- The Washington Times - Monday, March 9, 2009

WHITE HOUSE

Obama marks Women’s Day

President Obama marked International Women’s Day on Sunday, calling for the “full and active participation” of women.

“Women are vital to the solutions” to global challenges such as climate change, poverty and conflict, Mr. Obama said.

“We will not sow the seeds for a brighter future or reap the benefits of the change we need without the full and active participation of women around the world.



“The United States stands with people around the globe to reaffirm our commitment to the equality, freedom, achievements and advancement of women,” he added.

BIRTHDAY

Obama leads salute to Kennedy

President Obama led a Kennedy Center crowd in a performance of “Happy Birthday” Sunday night, capping a star-studded musical birthday tribute to ailing Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

The Massachusetts Democrat was honored, albeit belatedly, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts at an event hosted by comedian Bill Cosby. Actresses Lauren Bacall and Bernadette Peters, singer James Taylor and conductor John Williams were among those who performed.

Toward the end of the gala, Mr. Cosby introduced Mr. Obama to loud applause from the performers and the audience. The president strode to the center of the stage and then conducted the performers in the birthday tune. Mr. Kennedy stood and delivered a thumbs-up from his balcony, where he was accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama.

The president later met Mr. Kennedy, who turned 77 on Feb. 22, in his box as the performers sang “The Best Is Yet to Come.”

Caroline Kennedy presented her uncle with her family’s Profile in Courage Award, paying tribute to his efforts to reform the U.S. health care system. When reform becomes a reality, Ms. Kennedy said: “We will all have you to thank. … We love you, Uncle Teddy.”

Referring to her short-lived attempt to seek former New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Senate seat, Ms. Kennedy joked, “I never thought I’d be in a room with so many senators.”

The audience included Massachusetts’ other senator, Democrat John Kerry, as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Mr. Kennedy is battling brain cancer.

WHITE HOUSE

Task force set to drive GM’s Volt

DETROIT | Members of the Obama administration’s autos task force will test-drive the Chevrolet Volt rechargeable electric car and tour a Chrysler LLC pickup-truck factory when they visit the Detroit area Monday, an administration official said Sunday.

Task force members, led by Wall Street financier Steven Rattner and Steelworkers union official Ron Bloom, also will meet with United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger and other top union officials, and they will sit down with senior General Motors Corp. and Chrysler executives, said the official, who asked not to be identified because the schedule has not been made public.

GM and Chrysler are living on $17.4 billion in government loans approved by the Bush administration last year, and they have asked for a total of $39 billion. President Obama appointed the task force to review the automakers’ viability plans and decide whether they should get additional aid.

Task force members apparently will begin the day with a tour of GM’s sprawling tech center in suburban Warren, Mich., followed by a tour of Chrysler’s nearby Warren Truck plant, where the new Dodge Ram pickup is put together. The tech center houses GM’s U.S. design and engineering operations, as well as a special facility for the Volt.

The Volt, a battery-powered plug-in electric vehicle, is being tested at the tech center, where GM has a studio dedicated to developing what the company is betting will be the car of the future.

AUTOMAKERS

Boehner resists more auto bailouts

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner said Sunday he doesn’t support handing over more federal money to keep General Motors Corp. afloat unless the automaker develops a viable and long-term business model and can pay back government loans.

“Anything short of that is just throwing good money after bad,” the Ohio Republican said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

As part of the deal that provided $17.4 billion in federal aid to GM and Chrysler LLC, the companies must seek changes in their contracts with the United Auto Workers by March 31. The car companies, which have asked for an additional $21.6 billion in federal money, must bring their labor costs in line with those of foreign competitors’ plants in the U.S.

Although Ford Motor Co. has not sought federal assistance, it has reached an agreement with the UAW to freeze wages and make other concessions. Union members were expected to finish voting on the proposed agreement on Monday.

While Mr. Boehner said he hopes that GM will not have to turn to bankruptcy, Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, appearing on other talk shows Sunday, said they want the automaker to seek bankruptcy protection, which would allow for reorganization.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE

Senators try again on electronic filing

A group of Democratic and Republican senators are trying for the fourth time to make it easier for the public to know who is pouring money into U.S. Senate campaigns in the final months before an election.

In every congressional session since 2003, Sens. Russ Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, and Thad Cochran, Mississippi Republican, have unsuccessfully pushed legislation that would force Senate candidates to file campaign-finance reports electronically rather than on paper.

Electronic filings can be easily searched online within a day or two of filing at the end of a campaign, while paper reports can take three months to become public, leaving observers in the dark until long after Election Day.

Candidates for the White House and the U.S. House must file online, and Mr. Feingold and Mr. Cochran have found 24 co-sponsors for their latest effort.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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