(CNN) – One of the most intense guessing games of President Obama’s new administration is finally over: the choice of first dog.
First Lady Michelle Obama told People magazine that her family has decided to adopt a Portuguese water dog, pointing to the breed’s medium-sized and good-natured reputation. The breed is also hypoallergenic — a must, given daughter Malia’s allergy to dogs.
The first lady said her daughters will have to wait until the end of April to get the dog, since her family is planning on going away for Spring Break.
The only thing left to pick is the name, and Mrs. Obama said she is not a fan of her daughters’ choices.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - It was billed as a "coming out party" for one of the GOP's most promising young stars.
Gov. Bobby Jindal seemed "over-coached and over-rehearsed," CNN's Candy Crowley said.
But after nearly universal criticism was heaped on Gov. Bobby Jindal's high-profile response to President Obama's address to Congress Tuesday night, the Louisiana Republican may be wishing he had stayed home.
The criticisms came from all sides of the political spectrum, including from those in conservative circles who have promoted the 36-year-old governor as the GOP's most likely advocate to bring the party back from the brink of irrelevance.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Two White House officials tell CNN that the budget to be released Thursday will include a $634 billion health care “reserve fund” designed to help pay the costs of overhauling the health care system over the next ten years.
One of the officials says the administration sees health care as the biggest driver of and linchpin to fiscal health, and the fund is a down payment on the effort to reform health care. Money for the reserve fund would come from limiting tax breaks for the wealthy and tightening payments to insurers, hospitals and physicians.
In an interview Tuesday, OMB Director Peter Orszag told CNN he believes a massive overhaul of the health care system can be achieved this year and he said he believes it should be “universal coverage."
“We're going to try to avoid the mistakes of the past and not lay down a fully detailed plan, rather work costructively with Congress, “ Orszag said.
(Updated 7 p.m. with updated dollar figure)
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - The Obama administration unveiled plans aimed at assessing the health of the nation's leading lenders Wednesday, particularly banks' ability to withstand more dire economic conditions.
The so-called "stress test" program, which was first hinted at earlier this month when the White House rolled out its financial recovery plan, would require major banks like Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase to estimate firmwide losses for the next two years and their ability to absorb such losses.
The program would require financial institutions to offer loss projections across their entire loan and securities portfolios, using consensus economic expectations and a "more adverse" scenario in which unemployment climbs above 10% and home prices decline another 20%.
The hope is that the tests, which will focus on banks with at least $100 billion in assets, would help regulators identify which banks may require additional government support.
Regulators said they hope to complete their examinations as quickly as possible, but all determinations would be made no later than the end of April.
Shares of struggling financial giants, including Bank of America and Citigroup, remained lower following the news. Other large banks were also lower, including Wells Fargo, which declined 2%.
Many big banks have managed to eke out gains this week as top administration officials downplayed fears that the government may have to step in and take control of the country's largest financial institutions.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - At 40, Peter Orszag is the youngest member of the Obama Cabinet and one of People magazine's "hottest." These days he's also front and center of the president's key policy initiatives.
Orszag, director of the Office of Budget and Management, will present the White House's first budget blueprint on Thursday. It will include spending cuts and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, beginning the effort to halve the nation's deficit by the end of President Obama's first term.
In an interview in his White House office, Orszag told CNN, "We are not going to play the games that have been played in the past ... pretending that there will never be another hurricane, natural disaster... or assuming that a war can be ended instantaneously and there is no need to budget out your costs."
That means cuts to many departments. It's his job to inform Cabinet members about coming trims, which is why OMB directors sometimes have been called hatchet men.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The House of Representatives passed a $410 billion spending bill Wednesday to keep the federal government operating for the remainder of fiscal year 2009, which ends September 30.
The bill passed on a largely party-line 245-178 vote, with most Democrats voting in favor of it and most Republicans opposed. It now moves to the Senate for further consideration.
House GOP leaders said the bill's spending increases are too large. They criticized the addition of several billion dollars worth of earmarks designed to support pet projects in individual lawmakers' districts.
Democrats defended the size of the bill, saying it was necessary to help counter the economic downturn.
President Barack Obama is expected to unveil his fiscal year 2010 budget on Thursday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former GOP presidential nominee John McCain warned Wednesday that the U.S. is losing the war in Afghanistan.
The Arizona senator said that while he approved of President Barack Obama's recent decision to send 17,000 additional troops to the country, he believed an additional allied military and civilian surge would be necessary to prevent it from once again becoming an al-Qaeda safe haven.
The Obama administration is currently conducting a review of overall U.S. policy in the troubled Islamic republic.
"When you aren't winning in this kind of war, you are losing. And, in Afghanistan today, we are not winning," McCain said in remarks delivered at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based think tank.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden convened the first of what is expected to be a series of weekly stimulus plan implementation meetings Wednesday, saying it's critical to ensure that "the money that is spent is spent well."
The $787 billion package "is about creating and saving jobs now," Biden said. "We've got to make sure we hold as many people as possible accountable. (We need to) follow the money to make sure it's getting out there and is working."
Biden, who has been tasked with overseeing the distribution of stimulus funds, announced several fund disbursements, including $15 billion in Medicaid assistance and $10 billion to help make public housing more energy efficient.
Several Cabinet members attended the conference at the White House, including Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
CNN has learned that President Obama is expected to approve a proposal to withdraw most combat troops from Iraq within 19 months. (Photo Credit: Getty Images/File)
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama is expected to approve a proposal to withdraw most combat troops from Iraq within 19 months, several Pentagon officials told CNN Wednesday.
The decision will be announced at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on Friday, according to one senior administration official.
Although no decision has been officially announced at the White House, a Pentagon official told CNN "that's the way the wind is blowing" in reference to the 19-month option.
A White House spokesman said no final decisions about Iraq policy has been made by the president.
The Pentagon several weeks ago sent the president options for withdrawals at 16, 19, and 23 months.
The 16-month option was Obama's campaign pledge. But shortly after taking office, he asked Pentagon and military commanders for an analysis of additional options, and they submitted the two other timeframes in response.
It wasn’t an official State of the Union speech, but President Obama’s debut address to a joint meeting of Congress, and viewers across the country, drew the same kind of spotlight — and scrutiny — that generally accompanies that annual event. CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley and CNN's John Lisk discuss the speech, and the day-after reaction, in today’s CNN Radio Political Notebook.
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