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« Dems Move To Recoup AIG Bonus Dollars | Blog Home Page | Obama Defends Geithner, Targets Executive Compensation »

Strategy Memo: AIG CEO on the Hill

Good Wednesday morning, on what should be a beautiful day in Washington.

President Obama will meet with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in the White House this morning before taking off for Southern California, where he'll hold a town hall event with local residents in Costa Mesa.

Congress will get its chance to grill the head of AIG today, as CEO Edward Liddy testifies before a House Financial Services subcommittee and answers questions regarding the $165 million in retention bonuses handed out to AIG employees.

The Senate will consider Ron Kirk's nomination for the post of U.S. Trade Representative and is expected to vote at around noon. It will also continue consideration of the omnibus lands bill.

Here are the headlines we're reading today:

**President Obama
*"White House officials are looking to use an executive-pay provision inserted into the recently passed stimulus law" to recoup the $165 million in bonuses that AIG handed out, WSJ reports.

*White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel "categorically dismissed to The Associated Press any suggestion that Geithner is in trouble."

*Bloomberg says the AIG mess "gives administration critics a new weapon to thwart Obama's agenda, from his budget to plans for financial-market regulation."

*AP reports that the health care reform effort could cost $1.5 trillion over the next decade -- more than double the $634 billion "down payment" he set aside in the budget. "It's impossible to put a price tag on the plan before even the basics have been finalized," said White House spokesman Reid Cherlin.

*Washington Times reports on what could be a snag in Gary Locke's confirmation as Commerce Secretary. The former Washington Gov. "has performed legal work for companies doing business with Beijing and was forced to refund several political donations that he received in the 1990s from key figures in a Chinese influence-buying investigation."

*And in other appointee news, chief information officer-designate Vivek Kundra, already under scrutiny after an FBI raid at his current office, apparently had an unrelated arrest for theft 13 years ago.

*A crowd of 1,000 came just to try to get tickets for Obama's rally in Orange County today, the LA Times reports.

*Washington Post looks at the "sisterhood" in the Obama administration. "The 'Obama women' -- as African American women who've taken big jobs in his administration have been nicknamed -- mark another step in the long journey of black women from outsiders to gatekeepers in political Washington. They have quietly entered their jobs with little attention paid to the fact that they are the largest contingent of high-ranking black women to work for a president."

*Civil Rights Laws: "Obama's success has emerged as a central argument from conservatives who say his victory proves that some of the nation's most protective civil rights laws can be erased from the books," the L.A. Times reports.

*Rahm, an inspiration: The NYT reports that a Rahm Emanuel quote is highlighted on a Manhattan church's sidewalk message board. "Never waste a crisis. It can be turned to joyful transformation," the sign reads.

*On ESPN, Obama announced that he has chosen Louisville, North Carolina, Memphis and Pittsburgh in his Final Four bracket.

**Congress
*Budget: "Senior members of the Obama administration are pressing lawmakers to use a shortcut to drive the president's signature initiatives on health care and energy through Congress without Republican votes," Washington Post reports.

*Dem Budget Skepticism: "There is rising doubt among Democrats -- particularly moderates already concerned about the big costs and deficits called for in Obama's budget -- that either Obama or Washington have enough bandwidth this year to stimulate the economy, overhaul the failed financial sector and move on to a far-reaching domestic agenda," Politico reports.

*AIG: Chairman and CEO Edward Liddy "will take the hot seat today in a hearing before a House Financial Services subcommittee," which will "examine how AIG arrived at its "terrible situation" and why it is receiving so much taxpayer money," ABC News reports.

*Liddy testifies one day after "lawmakers and administration officials sought ways to recoup the money either by imposing stiff new taxes on the extra pay or requiring the company to return it in exchange for future taxpayer aid," USA Today reports.

*The New York Times looks at some earmarks in the recently-signed omnibus bill, including one from Mary Landrieu (D-La.) "for a community center in New Orleans to be built by a nonprofit group" that her brother helped found, "allocated even though the project is defunct." This and others "are just a tiny fraction of the billions of dollars in earmarks in the bill, but they help illustrate why critics continue to demand more restraints and how new rules announced by Democrats on Capitol Hill and embraced by Mr. Obama might serve to block some initiatives but not others."

**Campaign Stuff
*NY-20: "The stakes are especially high for new Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and the GOP, since a win would provide the embattled chairman with some much-needed breathing room, and a loss would enable Democrats to frame the race as a validation of President Barack Obama's stimulus package," Politico reports.

*PA Sen: The Hill reports that Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) won't run as a Democrat in 2010, but he hasn't ruled out an independent bid.

**Bush Alert
Former Pres. George W. Bush, in his first public speech in Canada yesterday: "I'm not going to spend my time criticizing him. There are plenty of critics in the arena. He deserves my silence. ... I love my country a lot more than I love politics. I think it is essential that he be helped in office."

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli