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Eye Opener: May 11, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe

You know, it's been a whirlwind of activity these first hundred days. We've enacted a major economic recovery package, we passed a budget, we forged a new path in Iraq, and no President in history has ever named three Commerce Secretaries this quickly. Which reminds me, if Judd Gregg is here, your business cards are ready now.

- President Obama, Saturday night at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner

Eye Opener

Happy Monday! The Eye joined his colleagues at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner Saturday night here in Washington. A special congratulations to former Post colleague Mike Abramowitz for winning the Aldo Beckman Award and former intern Fan Bu, who received one of the scholarship awards from First Lady Michelle Obama. The Eye is especially proud of Fan, since you'll soon see some of her video work here in the blog.

President Obama launches his health care reform efforts today with a speech on reforming the system and reducing costs around 12:30 p.m. One of the aides helping lead his efforts is Nancy-Ann DeParle, who has met in recent weeks with doctors, nurses and small-business owners, as well as nearly 60 members of Congress, in order to keep potential opponents of the president's plans on board, reports Janet Adamy of the Wall Street Journal.

"The goal is to seek broad support for President Barack Obama's ambitious plans for a health-care overhaul -- or, at least, ensure that big players don't declare war on the Obama program."

More: "Ms. DeParle, recalling the criticism of Mr. Clinton's highly detailed plan that failed in Congress in 1993-94, said it is "much better to have the president lay out the principles." Meanwhile, she is working behind the scenes with lawmakers who are crafting the details, and she helped pull together the industry effort to reduce the rate of health-care spending growth.

"Ms. DeParle's style reflects significant experience in the private sector, a relative rarity in the upper ranks of the Obama administration. For the past two years, she was a managing director at CCMP Capital Advisors, a New York private-equity firm, where associates say she demonstrated a skill for building consensus on tricky issues."

Read much more on the ongoing Health Care debate in The Post's new Health Care special report page all about it.

Cabinet and Staff News: Hillary Clinton memorializes her Methodist youth minister. Ron Sims sworn in as HUD deputy secretary. The head of the Vatican's highest court rips Kathleen Sebelius. Jim Jones says no one's sure if Osama bin Laden is alive. Gary Locke going to China. Real life imitates art thanks to Reggie Love and Dule Hill. Louis Caldera resigns over the Air Force One Manhattan flyover.

Today's Big Events: Education Secretary Arne Duncan discusses Recovery Act aid at 9 a.m. at a Brookings Institution forum. More events here.

In other news...

Chances Bright for Legislation Seeking FDA Regulation of Tobacco: "This week, a Senate committee will take up its version of a bill that passed the House by a comfortable margin last month. Supporters say they have more than the 60 votes needed to make the legislation filibuster-proof when it reaches the Senate floor sometime after Memorial Day," reports The Post's Lyndsey Layton.

Administration Plans to Strengthen Antitrust Rules: "The new enforcement policy would reverse the Bush administration’s approach, which strongly favored defendants against antitrust claims. It would restore a policy that led to the landmark antitrust lawsuits against Microsoft and Intel in the 1990s," reports Stephen Labaton of the New York Times.

Astronauts Ready For Repair Trip to Battered Hubble: "This will be the fifth and final servicing mission to the telescope and, unquestionably, the trickiest," reports The Post's Joel Achenbach. "The servicing had originally been scheduled for 2004, but NASA canceled the mission after the Columbia disaster heightened concerns about shuttle astronauts' safety. With the Hubble doomed to expire in orbit as its gyros failed, schoolchildren across the country donated their lunch money to prod NASA to reconsider. In 2006, NASA decided to reinstate the mission."

Plan to Shift Military Spending Faces Skepticism: "But as Mr. Gates returned to Washington on Saturday for what will mostly likely be a lengthy, detailed and often hostile series of Congressional budget hearings this week, opponents of his risk assessment are attacking the spending plan as rendering America unprepared for traditional war," reports Thom Shanker of the New York Times.

Military Recruiting Faces a Budget Cut: "The proposed budget would reverse years of increased spending aimed at bolstering military forces strained by six years of combat in Iraq and nearly eight in Afghanistan. From 2004 to 2008, annual funding for recruiting and retention programs more than doubled, from $3.4 billion to $7.7 billion," reports The Post's Steve Vogel.

No Peace at the Corps: "The Obama budget is giving Peace Corps devotees major agita. Despite Obama's past boosterism, it appears that the agency's proposed budget is up only 10 percent next year and that the number of volunteers is projected to rise by 20 percent, to 9,000, by 2012. It peaks at 11,000 by the end of 2016, short of the doubling Obama talked about by 2012," reports The Post's Al Kamen.

Obama Adviser Sees Unemployment Rising Until 2010: "Speaking on C-SPAN, Christina Romer, chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said that she expected the economy to begin growing in the fourth quarter of this year. Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, made a similar prediction last week," the NYT's Joshua Brustein reports.

Obama's Missing Adviser: Former Post reporter Kirstin Downey wrote Sunday that the president needs a Frances Perkins, the FDR-era "common sense" economic adviser: "Many of Obama's economic advisers hail from elite academic or policy circles, as did that first core around Roosevelt. However talented, they seem more attentive to institutional needs than human ones and lack the common sense that Frances Perkins brought to FDR."

Why Was Public Locked Out of Census Meeting?: The Denver Post editorial board sharply criticizes the Census Bureau and Commerce Department for shutting the public out of a recent Census meeting in Denver.

From Guantanamo to Alexandria: Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) writes about the possibility of the Justice Department relocating Guantanamo Bay terror detainees to Alexandria, Va., a city he represents: "Let there be no mistake: I'm not advocating for this burden. If there are more suitable locations in which to try the detainees, it would be a relief to all in this area. But should President Obama determine that Alexandria needs to play a reasonably limited role in a nationwide effort to bring justice to the Guantanamo detainees and close this unfortunate chapter of American history, I am confident that Alexandrians will stand strong as they always have."

Hill Panel Reviewing CIA Tactics: "To assess whether interrogators complied with the department's guidance, Senate intelligence committee investigators are interviewing those involved, examining hundreds of CIA e-mails and reviewing a classified 2005 study by the agency's lawyers of dozens of interrogation videotapes," reports The Post's R. Jeffrey Smith. "Officials familiar with the Justice Department's inquiries into policymaking on detainees during the Bush administration said Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has not ruled out conducting a similar investigation."

Administration Renews Effort to Dispose of Excess Property: "Tucked into the appendix of President Barack Obama's fiscal 2010 budget proposal is a provision that would require agencies to begin disposing of excess federal property that the government no longer wants and allow them to reinvest all sales profits into other real estate," reports Gov Exec's Robert Brodsky. "Agencies own 65,594 properties that are underused or not in use, according to data released by Coburn's office. The estimated value of those properties is $83.8 billion, with an annual operating cost of $1.6 billion."

Berry Isn't Waiting on Congress to Begin Hiring Reforms: "The head of the Office of Personnel Management on Thursday told senators he supports a bill introduced in late March to improve government hiring practices, and believes most of its provisions could be implemented as administrative policy if Congress fails to act," reports Gov Exec's Alex M. Parker.

Is Your Office Building SIck?: Share your stories in Joe Davidson's Federal Career Talk.

10 Things You Didn't Know About the CDC: U.S. News lists some good-to-know facts on the agency helping fight swine flu.

By Ed O'Keefe  | May 11, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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