Friday, June 26, 2009

U.S. subsidies "poison" emerging market talks: U.S. official

By Peter Griffiths
LONDON (Reuters) - The United States` subsidies for failing industries risk "killing" American attempts to discuss trade with China and other developing nations, U.S. Federal Trade Commissioner William Kovacic said on Friday.
Subsidies can damage internal competition and undermine efforts to persuade other countries to avoid protectionism during the worst economic crisis in decades, he said.
"The poison in this for the longer term is this is going to kill our efforts in talking with emerging market economies," Kovacic, who chaired the FTC until March, said in a speech to a competition conference at the Chatham House thinktank in London.
"I have trips coming up this year to visit with Chinese officials and I am dreading the question and answer period because they are particularly astute students of what happens in Brussels and Washington," he said.
"They have a keen eye for the contradictions that seem to creep into policy. So you are left there saying `don`t try this at home, we can handle it, we are adults, but it is bad for you`."
Leaders of the G20 major economies pledged at a summit last November to fight protectionism, but 18 of their economies were named in a World Trade Organization report in March on measures taken that could be seen as restricting trade.
Part of the $787 billion U.S. stimulus package requires public works projects to use iron, steel and other goods made in the United States, if that does not contravene trade commitments.
Similar provisions feature in a climate change bill working its way through the U.S. Congress. It would give aid to carmakers building plug-in electric cars in the United States.
Helping failing industry undermines successful companies and sends the wrong signals to industry, Kovacic added.
Washington has taken a stake worth $50 billion in General Motors Corp and an 8 percent stake of $12 billion in Chrysler as part of its plan to restructure them in bankruptcy.
"Subsidy schemes not only are going to affect competition internally but they are sending a larger message that `if you fail grotesquely we will help you out, if you succeed thank you for your contributions to the American economy but no special help for you`," Kovacic said.
"Buy American" may boost cartels and damage free trade, and it must end after an "appropriate period," he added.
"The message that ought to have been driven home is that our experience with cartels tells us that `Buy American` has been a great protection and stimulus for cartel coordination," he said.
(Editing by Sophie Hares)
Original article

Russia says to ink U.S. military deal at summit

By Conor Sweeney
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia and the United States will sign deals on military cooperation when U.S. President Barack Obama visits Moscow next month, Russia`s top general said on Friday.
"We have outlined the main issues of military cooperation for 2009 and beyond," the head of the Russian general staff, General Nikolai Makarov, said after a 90-minute meeting in Moscow with his U.S. counterpart, Admiral Michael Mullen.
"Our intention is that those documents should be signed when U.S. President Barack Obama arrives here in Moscow in July," Makarov said.
Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, made no mention of any military agreements after the talks but said he was looking forward to the outcome of Obama`s visit to Russia in early July.
The military top brass said they discussed a wide range of common concerns, ranging from North Korea`s nuclear test to Iran and Afghanistan. They gave no further details about the talks or about the military agreements.
Mullen, on his first visit to Moscow, said the meeting was frank and open. The military talks follow renewed efforts by the two countries to reset relations which have become strained by events such as last year`s Georgia war and NATO`s expansion eastwards.
"I`m very encouraged by our meetings and our mutual commitment to address these issues and strengthen our military-to-military cooperation," said Mullen.
"We have many common challenges ... whether in Afghanistan or the challenges in missile defense, or in Iran or particularly for security in Europe," he added.
Obama travels to Moscow from July 6-8 for a summit with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev where the agenda will include further cuts to aging nuclear arsenals and U.S. plans to install an anti-missile defense system in Europe.
"I very much look forward to the outcome of the very important summit between Presidents Obama and Medvedev in two weeks," said Mullen.
"I can`t emphasize enough my belief that we need to work on these very hard challenges to improve security not just in Europe, but in the world," said Mullen.
(Reporting by Conor Sweeney; Editing by Richard Williams)
Original article

Obama, Germany`s Merkel to air differences at meeting

Obama, Germany`s Merkel to air differences at meetingBy Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will debate how to fix the global economy and fight climate change on Friday in a White House meeting that is likely to highlight a range of differences between the two leaders.
Unrest in Iran after the Islamic Republic`s disputed presidential poll, the war in Afghanistan and a U.S. request that Germany take prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are also issues likely to be on the agenda.
Merkel and Obama, who will both attend the Group of Eight summit of wealthy nations in Italy next month, have clashed about the best way to lift the globe out of recession, but analysts say relations between the two leaders are solid.
"They`re going to continue conversations as we head into the G8 about the importance of continuing to make progress and getting our world economy back on track," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, noting Obama and Merkel had recently met in Germany.
"Obviously, North Korea and Iran will be discussed, as they were in Germany. And I think -- I assume issues such as Guantanamo Bay and others will be on the docket," he said.
Obama presided over a $787 billion U.S. economic stimulus package shortly after taking office earlier this year, while Merkel has spoken against massive spending to fix the world`s economic ills.
A senior German official said the chancellor wanted to discuss an "exit strategy" for short-term economic fixes such as stimulus spending.
"It`s an issue for the future but one we feel needs to be discussed now," the official said.
Obama and Merkel disagree on international security topics as well. Berlin has shunned U.S. calls that it commit more troops to the war in Afghanistan, which is deeply unpopular in Germany.
Merkel`s government has also resisted U.S. requests that it accept inmates from the Guantanamo prison that Obama plans to close by early 2010.
Merkel, who is running in Germany`s September federal election for a second term, enjoyed a warm relationship with former U.S. President George W. Bush, urging him, with some success, to inch toward international consensus on the need to fight climate change.
"Merkel was dealing with a weakened Bush and the Germans felt they could influence him," said John Kornblum, the U.S. ambassador to Germany under President Bill Clinton, who lives in Berlin. "They do not have the same feeling with Obama."
But another analyst said Obama and Merkel admire each other and have a respectful relationship, which the German chancellor is eager to illustrate -- even while disagreeing with U.S. policies -- during her first visit to the Obama White House.
"Obama is the most popular politician in Germany," said Jeremy Shapiro, a foreign policy fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution.  Continued...
Original article

House Democrats push for Friday climate vote

By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives is poised to vote on Friday on one of the most significant environmental bills in history -- a sprawling measure that aims to wean industry off of carbon-emitting fuels blamed for global warming.
Democratic leaders were working hard to ensure there were at least 218 votes in the 435-seat House to pass the legislation that is a high priority for President Barack Obama.
"It`s all hands on deck," one House Democratic aide said of the work lawmakers and the Obama administration were doing to try to ensure passage of the climate change bill.
With House Republicans mostly opposed and warning it would hit recession-weary consumers in their pocketbooks with higher prices for energy and other everyday goods, supporters were attempting to counter those arguments.
"It is a jobs bill," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday, referring to the hoped-for growth in "green technologies" industries.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy agreed, saying, "Savings from reduced energy use will be reinvested locally, creating a multiplier effect that will generate economic activity and jobs."
Both Pelosi and Obama also framed the climate bill as being important to national security by reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil in favor of developing domestically produced alternative fuels such as wind and solar energy and possibly "clean coal."
At the core of the 1,200-page bill is a "cap and trade" plan designed to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, from 2005 levels.
Big polluters, such as coal-fired utilities, oil refiners, steel, paper, cement and glass manufacturers and other companies would receive government permits to emit lower amounts of carbon dioxide each year. Companies that end up with more permits than they need could sell them to companies that had not managed to adequately reduce their harmful emissions.
Even if Obama and his fellow Democrats manage to pull off a victory this week, the legislation faces a difficult road in the Senate, where Republicans would have an easier time using procedural hurdles to block the bill.
But passage by the House this year would let Obama attend a December international conference on climate change with a major victory in hand. That conference aims to lay out a global approach to dealing with climate change over the next few decades.
In her quest to find enough votes for the bill, Pelosi has allowed several changes since it was approved in late May by the Energy and Commerce Committee. Those have included new protections for agriculture interests, resulting in House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson announcing his support -- a move that could also win the support of about two dozen lawmakers from farm states.
Supporters of the bill received other breaks this week, including the release of a Congressional Budget Office analysis concluding the bill`s impact on average households would be around $170 a year in higher costs -- far below the $3,100 or more Republicans have been warning.
A new Washington Post/ABC poll found that three-quarters of the public think the U.S. government should regulate climate-warming greenhouse gases that are being blamed for more severe weather patterns, melting polar ice and threats to animal and plant species.  Continued...
Original article

Embattled South Carolina Governor Sanford to repay trip expenses

Embattled South Carolina Governor Sanford to repay trip expensesBy Matthew Bigg
ATLANTA (Reuters) - South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, facing pressure to resign over an extramarital affair, said on Thursday he would repay state funds he used for an official trip to Argentina during which he met his mistress.
Sanford`s move came as questions mounted whether he had used public funds to pursue a yearlong affair with the woman.
His admission of marital infidelity during a tearful news conference on Wednesday likely ended chances he might be a Republican contender for the U.S. presidency in 2012.
The governor said he participated in a U.S. Commerce Department trade mission a year ago to Brazil and Argentina.
"While the purpose of this trip was an entirely professional and appropriate business development trip, I made a mistake while I was there in meeting with the woman who I was unfaithful to my wife with," Sanford said in a statement.
"That has raised some very legitimate concerns and questions, and as such, I am going to reimburse the state for the full cost of the Argentina leg of this trip," he said.
He was due to hold a state Cabinet meeting on Friday, his office said.
Sanford announced on Wednesday his resignation as chairman of the Republican Governors` Association, and attention has since shifted to whether he will resign as governor. His second term ends in January 2011.
The Washington Post, quoting a close adviser, reported on Thursday that Sanford was not considering resigning.
Attention has also focused on whether Sanford abdicated responsibility by disappearing from the state for six days starting last Thursday without telling aides where he was going. He told them initially he was going hiking on the Appalachian Trail in the Eastern United States.
But at his news conference on Wednesday after returning by plane from Buenos Aires, he said he "created a fiction" for aides and was actually visiting his lover in Argentina over the Father`s Day weekend.
South Carolina Republican Party official Glenn McCall said Sanford should resign because his previous statements about the importance of family values and his criticism of former President Bill Clinton`s marital infidelity amounted to hypocrisy.
South Carolina Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, also a Republican, said Sanford`s prospects appeared grim.
"It is close to game over. ... If anyone can prove he did this (met his lover) with taxpayer money, the deal is off. I am concerned that is coming," said Peeler.  Continued...
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U.S. Senate approves communications panel chief

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved the Obama administration`s nomination of Julius Genachowski, a telecommunications industry executive, to head the Federal Communications Commission.
Genachowski is set to chair the five-member panel that will be dominated by Democrats seeking to bring more power to consumers and extend high-speed Internet access to rural parts of the United States.
The Senate also approved renewing the FCC term for Republican Robert McDowell.
The FCC`s broad mandate includes regulation of telephone and cable companies, oversight of ownership of radio and television outlets and management of public airwaves.
On Thursday the White House said Obama plans to nominate Meredith Attwell Baker to a Republican seat on the commission.
Baker has more than 12 years of experience in telecommunications and technology policy in the private and public sector, the White House said. She is a former Commerce Department official.
If she is formally nominated, the Senate Commerce Committee is likely to pair the nominations of Baker and Mignon Clyburn, who has been nominated to fill a Democratic seat, at a hearing. Clyburn is the daughter of House of Representatives Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina.
Expanding broadband Internet access to rural parts of the United States is among the top priorities that the Obama administration wants the FCC to tackle.
The FCC will help oversee billions of dollars in economic stimulus money that Congress approved in incentives for states and private companies to expand high-speed Internet in rural and underserved areas.
The FCC is required to submit a broadband plan to Congress by February.
Other issues the commission is expected to tackle include so-called "net neutrality" to prevent Internet services providers from giving preference to certain content, and whether consumers are getting short-changed by the exclusive deals between mobile phone makers and service providers.
(Reporting by John Poirier, additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Xavier Briand)
Original article

U.S. senators closer to $1 trillion healthcare bill

U.S. senators closer to $1 trillion healthcare billBy Donna Smith
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. senators on Thursday moved closer to agreement on a $1 trillion U.S. healthcare overhaul that would extend medical coverage to nearly everyone and without adding to huge budget deficits.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and other panel members said that reducing the cost was a significant step toward getting a final package that could gain at least some Republican support.
Baucus said panel members have narrowed talks to options that bring the price tag to about $1 trillion over 10 years, down from an earlier estimate of $1.6 trillion.
"We have options that would enable us to write a $1 trillion bill, fully paid for," Baucus told reporters after a closed-door meeting with panel members.
"We`re getting a lot closer to an agreement," Baucus said.
Later the group of Senate Finance Republican and Democratic negotiators issued a statement affirming their commitment to reach bipartisan agreement on a bill "that will lower costs and ensure quality, affordable care for every American."
But cracks have emerged in the diverse coalition pushing for an overhaul of a healthcare system that chews up 16 percent of the gross domestic product annually but trails many developed countries on measures like infant mortality and longevity.
Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, a major player in the negotiations, said it was too early to say how many Republicans would back the overhaul.
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, also a key negotiator, has strongly opposed Democratic demands that a new government plan be created to compete with private insurance companies to cover the uninsured.
Insurers and doctors share Republican concerns that a public insurance program would drive insurance companies out of business.
"I`m certainly keeping an open mind but I am not very enthusiastic about anything that smacks of a government plan," Hatch told reporters.
President Barack Obama has made a healthcare plan that reins in costs and covers most of the 47 million uninsured Americans one of his top legislative priorities. He has turned up the pressure on Congress to pass healthcare reform this year and has indicated a willingness to compromise.
Democratic Senator Kent Conrad said lawmakers would pick through the menu of options to develop a package that can earn enough votes to pass the committee and the Senate.
"Very substantial progress has been made over the last 24 hours," Conrad told reporters.  Continued...
Original article

Nominees emerge for U.S. panel on Wall Street meltdown

Nominees emerge for U.S. panel on Wall Street meltdownBy Karey Wutkowski
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bipartisan panel armed with subpoena power to investigate causes of the Wall Street meltdown is on the brink of being launched, as Congress embarks on an ambitious effort to reform policing of the financial sector.
A short list of names has emerged for the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that includes former Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson; former Democratic head of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission Brooksley Born; and Alex Pollock, a fellow at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Congress last month created the 10-member commission to study how fraud, regulatory lapses, monetary policy, accounting, lending practices and executive pay contributed to the worst U.S. financial crisis since the Great Depression.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the panel is modeled after the Pecora Commission, a Depression-era U.S. Senate panel that investigated the causes of the 1929 Wall Street crash.
"I think the announcement should be coming in the near future," Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said about the naming of the appointees.
The source, speaking anonymously because discussions were still ongoing, said other possible appointees include Bill Thomas, former Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee; Jake Garn, former Republican senator; and Bob Graham, the former Democratic senator and Florida governor.
Born, Pollock and Thomas declined to comment. Thompson, Garn, and Graham did not immediately respond to messages.
The crisis commission must report its findings to Congress in December 2010. Its work will run parallel to Congressional efforts to draft the most dramatic overhaul of the financial regulatory system since the 1930s.
President Barack Obama has said he hopes reform legislation can be finalized by the end of this year. Obama`s proposal, unveiled earlier this month, calls for the Federal Reserve to police systemic risks to the economy and proposes consolidating primary bank supervision into a new regulator.
The plan also calls for creating a new consumer financial product watchdog and for giving the federal government the power to unwind troubled firms whose stability impact the broader financial system.
The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission will study what led to the failure of several large Wall Street firms, which prompted Congress last year to pass a $700 billion financial bailout that has been unpopular among voters.
The U.S. economy has shed six million jobs since December 2007 in the midst of a recession that has seen the jobless rate hit 9.4 percent.
The crisis commission was given the power to hold hearings and to subpoena witnesses` testimony as well as correspondence and documents.
(Reporting by Karey Wutkowski, additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; editing by Carol Bishopric)
Original article

Obama pledges push this year for immigration reform

By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama tapped a top Cabinet official on Thursday to work with Congress to speed immigration reform as senators warned another failed effort could doom chances for a generation.
"Despite our inability to get this passed over the last several years, the American people still want to see a solution," Obama told reporters after meeting with Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
Obama said he had asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to meet regularly with lawmakers to systematically work through a number of controversial issues, such as how to handle the 12 million illegal immigrants already in the United States and how to prevent future illegal immigration.
"It`s going to require some heavy lifting. It`s going to require a victory of practicality and common sense and good policymaking over short-term politics," Obama said.
Congress failed in 2006 and 2007 to pass immigration reform despite a push by former Republican President George W. Bush.
Earlier this year, Vice President Joe Biden said the U.S. economic slump and soaring unemployment made it a bad time to take on the issue, which stirs up strong emotions on both sides of the immigration debate.
But Obama, who has been criticized for not following through on a campaign pledge to tackle the issue this year, said the White House and Democratic-controlled Congress need to start pushing now to pass legislation and "not put it off for a year, two years, three years, five years from now."
Senator John McCain, the Republican who lost to Obama in last year`s presidential election, told reporters the reforms also must include a temporary worker program for agricultural and high-tech industries that rely on non-U.S. citizen labor.
"I can`t support any proposal that doesn`t have a legal temporary worker program and I would expect the president of the United States to put his influence on the unions in order to change their position," McCain said.
Democratic Senator Charles Schumer told reporters after the White House meeting that Obama had set a goal of passing legislation by the end of this year or early next year.
If Congress cannot meet that deadline, "we may not get to do it for a generation," Schumer said.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, also said he saw only "one more chance" to pass a bill because of the political heat that immigration reform stirs up.
"If we can`t get it done this time around, no politician is going to take this up in a generation. That would be a shame for this country," Graham said.
(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)
Original article

Obama eyes Meredith Baker for U.S. FCC position

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama plans to nominate Meredith Attwell Baker to a Republican seat on the Federal Communications Commission, the White House said on Thursday.
Baker has more than 12 years of experience in telecommunications and technology policy in the private and public sector, the White House said. She is a former Commerce Department official.
If formally nominated, the Senate Commerce Committee is likely to pair the nominations of Baker and Mignon Clyburn, who has been nominated to fill a Democratic seat at a hearing. Clyburn is the daughter of House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina.
The White House announcement, which was widely expected, comes one week after the nominations of Julius Genachowski, Obama`s Democratic pick to chair the FCC, and Robert McDowell, a Republican, cleared the Senate Commerce Committee.
The full Senate could vote on the nominations of Genachowski, a law school friend of Obama and a technology industry executive, and McDowell as early as this week.
The FCC has been operating under Acting Chairman Michael Copps, a Democrat who is planning to stay on the five-commission panel. Jonathan Adelstein, a Democrat, is expected to leave.
"Meredith Baker will be a strong, independent voice," Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, the top Republican on the Senate committee, said in a statement.
Expanding broadband Internet access to rural parts of the United States is among the top priorities the Obama administration wants the FCC to tackle.
The FCC will help oversee billions of dollars in economic stimulus money that Congress approved in incentives for states and private companies to expand high-speed Internet in rural and underserved areas.
The FCC is required to submit a broadband plan to Congress by February.
Industry heavyweights Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T Inc and Sprint Nextel Corp also expressed their support for Baker.
Baker was vice president at the firm of Williams Mullen Strategies, where she focused on telecommunications, intellectual property and international trade issues.
She is also a former senior counsel at Covad Communications and former director of congressional affairs at the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association trade group.
She is a graduate of Washington & Lee University and has a law degree from the University of Houston. She is a member of the Texas State Bar.
(Reporting by John Poirier, additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing Bernard Orr)
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Lawmaker Harman not under investigation: Justice

Lawmaker Harman not under investigation: JusticeWASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Representative Jane Harman, whose telephone calls were intercepted by a U.S. spy agency, is not under criminal investigation, the Justice Department said in a letter released Thursday.
Harman was caught up in a controversy after The New York Times reported in April that she was overheard on calls intercepted by the National Security Agency in 2005 in which she appeared to agree to seek lenient treatment for two pro-Israel lobbyists accused of spying.
The California lawmaker responded by asking the Justice Department to release the secretly taped telephone calls to show that she did not intervene in the espionage probe.
A June 16 Justice Department letter said Harman "is neither a subject nor a target of an ongoing investigation by the Criminal Division," according to a copy that she released.
"Earlier this year, I was the subject of media reports concerning transcripts of alleged government wiretaps. To date, there has been no official confirmation that such transcripts exist or are accurate, and I have written to Attorney General (Eric) Holder asking for full disclosure," Harman said.
Her statement noted that if transcripts do exist, anyone leaking them to the press would be committing a felony.
The U.S. government in May dropped charges against Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, former American Israel Public Affairs Committee officials who were accused of conspiring with a former Pentagon analyst to provide defense information to foreign government officials, policy analysts and the media.
The Bush administration launched a secret warrantless domestic spying program after the September 11 attacks that was sharply criticized by civil rights groups after it was revealed in 2005.
(Reporting by Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
Original article

Climate change bill gaining in U.S. House: Pelosi

By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Legislation to cut carbon dioxide pollution blamed for global warming is gaining support in the U.S. House of Representatives, where a vote is possible this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday.
"We are making progress," Pelosi told reporters when asked whether previously undecided Democrats were beginning to line up behind the climate change bill. "We intend to bring it up" this week, she added.
President Barack Obama, hoping to prod wavering House Democrats, urged passage of the bill, saying it would create millions of jobs and "open the door to a new energy economy."
Obama and Lisa Jackson, who heads the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have pushed hard this week for quick passage of the measure.
House Democratic leaders have said they hope to schedule the vote on Friday on the "cap and trade" bill that would reduce carbon emissions from utilities, manufacturers and others by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, from 2005 levels.
The legislation, which would encourage the development of cleaner energy alternatives, also would establish a free-market trading system allowing companies to buy and sell carbon pollution permits.
Just one day before a possible House vote, Pelosi and fellow Democratic leaders were working to secure enough support for passage.
Asked whether the controversial bill would pass, Pelosi said, "You never know until you take the vote." Most House Republicans are expected to vote against the bill, arguing it will raise energy prices and encourage more job transfers to foreign soil as companies try to skirt the requirements.
Democratic leaders may have been heartened by a new Washington Post/ABC poll that said three-quarters of Americans want the U.S. government to regulate climate-warming greenhouse gases, while a slim majority -- 52 percent -- support a cap and trade system. That is slightly less support for cap and trade than a similar poll taken nearly a year ago.
The poll was conducted June 18-21 with a 3 percent margin of error.
Supporters also were heartened by negotiations this week that included new protections for farmers, a deal likely to bring some additional rural lawmakers on board.
Pelosi called on former Vice President Al Gore, a Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work on global warming, to telephone undecided lawmakers and seek their support.
House Republican leader John Boehner told reporters, "I don`t think they have the votes yet." Boehner called the legislation "a job-killing energy tax."
If Pelosi decides there are not enough votes to pass the bill, she likely will wait until next month, following a weeklong July 4th recess, to try to pass the bill.  Continued...
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House nears vote on $550.4 billion defense bill

By Andrea Shalal-Esa
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives was poised to approve on Thursday a $550.4 billion defense authorization bill for fiscal 2010 that has drawn a veto threat from President Barack Obama because it contains money for fighter jets he does not want.
The bill also authorizes $130 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the fiscal year that begins October 1.
The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said it supported the overall bill but the president`s senior advisers would recommend a veto unless some provisions were dropped.
One congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the White House veto threat as "a bargaining tool."
The Senate Armed Services Committee was to unveil its defense authorization bill for 2010 later on Thursday, but the legislation was unlikely to be approved by the full Senate until September. House and Senate negotiators must then hammer out a compromise version before final passage.
The OMB said it strongly objected to the House decision to include $369 million in advanced procurement funds to buy 12 more F-22 fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp despite a Pentagon decision to halt production at 187.
Some lawmakers are pushing to continue production of the F-22 until a current ban on exports can be lifted to allow Japan to buy a modified version of the premiere U.S. fighter jet. The Lockheed program employs workers in over 40 states.
The administration also objected to House lawmakers adding $603 million to the bill to continue work on an alternate F-35 fighter engine being built by General Electric Co and Rolls-Royce Group Plc.
The OMB said the changes would delay the fielding of the F-35 and have an adverse effect on the Pentagon`s overall strike fighter inventory. It said the risks of a fleet-wide grounding with a single engine, an issue raised by the Marine Corps general who runs the program, were "exaggerated."
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)
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