Eye Opener: The Cabinet's Midwest Road Trip
Happy Tuesday! Eight cabinet secretaries and senior administration officials are slated to make a combined twelve public appearances today in eight media markets in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio -- states with a combined 48 electoral votes. The stops are designed to remind Americans that the government is running on all cylinders (pardon the pun) as it works to help communities impacted by the auto industry's collapse.
The speeches, tours and roundtables will likely generate friendly local media coverage and once again demonstrate that President Obama's cabinet has emerged as a reliable cast of supporting actors and spokespeople for the president's policies.
A state-by-state breakdown:
By the numbers: 11 electoral votes, three media markets: Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Terre Haute.
The Details: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will dole out $4,390,000 for a waste and water project in Carthage, Ind. and grant New Castle, Ind. a direct operating loan worth $112,500. The three Congressional Districts surrounding Indianapolis (a major auto industry town) have received USDA single family direct and guaranteed loans totaling $41 million, according to Vilsack aides. Energy Secretary Steven Chu will spend his day in Fort Wayne, touring WaterFurnace International and speaking at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.
By the numbers: 17 electoral votes, one (big) media market: Detroit.
The Details: Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and auto recovery czar Dr. Ed Montgomery will tour the General Motors Romulus engine plant and attend a worker retraining roundtable at Eastern Michigan University. Later in the day, they travel to Perrysburg, Ohio to tour a Glasstech Inc. plant with Gov. Ted Strickland (D). The trio then speaks at a UAW office in Maumee.
Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli and Montgomery will visit Detroit for an appearance with the mayor and police chief to discuss public safety and federal economic stimulus dollars for local law enforcement. The message, according to aides: economic support for local and state law enforcement is key to stimulating the economy. Why? New businesses do not open and existing businesses shut down or reduce hours if the nearby streets are unsafe. Same goes for local home purchases and apartment rentals.
By the numbers: 20 electoral votes, four media markets: Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo.
Details: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will spend his day in the Cleveland area, first visiting Cuyahoga Valley National Park to promote visits to national parks and then speaking at the Cleveland City Club about the economic benefits of parks and conservation. Aides note that National Park visits generate $11 billion a year in revenue for local economies and help pay for more than 200,000 jobs. Hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching generate $1 billion each in retail sales in Ohio each year, according to Interior estimates.
A few hours away in Eaton and Lima, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Small Business Administrator Karen Mills will hold town hall meetings about how small business can use economic stimulus funds.
In other news...
• Other Cabinet and Staff News: Timothy Geithner tells China that dollar assets are safe. Robert Gates, in Manila, praises Pacific Rim countries for their anti-piracy efforts. Hillary Rodham Clinton, in El Salvador, applauds the inauguration of the nation's leftist president. DHS fills two key cybersecurity positions. Gen. McChrystal appears before the Senate Armed Services Commitee today.
• On Hill, a Flurry of Bills Aimed at Federal Workers: Yours truly reports today that Congress is returning to work today with a full plate of measures important to federal workers, including several that would expand the protections and benefits offered to current and former government employees.
• Administration Near a Financial Overhaul Plan: It will soon propose a comprehensive plan to expand the authority of the government to seize large troubled companies, create a new regulator for companies that pose risks to the financial system and possibly establish an agency to oversee consumer debt like mortgages and credit cards
• SEC Watchdog Investigating Staffers Over Disclosure: Inspector General H. David Kotz revealed Monday his office is investigating several employees, including one top SEC official, after receiving complaints alleging they improperly disclosed nonpublic information.
• DOJ Rejects Ga. Prevote Citizenship Checks: The department rejected the state's system of checking whether prospective voters are citizens, a process that became the subject of a federal lawsuit in the weeks leading up to November's election.
• IG: DOE Needs to be More Energy Efficient: Energy has not followed federal policies and internal guidelines for cutting the energy consumption of its computers, data centers and other information technology equipment, IG Gregory Friedman said.
• Panel to Review NASA’s Plan for Human Space Flight: The first American woman in space, a co-founder of a small aerospace company and a retired United States Air Force general are among the members of an independent panel that will review the plans.
• Drug Agency May Reveal More Data on Actions: FDA has withheld information about drugs and medical devices from the public when their makers cite trade secrecy. The new leadership may change that.
• DHS Reviews Contractor-Federal Employee Balance: As part of a broad review of its operations, the department will scrutinize large service contracts to ensure they do not include any inherently governmental work.
• Auditor Blasts VA for Poor IT Management and Oversight:: The department does not have the ability to manage and ensure effective oversight of its investments in information technology, which will total about $3.5 billion in fiscal 2010.
• Face Masks for TSA?: Maybe, if the House votes yes later this week.
• Unions React Positively to OPM Call for Pay Reform: "We feel very confident that [OPM Director] John Berry understands the value of the General Schedule pay system," said Beth Moten, legislative and political director for the American Federation of Government Employees.
• Possible TSP Changes Outlined: It looks like the Tobacco bill will come to the Senate floor this week, perhaps as early as tomorrow. The bill, which would provide the FDA with more control over tobacco products, also includes a lot of changes to the federal employee retirement plan.
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