Disagreement at the Justice Department over the constitutionality of the D.C. voting rights bill. "In deciding that the measure is unconstitutional, lawyers in the department's Office of Legal Counsel matched a conclusion reached by their Bush administration counterparts nearly two years ago, when a lawyer there testified that a similar bill would not withstand legal attack," reports The Post's Justice reporter Carrie Johnson. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. "rejected the advice and sought the opinion of the solicitor general's office, where lawyers told him that they could defend the legislation if it were challenged after its enactment." More: "Democratic and Republican Justice Department veterans said it is unusual, though not unprecedented, for the solicitor general, who backs the administration's position before the Supreme Court, to be asked to weigh in before a case makes its way into a courtroom."

Meanwhile, "The Obama administration is intensely debating whether and when to release documents from the Bush administration related to harsh interrogation methods used on prisoners belonging to Al Qaeda," reports Scott Shane of the New York Times.

Cabinet News: Kathleen Sebelius admits she corrected $7,000 in tax errors; Tom Vilsack and Vice President Biden visit rural North Carolina to dole out stimulus funds; Arne Duncan discusses his $100 billion education fund with The Post; Gary Locke appears at a presser today to discuss the importance of counting Latinos in next year's Census; Shaun Donovan meets with staffers of the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity today at 2 p.m. to mark the 41st anniversary of the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act.

In other news...

Storm Clouds Gather Over Obama Nominees: "No longer able simply to defend choices made by a fellow Republican, as they did under President George W. Bush, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have turned into vocal critics of many of President Obama’s legal nominees," reports Neil A. Lewis of the New York Times. "They complain that several are committed liberal ideologues, much in the way Democrats complained that Mr. Bush’s choices were committed conservative ideologues." Still, "they have been able to do little beyond briefly delaying confirmation. Now they are weighing whether to use the filibuster — a threat of extended debate, the tool many Republican senators regularly denounced when it was used by Democrats to block some Republican nominees."

Some Say New EEOC Headquarters Making Them Sick: The Post's Federal Diarist Joe Davidson reports today that some of the 500 employees and contractors who work at EEOC's 131 M St. NE headquarters "have complained of headaches, dizziness, coughing and respiratory problems. Basically, the office has gas -- formaldehyde." Hmm... sounds like The Post newsroom!

Asbestos at American History Museum: Health concerns continue down the street at the popular museum on the National Mall: "Members of a steamfitters union local said that in 2007, asbestos dust filled the air during renovation of the National Museum of American History because contractors repeatedly failed to take legally required precautions while removing insulation," reports The Post's James Grimaldi and Jacqueline Trescott.

Administration Debating Release of Interrogation Memos:

On Staff, On Deck, Moving On: The latest comings and goings of official Washington, in today's In the Loop column. Track the biographical information of Obama appointees with The Post's Head Count.

Acquisition Community Faces Strict Stimulus Reporting Rules: "All prime contractors going forward will have to submit detailed public reports to the government on the services they are providing and the jobs they are creating using Recovery Act funds," according to regulations published this week in the Federal Register, reports Gov Exec's Robert Brodsky.

Obama's Strict Lobbying Rules Decried: How often do you get the leaders of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the American League of Lobbyists to agree on something? When they agree that the Obama administration's restrictions on lobbyists' ability to meet with officials about stimulus funding will penalize those who play by the rules while doing nothing to curb the influence of large corporations and campaign donors, reports The Post's Dan Eggen.

Napolitano Pledges More Aid to the Gulf Coast: "Louisiana and Mississippi communities hard hit by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita could see hundreds of millions in government disaster loans forgiven under a regulation change" proposed by the DHS secretary, reports Gannett's Deborah Barfield Barry. "The regulation change would allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to forgive all or some of the $1.27 billion in loans approved by Congress since 2005 for 152 communities in Louisiana and Mississippi."

GSA’s $5.5 Billion Stimulus Plan: The FedBlog's Tim Kauffman writes that the agency says it will spread its money across the country, and every state should see at least one GSA-funded stimulus project.

Musicians Plea for Increased Arts Funding: Linda Ronstadt, Wynton Marsalis and Josh Grobin sing the NEA's praises on Capitol Hill, hoping for a budget increase to $200 million.

Addressing Economy's Mental Toll: The Eye reports on a new government Web page that raises warning flags for people suffering from stress or health concerns related to the economic crisis.

FDA: Production Error Probably Contaminated Pistachios: "Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella, the nation's second-largest processor of the nut, ran raw and roasted pistachios through the same machinery on several production lines," reports The Post's Lyndsey Layton.

By Ed O'Keefe  | April 1, 2009; 8:05 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Next: Census 2010: One Year Away

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