- The Washington Times - Monday, May 18, 2009

ECONOMY

OMB chief says the worst is over

The worst of the recession seems to be over, President Obama’s budget director said Sunday. But he also warned against taking signs of economic recovery as a reason to celebrate or delay changes in health care policy.

Peter R. Orszag said the nation’s economy appears to have bottomed out, even as the White House prepared to revise its budget projections to reflect higher-than-expected unemployment. He said an improving economy and changes to how the United States provides health care would help narrow federal deficits.

“I think what happened is the freefall in the economy seems to have stopped and we’re - I guess the analogy [is] there are some glimmers of sun shining through the trees, but we’re not out of the woods yet,” said Mr. Orszag, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We do have more work ahead.”



INTERVIEW

Steele smiles at Obama joke

In a light moment Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele said he appreciated President Obama’s “shout-out” to him at the White House Correspondents Dinner the previous weekend.

Moderator David Gregory showed a video clip of Mr. Obama having some fun with Mr. Steele, saying “Michael Steele is in the house tonight. Or as he would say, ‘in the hizzy.’ What’s up?”

Mr. Obama added: “Michael, for the last time, the Republican Party does not qualify for a bailout. Rush Limbaugh does not count as a troubled asset, I’m sorry.”

Asked by Mr. Gregory whether he thought Mr. Obama was mocking Mr. Steele’s attempt to have a hip outreach to minorities, Mr. Steele said, “No, that was just good love between two brothers.”

Added Mr. Steele: “And I really appreciate the president throwing me a shout-out. It took me totally by surprise. And so this morning I just want to say: ‘What’s up?’ right back at you.”

KENTUCKY

McConnell mum on Bunning campaign

LOUISVILLE, Ky. | Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell still won’t say if he’ll endorse his fellow Republican senator from Kentucky, whose seat is considered to be the most vulnerable for the Republican in 2010.

“Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace brought up the 2010 race, in which 77-year-old Sen. Jim Bunning is seeking a third term. He has gotten a cool reception from top Republicans and is having difficulty raising money.

Mr. McConnell would say only that it is not clear who the players are going to be in the race and that the contest is still unfolding.

Bunning spokesman Mike Reynard said Sunday that the senator was not immediately available for comment.

There are already two possible Republican rivals for the seat who have formed exploratory committees, as well as two Democrats.

STIMULUS

10,000 dead to receive $250

The Social Security Administration expects to send $250 economic stimulus checks to about 10,000 dead people.

The agency said it faced such a tight deadline that there wasn’t enough time to make sure their records were accurate. The checks were part of the stimulus plan hastily cobbled together earlier this year as the economy tanked.

Social Security notes that the 10,000 errant checks are a minuscule fraction of the 50 million sent out to beat a mid-June deadline.

TRANSPORTATION

Air travel expected to fall 7 percent

The bad economy will translate into 7 percent fewer air travelers - about 14 million less than last year - in the skies this summer on U.S. carriers, the Air Transport Association of America says.

Despite the recession dip, the industry warns that with fewer planes flying under the reduced demand, many aircraft will still be packed and the potential for air-traffic, equipment and summer-weather delays remains as high as in past seasons.

PUBLIC SAFETY

Seat-belt use reaches 83 percent

Seat-belt use last year is estimated to have reached a national rate of 83 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is launching its annual “Click It or Ticket” crackdown Monday. More than 10,000 police agencies will be on the road, looking for seat-belt scofflaws.

The agency estimates that if 90 percent of all riders buckled up all the time, 1,600 lives could be saved and 22,300 injuries avoided each year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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