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Congress: Advancing the Harman story

The New York Times advances the Jane Harman-NSA story. "The director of the Central Intelligence Agency concluded in late 2005 that a conversation picked up on a government wiretap was serious enough to require notifying Congressional leaders that Representative Jane Harman, Democrat of California, could become enmeshed in an investigation into Israeli influence in Washington, former government officials said Thursday. But Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales told the director of the agency, Porter J. Goss, to hold off on briefing lawmakers about the conversation, between Ms. Harman and an Israeli intelligence operative, despite a longstanding government policy to inform Congressional leaders quickly whenever a member of Congress could be a target of a national security investigation."

The reason: "to protect Ms. Harman because they saw her as a valuable administration ally in urging The New York Times not to publish an article about the National Security Agency's program of wiretapping without warrants."

In an interview yesterday with First Read on Wednesday, former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta and other staffers from the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress wanted to "reset" the conventional wisdom that comprehensive energy legislation wouldn't occur this year. Podesta said the real action right now is in the House, with the House Energy and Commerce Committee considering the Waxman-Markey energy framework. The prospects of the legislation passing the Dem-led committee is high, and Podesta argued that since the committee is more conservative than other House panels (with Dem members on it hailing from Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Indiana), there's a greater chance that what will pass there will be more acceptable to the Senate.

In addition, Podesta said he expects the debate on the House floor to occur in the summer. Obviously, he believes that finding 60 votes in the Senate will be harder than being able to pass it in the House, but he said it's still doable in the Senate. They divide Senate targets into two groups: 1) the moderate/conservative Democrats and 2) the Republicans -- like Collins, Specter, Snowe. The goal is 60 votes. Still, Podesta admits that health-care is a more likely goal than energy -- and as someone who saw that health-care debate in the 1990s, he jokes, "Who would have thought that getting health care is easier?"

Politico looks at Obama's approach to Congress. "Under his model, Obama laid out a broad vision of his legislative goals — but put up little resistance when Congress rewrote the details. Doing so allowed him to stay above the fray, avoid the mess involved with legislating and get seriously involved only when things flew out of hand or internal conflicts threatened to derail an aspect of his legislative agenda… While his approach has allowed him to build trust with Congress, not taking a firm position on the details has allowed congressional Democrats to bicker among themselves and has given the GOP an opportunity to occasionally create a wedge between congressional Democrats and the new president."

"In the five-week stretch leading up to Memorial Day, the Senate will tackle a hefty legislative agenda that includes bills to rein in predatory practices in the housing and credit card industries and a reform of government procurement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on Thursday," Roll Call writes. "Reid also said the Senate will take up a House-passed bill that would impose new regulations on the tobacco industry, calling the measure 'way, way overdue.'"