(CNN) –- A major obstacle in Hillary Clinton’s path to becoming President-elect Barack Obama’s secretary of state may be out of the way, as former President Bill Clinton has made several concessions to help move his wife’s vetting process along.
A source familiar with the discussions between Sen. Clinton and the president-elect confirms to CNN that the former president will release the names of several major donors to the Clinton Foundation as well as submitting future foundation activities and paid speeches to a strict ethics review.
In addition, the former president is offering to step down from his day-to-day responsibilities at the foundation and inform the State Department of his speaking schedule and any new sources of income.
President Clinton’s international and financial dealings with his foundation and presidential library have been a sticking point with an Obama camp worried that Sen. Clinton’s position in the cabinet could create a potential conflict of interest as the country’s top diplomat.
CHICAGO (CNN) - Three sources close to the transition and in a position to know tell CNN that former Sen. Tom Daschle is President-elect Barack Obama's choice to be Secretary of Health and Human Services and the former Senate Majority Leader has indicated he wants the job.
Most significantly, Daschle negotiated that he will also serve as the White House health "czar" - or point person - so that he will report directly to the incoming President. The significance is this guarantees that by wearing two hats Daschle, and not White House staffers, will be writing the health care plan that Obama submits to Congress next year.
The sources said the precise timing of the announcement has not been worked out, but Daschle is likely to officially join the Obama transition team as the lead adviser on health issues in the next few weeks. An Obama transition official had no comment.
Daschle is billed as a "special public policy advisor" in the Washington office of the lobbying firm Alston Bird, though he is technically not a federally registered lobbyist. But his wife, Linda Daschle, is a registered lobbyist at the powerful firm Baker Donelson, which does have some health clients.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Just when we thought it would be hard to tell the faceless bureaucrats in the Obama transition office from other the 24,000 faceless bureaucrats who already work in this building, the Pentagon Pass office made it simple.
The new arrivals have been issued “Purple” badges, which make then stick out like a sore thumb.
Most pentagon badges are white. Contractors get pink.
And the press badges are blue.
Perhaps that will help the purple badge people know to shut up when they see someone with a blue badge.
The transition team –we’ve been told - is under strict order not to talk to news reporters.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Sen. Ted Stevens turned 85-years-old Tuesday, but his slice of birthday cake was served with a side of bitter. The one-time powerful lawmaker lost re-election to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.
He now heads home to Alaska, and quite possibly prison. Stevens was convicted last month on seven federal corruption charges for filing false statements on his Senate ethics forms.
It has been a hard fall for the one time chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Stevens was once one of the most influential lawmakers on Capitol Hill, if not in the nation’s capital. As oil poured south from the Alaska pipeline – “Uncle Ted” as he is affectionately known in his adopted home state – made sure federal dollars flowed north. His diligence in sending what some critics describe as pork dollars helped to build the infrastructure of modern-day Alaska, which won statehood in 1959.
On Tuesday, Stevens expressed his frustration to reporters including my colleague Ted Barrett about the toll this ordeal has taken on him.
“I wouldn’t wish what I’m going through on anyone, my worst enemy,” Stevens told reporters in the Capitol. He went on to complain that he has not “had a night’s sleep in almost four months.”
And it has been a lonely four months for the veteran senator, who saw his Republican colleagues distance themselves from him. This did change Wednesday morning as National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Ensign opened his political briefing by stating that Democrats would have at least 58 seats in the new Congress.
Now, Democrats are just two seats away from a filibuster-proof majority with unresolved races in Georgia and Minnesota determining what will happen.
It was a bittersweet loss for Ensign. Stevens’ troubles added to a long list of Republican ethical woes in the past few years that have helped tarnish the GOP brand. But had Stevens won, Ensign predicted the Alaska senator would have been expelled by his Senate colleagues thus creating a special election. Under this scenario, Ensign predicted that Republicans would have held onto the seat and limiting Democratic gains by at least one.
As of early Wednesday afternoon, Stevens had not conceded the race and Ensign said that he would leave that up to him. But as far as Senate Republicans are concerned they have moved on and now are solely focused on winning Georgia and Minnesota – two contests critical to helping the GOP stage a strong defense against Democratic policies and President-elect Barack Obama’s agenda.
What will happen to Stevens is still unknown. He has yet to be sentenced and his fate now lies in the hands of outgoing President George Bush - who could pardon the one-time Capitol Hill titan and spare him prison time.
Watch Wednesday's episode of CNN=Politics Daily, The Best Political Podcast from The Best Political Team.
(CNN) – A top enemy of the United States has weighed in on the next president.
In the latest episode of CNN=Politics Daily, Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr reports on a message that surfaced Wednesday that is purportedly from Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s second-in-command. The message insults President-elect Barack Obama using a derogatory term for African-Americans.
White House Correspondent Ed Henry reports from Chicago with the latest on the reaction from the Obama camp.
State Department Correspondent Zain Verjee also takes a look at how former President Bill Clinton’s business deals, speaking engagements, and views on foreign policy issues might impact his wife’s diplomatic work should she ultimately be named the next secretary of state.
Finally, watch Chief National Correspondent John King and several other familiar faces from CNN as they take part in The Daily Show’s spoof of CNN’s Magic Wall.
Click here to subscribe to CNN=Politics Daily.
(CNN) - House Republicans reelected Rep. John Boehner of Ohio as their party's leader in the chamber Wednesday, winning a second term over challenger and California Rep. Dan Lungren.
House Republicans also voted Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor for the No. 2 leadership post, House minority whip, and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence for the No. 3 slot, chairman of the Republican conference. They are succeeding Reps. Roy Blunt and Adam Putnam who voluntarily stepped down from the posts.
Watch Romney on CNN's American Morning
(CNN) - Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the son of a former auto executive with deep ties to Detroit, told CNN Wednesday the U.S. government should not bailout the country's big three automakers.
"The U.S. auto industry right now is uncompetitive. It has high labor cost, health care costs and legacy costs, retiree costs. Enormous burdens for idle workers. Real estate costs. Massive burdens that make it uncompetitive and to pay it to stay in business would mean down the road more and more loss of market share," said Romney, who as a presidential candidate pledged to save auto jobs in Detroit - comments that may have helped propel him to victory in that state's primary.
"What needs to be done before there's any help to support these companies is to get them structured properly so they can be competitive and viable," Romney also said. "We won't let these companies go away. We won't have the industry disappear. We want to make sure to take advantage of the opportunity right now to get them restructured properly so they can be viable long term."
Romney's comments echo a New York Times op-ed he wrote for the paper's Wednesday edition, titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."
In the op-ed, Romney says U.S. car-makers must negotiate new labor agreements to match the lower wages and benefits of foreign competitors. He also advocates recruiting new management from unrelated companies and investing in innovative technologies.
"The best way to save jobs in the Detroit auto industry and to grow jobs is to get these companies to the proper scale so they will be able to be competitive long term, creating more jobs and build a highly competitive U.S. Auto industry," Romney told CNN Wednesday morning.
Romney's father, George Romney, is credited with turning around the American Motor Company in the 1950's.
ABOARD THE CNN EXPRESS
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CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN)– As Barack Obama marks time here and frets about the sinking economy before his move to the White House, he faces a peculiar and striking dilemma on the financial front:
The one segment of American business that is booming is the Barack Obama business.
Everything with his face or his name on it is flying off retail shelves. But he can’t take advantage of it– a president is not permitted to profit personally from the sale of his own image.
Yet a case can be made that, were Obama to take his name and likeness and sign their licensing rights over to U.S. industries that are in deep trouble, he might be able to save those corporations.
A joke, of course.
(CNN) – Jim Martin gets some major league help today in his runoff election battle against freshman Republican senator from Georgia, Saxby Chambliss. And the surrogate stumping with Martin today is Bill Clinton - about as big a name as you can get.
The former President will join Martin, a former Democratic Georgia state lawmaker, at a campaign event in Atlanta.
Martin and Chambliss face off in the runoff election on December 2 for the U.S. Senate seat Chambliss won six years ago. Chambliss won a plurality of the vote two weeks ago on Election Day, but Georgia state law calls for the winner to grab 50 percent plus one vote. Due to the inclusion of a third party candidate, Chambliss fell just shy of that threshold, forcing a runoff contest.
Former President Clinton is the first big name Democrat to campaign in person with Martin, although President-elect Obama has sent resources and workers from his presidential campaign to Georgia to help out. Clinton carried Georgia in 1992 in his first presidential election victory. He won re-election as President in 1996 but lost Georgia that year.
Watch John Oliver take on John King's magic map.
(CNN) - Daily Show correspondent John Oliver discovered the true power of John King's magic map in a segment on the show Tuesday night.