- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 13, 2010

SENATE

Financial overhaul vote set Thursday

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is planning a final vote Thursday morning on a sweeping overhaul of financial regulations. Passage in the Senate would send the bill to President Obama for his signature.

Mr. Reid announced the timing Tuesday after votes to ensure its passage fell into place. At least three Republicans, 55 Democrats and two independents are expected to support the bill. That would provide the 60 votes needed to overcome Republican procedural hurdles.

The legislation is one of Obama’s top legislative initiatives. Democrats and the White House had hoped for passage before July 4, but met with concerns from some key senators.

By Tuesday, the 60th vote appeared to lock in when conservative Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat, announced his support for the bill.

SENATE

Hearing set for intelligence pick

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Tuesday scheduled a confirmation hearing for President Obama’s nominee for national intelligence director, a sign of a shift in a standoff between congressional Democrats and the White House.

Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, set a hearing for July 20 for James T. Clapper. The session would be held more than six weeks after Mr. Obama said he hoped for a speedy confirmation.

Mrs. Feinstein had refused to hold the hearing until House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, allowed last year’s intelligence bill to proceed. The measure has passed the Senate, but Mrs. Pelosi is in talks with the Obama administration to make it stronger in its oversight authority.

NEW YORK

U.S. trial allowed for Gitmo detainee

NEW YORK | The first Guantanamo Bay detainee to be prosecuted in a civilian court was cleared for trial Tuesday by a judge who said a two-year interrogation and five-year detention were not grounds for dismissal because they served compelling national security interests.

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was interrogated by the CIA for important intelligence information, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan wrote in a decision that rejected defense requests to toss out the indictment on the grounds that Mr. Ghailani was denied a speedy trial.

Mr. Ghailani is charged in the August 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa that resulted in the deaths of 224 people, including 12 Americans. His trial is set for Sept. 27.

FINANCE

Bailout watchdog to audit program

The special inspector general for the financial bailout will examine how 10 states were selected for an Obama administration plan to provide $2.1 billion in assistance to areas hit by the housing market collapse.

A letter obtained by the Associated Press indicates bailout watchdog Neil Barofsky is undertaking the audit in response to a request by Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican.

The Treasury Department has been running the government’s “Hardest-Hit” fund, which is stocked with financial rescue money.

Mr. Barofsky also plans to examine whether state-designed programs that are receiving assistance differ from existing government efforts, the letter indicates. He also plans to examine whether Treasury has established ways to prevent waste and fraud and whether the government has established goals and measurements for the programs.

WHITE HOUSE

Electric cars move to fast track

The White House plans to promote its work to develop electric cars this week, dispatching administration officials across the nation to discuss advanced batteries and new vehicles powered by electricity.

President Obama will travel to Holland, Mich., on Thursday for the groundbreaking of a Compact Power Inc. factory, which received $151 million from a federal stimulus program to open the $303 million plant. The factory is expected to manufacture lithium ion cells and employ about 450 people by 2013.

Pushing clean energy, Mr. Obama has vowed to bring 1 million plug-in hybrid vehicles to U.S. highways by 2015, and his administration has set aside billions of stimulus dollars to bolster U.S. battery manufacturers. The funding is aimed at creating a battery industry in the U.S. that can compete with Asian manufacturers and help the U.S. reduce its dependence on imported oil.

The administration will hold several events this week to emphasize new high-tech jobs spurred by electric vehicles, said a White House official.

WHITE HOUSE

First lady talks health, not weight

First lady Michelle Obama says she tries to talk about health - not weight - with her daughters.

Mrs. Obama, who launched a public awareness campaign against childhood obesity, says too much talk about weight and body size can lead to eating disorders. She says she is particularly sensitive to that because of her daughters, 12-year-old Malia and 9-year-old Sasha.

Instead of talking about weight, the first lady says, she talks to them about eating right, what that looks like and why it’s important.

Mrs. Obama discussed her anti-obesity campaign during a Web chat Tuesday with AOL Health. Her comments were in response to a question from a North Carolina woman who sought advice for helping overweight children.

LABOR

Job openings drop as layoffs rise

Job openings dropped in May from the previous month and layoffs edged up, fresh evidence that employers are reluctant to add workers.

The Labor Department says job openings fell from 3.3 million to 3.2 million in April. The dip follows two months of increasing openings, driven partly by temporary government hiring for the 2010 census.

April’s upwardly revised figure was the highest in 18 months, as private job openings also rose.

May’s total is 37 percent above the low point of 2.3 million openings in July 2009. But it’s still far below pre-recession levels of about 4.5 million openings per month.

Layoffs increased to 1.9 million, but remain at pre-recession levels. The department says layoffs rose to a peak of 2.6 million in January 2009.

ARIZONA

Governor’s rival suspends campaign

PHOENIX | The last main rival to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer suspended his campaign Tuesday, likely clearing the way for a Republican primary win for the incumbent whose popularity has risen sharply after her signing of the state’s tough new illegal immigration law.

The campaign manager for Buz Mills said he is halting his campaigning because the race is now focused on immigration and border security, not the jobs and budget issues that prompted Mr. Mills, a businessman, to run.

State Treasurer Dean Martin also suspended his candidacy for governor Friday.

The primary is set for Aug. 24.