He scored a big win on the Hill this week, but does President Obama have what it takes on the hardwood? Basketball greats Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Steve Nash, Grant Hill and Chris Paul grade the president's game for CNN's John King.
Watch their analysis, and catch King's full interview with these NBA all-stars this Sunday on State of the Union, 9 am – 1 pm ET on CNN.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Senate will start its vote on whether to approve the economic stimulus bill at 5:30 pm, but the vote will kept open until 10:30 pm because Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown is home in Ohio attending his mother’s wake, and is not expected to return to the Capitol until late this evening.
Democrats need 60 votes to pass the bill, and Brown’s vote is expected to be the 60th.
Brown will be flown back to Washington on a government plane. The plane is provided by the White House, Brown’s office said, because the vote is “official business” and there are not commercial flights available that would allow him cast his vote and then return to Ohio for his mother’s funeral Saturday morning. He will fly back to Ohio immediately after he votes.
The vote that will start at 5:30 pm is technically a procedural vote to allow stimulus spending to exceed budget rules. But by unanimous consent, senators agreed to have the vote also count as the final passage of the bill, so there will not be a final roll call vote on the bill itself.
UPDATE: CNN Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry reports that a White House official refused to provide a cost estimate for the military plane, but acknowledged “it will be a higher cost than if he were flying commercial.”
The official said it is a “small government plane” and the White House decided it was necessary because of the lack of commercial flights this evening, and the difficulty of getting Brown back to Ohio in time for an early burial Saturday morning.
“Taking immediate action to save or create 3.5 million jobs and get America’s economy moving again is a top priority for Ohio and the nation,” said the White House official. “Given that no commercial flights were available that would allow Senator Brown to make the vote and to attend services memorializing his mother, the administration provided government transportation to ensure that he could do so.”
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) - Republican Norm Coleman was dealt a major legal blow Friday evening as the three judge panel overseeing the post-election trial issued an order that significantly limits which rejected absentee ballots may be reconsidered in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race election.
Counting improperly rejected absentee ballots to prevent what they say was voter disenfranchisement has been a pivotal theme of Coleman's case.
In their order, the judges said they are "confident that...there is no systemic problem of disenfranchisement in the state's election system, including in its absentee balloting procedures."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday that the Obama administration is prepared to seek a permanent, stable peace with North Korea (GETTY IMAGES)
NEW YORK (CNN) - Calling North Korea's nuclear program "the most acute challenge to stability in northeast Asia," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday that the Obama administration is prepared to seek a permanent, stable peace with North Korea as long as the North Korean regime pursues disarmament and does not engage in aggression against neighboring South Korea.
"If North Korea is genijnely prepared to completely and verifiably eliminate their nuclear weapons program, the Obama administraiton will be wiling to normalize bilateral relations, replace the pennsinula's longstanding armistatise agrements with a permanent peace treaty, and assist in meeting the energy and other ecnomic needs of the North Korean people," Clinton said in an address to the New York-based Asia Society before departing Sunday for Asia on her maiden overseas trip as secretary of state.
She is slated to travel to China, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia.
Clinton outlined a sweeping agenda of engagement with Asia, ranging from mutual economic recovery and trade to the prevention of nuclear weapons proliferation and reversing the trend of global warming.
Clinton said the United States wanted to move foward with the so-called Six Party Talks, working together with China, South Korea, Japan, Russia and North Korea to address North's nuclear program.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Four weeks into his administration, President Barack Obama is still searching for secretaries of Commerce and Health and Human Services.
But six out of 10 Americans think Obama is doing a good job choosing members of his Cabinet, according to a national poll. The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released this week suggests that 61 percent of those questioned give the president a thumbs-up when it comes to choosing his Cabinet, with 38 percent saying Obama is doing a poor job selecting the top officials in his administration.
While 61 percent is a solid majority, it's far lower than the 80 percent of respondents who say Obama is providing strong leadership for the country, the 76 percent who feel he's doing a good job handling foreign policy, the 72 percent who indicate Obama's doing a good job dealing with the economy and the 68 percent who give the President a thumbs-up when it comes to handling policies on terrorism.
It's also 15 points lower than the president's overall approval rating of 76 percent.
(CNN) - They’re on the same team, but the House and Senate Democratic campaign chiefs appear to be looking at different playing fields when it comes to the political environment their party will face in 2010.
A day after Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez predicted big Democratic gains in two years, his counterpart in the House said he doesn't expect the party will see a "third wave" and would be happy just to "hold the line."
“If you look at first midterm elections historically, the president’s party loses seats,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, said at a forum in Washington in remarks reported by Politico.
“The historical trend is pretty clear for Democrats,” he concluded.
The president's party has historically lost seats in a midterm election, especially when that party controls both houses of Congress and the White House. The Democratic Party’s decades-long majority status in Congress ended with the first midterm of the Clinton presidency.
But speaking to reporters Thursday, Menendez discounted that trend, and said he was targeting nine currently held GOP seats, and had an excellent shot at winning many of them given the fact several Republican senators are retiring.
But ultimately, Van Hollen predicted, the fortunes of the Democratic Party will depend on how the country's flagging economy performs over the next two years.
“The political challenge will be if the economy doesn’t turn the corner, and trying to explain that,” Van Hollen said.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - In a 246 to 183 vote largely along party lines, the House of Representatives on Friday passed a $787.2 billion economic recovery package that was drawn up, amended and negotiated in record time.
No Republicans voted for the bill, while seven Democrats voted against it. When the House voted on its own version of a stimulus bill a few weeks ago, no Republicans voted for that measure and 11 Democrats had also voted against it.
The Senate is expected to vote on the measure Friday evening. It, too, is expected to pass the bill, but with no more than three Republicans supporting it.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican Sen. Judd Gregg is putting a final exclamation point on his withdrawal as Barack Obama’s designee for Commerce Secretary with a promise to vote against the president’s economic stimulus package.
Gregg’s office confirmed the decision Friday.
The New Hampshire senator cited the stimulus package as a primary reason for backing out of the job offer, calling the bill and potential changes to Census oversight “irresolvable conflicts for me.”
“We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy,” Gregg said in a statement Thursday.
The House approved the stimulus plan Friday afternoon, and a Senate vote is expected later in the day. Two weeks ago, Gregg voted against the Senate version of the bill.
Part of President Obama’s appeal during the election was his call for a new era of transparency, of shaking up the way things are done in Washington.
But when you look at how his stimulus bill is moving through Congress, it sounds a whole lot like the way “old” Washington operated.
Late last night, the stimulus plan – all one-thousand seventy-one pages of it – was posted on a congressional web site. This gave lawmakers only a few hours to read it before voting. No one can read a thousand page document written by lawyers in just a few hours.
So the House passed the bill without having read it and the Senate is expected to do the same thing shortly. Almost $800 billion and nobody in Congress knows what’s in there. That ought to help you to sleep well tonight.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) - The House of Representatives on Friday approved the $787 billion economic stimulus bill by a vote of 246-183.
Seven Democrats joined a unified Republican caucus in opposing the measure. The Senate is expected to hold a final vote on the stimulus package Friday evening.
Two weeks ago, the House approved an earlier version of the plan 244-188, with 177 Republicans and 11 Democrats voting against the measure.