(CNN) - Senate Democrats have dropped two controversial spending programs in the Senate economic stimulus bill: $75 million dollars for anti-smoking programs, and $400 million for STD and HIV prevention.
Two Democratic leadership sources tell CNN they did it as a “symbolic gesture” to show Republicans they are listening to their objections.
But one of the Democratic sources also admitted that “it’s hard to explain when you’re in the midst of a crisis, why these programs are important. When people are struggling and thinking about their jobs, it’s hard to make that connection.”
Republicans, and even some Democrats, have been pointing to both of these items as prime examples of “excess spending” that doesn’t belong in this stimulus bill.
But there are, of course, many other programs that Republican senators, and even some conservative Democrats still want to scrub from the bill.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/02/art.palin1.gi.jpg caption="Newt Gingrich says Palin has the head start in Iowa."](CNN) - It's impossible to know how the Republican presidential field will stack up three years from now, yet former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says one candidate in particular may have a big head start.
Speaking at an event Monday sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, Gingrich said Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's continued popularity among the GOP's base would give the former vice presidential candidate an instant boost in Iowa - the state whose caucuses, dominated by rank-and-file conservatives, kick off the primary season.
"Palin starts in Iowa with a substantial base," said Gingrich, who also noted how important the Iowa caucuses have proven to be in presidential campaigns.
He said Palin is "very formidable," and suggested the Alaska governor spend time developing "fairly sophisticated positions" on a range of issues.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/02/art.getty.palin.campaign.jpg caption="Gov. Sarah Palin advocated for responsible petroleum development while on the Republican presidential ticket with Arizona Sen. John McCain."](CNN) - Drill, baby, drill. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin continues her push for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, arguing against legislation barring oil development in the federally protected region.
“I am dismayed that legislation has again been introduced in Congress to prohibit forever oil and gas development in the most promising unexplored petroleum province in North America,” the Alaska governor wrote in an op-ed published in Monday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The former Republican vice presidential candidate publicly championed the exploitation of domestic energy supply in Alaska’s northern coastal plains during her 2006 gubernatorial campaign, when she promised to “get ANWR open.” Palin continued advocating for responsible petroleum development while on the Republican presidential ticket with Arizona Sen. John McCain.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/02/art.greggpt0202.gi.jpg caption="New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, center, is Pres. Obama's likely pick for Commerce Secretary."]
(CNN) – It looks like Democrats may not reach 60 votes in the Senate after all.
In a statement released Monday, New Hampshire’s Democratic Governor John Lynch all but promised to replace Republican Judd Gregg with another Republican in the very likely event that President Obama names the New Hampshire senator to lead the Commerce Department.
“I have had conversations with Senator Gregg, the White House and U.S. Senate leadership,” Lynch said in the statement published on his official Web site. “Senator Gregg has said he would not resign his seat in the U.S. Senate if it changed the balance in the Senate. Based on my discussions, it is clear the White House and Senate leadership understand this as well.
“It is important that President Obama be able to select the advisors he feels are necessary to help him address the challenges facing our nation,” Lynch also said Monday.
In recent days, Gregg has risen to the top of the list of likely picks for Commerce Secretary, a cabinet post that has remained open since New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew himself from consideration.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/02/art.martinez.gi.jpg caption="Sen. Mel Martinez put together an alternative stimulus measure."](CNN) - Republican senators have unveiled a $713 billion alternative stimulus measure put together by GOP Sen. Mel Martinez.
The measure, obtained by CNN, narrows government spending to infrastructure programs and helping unemployed Americans, addresses the housing crisis, and relies mostly on tax cuts.
Read the measure [PDF]
It remains unclear how many Republican senators have signed onto the measure, but it is a broader approach than the GOP leadership has called for. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated he wants to limit the stimulus to tax cuts and addressing the housing crisis
But the measure is narrower in scope than the Democratic plan because it eliminates spending on many of the government programs that many Republicans, and some Democrats, believe should not be in the stimulus package.
The broad breakdown:
$430 billion dollars on tax cuts.
$114 billion for infrastructure projects.
$138 billion for extending unemployment insurance, food stamps and other provisions to help “Americans in need.”
$31 billion to address the housing crisis ($11 billion for a loan modification program, $20.4 billion in tax incentives for home purchases, $50 million to temporarily increase loan limits for Freddie, Fannie and FHA)
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/02/art.getty.obama.jim.douglas.jpg caption="President Obama met with Gov. Douglas Monday to talk about the American recovery and reinvestment plan."](CNN) - President Barack Obama and a Republican governor pushed for stimulus legislation at the White House this morning, as the president continued his push to attract GOP support.
Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, vice chairman of the National Governors Association, told reporters that governors are looking to the federal government for assistance to "stimulate the economy, create jobs, to help us balance our budgets and preserve essential programs for the American people - and avoid the need to raise taxes at the state level."
The nearly $900 billion dollar bill passed the House last week without a single Republican vote. It is now in the hands of the Senate, and has faced bipartisan criticism from fiscal conservatives who say there are too many spending programs and not enough tax cuts for small businesses.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/02/art.webb.gi.jpg caption="'Every interested American knows that there was rampant fraud, waste, and abuse following the invasion of Iraq,' Sen. Jim Webb, D-Virginia, said."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Citing the need to restore public trust in an inefficient and allegedly corrupt military procurement process, a new government commission Monday officially began hearings to account for billions of taxpayer dollars misspent in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Every interested American knows that there was rampant fraud, waste, and abuse following the invasion of Iraq," Sen. Jim Webb, D-Virginia, said at the opening hearing of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"They all know it, and they want us to demonstrate that we're willing to do something about it not simply in terms of process but in terms of accountability."
The seven-member commission begins its work as the U.S. military prepares to cut troop levels in Iraq, but strengthen its presence in Afghanistan, where Taliban and al-Qaeda elements have made gains in recent years.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/02/art.getty.ledbetter.obama.jpg caption="President Obama hands a pen used to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to Ledbetter, second from left."](CNNMoney.com) - The issue of compensating your employees just got a bit trickier.
President Barack Obama's first bill, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act he signed into law on Thursday, loosens the statute of limitations under which workers can sue employers for pay discrimination based on characteristics such as gender, race, age or disability.
To ward off discrimination suits, companies will need to meticulously document pay decisions and retain detailed employment records, legal experts say. In this, small companies may be at a disadvantage – few have access to the attorneys and human-resources professionals that will help larger businesses comply with the newly expanded law.
"This will affect [small companies'] legal and compliance costs... and potentially make them reluctant to hire additional employees," said Elizabeth Milito, senior executive counsel of the National Federation of Independent Business. "There's also the potential for one lawsuit that goes south to put a small business out of business."
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/02/art.getty.max.baucus.jpg caption="Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus released his first public statement on Tom Daschle’s nomination Monday."](CNN) - Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus released his first public statement on Tom Daschle’s nomination Monday, laying out his panel’s plan to investigate questions swirling around the embattled Health and Human Services nominee.
“The ability to advance meaningful health reform is my top priority in confirming a Secretary of Health and Human Services, and I remain convinced that Senator Daschle would be an invaluable and expert partner in this effort,” said the Montana senator in a statement. “I am eager to move forward together.”
Daschle sent Baucus and ranking Republican Chuck Grassley a letter earlier Monday saying that he is “deeply embarrassed” for a series of errors which include failing to report $15,000 in charitable donations, unreported car service and more than $80,000 in unreported income from consulting. The former Senate Majority Leader recently filed amended tax returns, and paid more than $140,000 in back taxes and interest for 2005-2007.
Baucus said the Finance Committee, which is responsible for moving Daschle’s nomination to the full Senate, will release the final version of a statement on the nominee’s “vetting issues” as soon as remaining issues in the draft version are resolved. Sens. John Kerry and Patrick Leahy have spoken out on Daschle’s behalf.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/02/art.getty.obama.supporters.jpg caption="The president is asking supporters to host gatherings next weekend to push for his economic stimulus plan."](CNN) - President Obama sent a message to supporters Monday personally calling them action behind his agenda for the first time since his inauguration.
The president’s message was sent by Organizing for America — the former campaign apparatus that is now a two-week-old arm of the Democratic National Committee — to anyone who was involved with an Obama house party during the campaign season.
The president is asking them to host similar gatherings next weekend to push for his economic stimulus plan. That package, which passed the House last week without Republican support, is currently being considered by the Senate.
“I hope to sign the recovery plan into law in the next few weeks,” said Obama in the e-mail. “But I need your help to spread the word and build support. … You can help restore confidence in our economy by making sure your friends, family, and neighbors understand how the recovery plan will impact your community.”