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Obama agenda: Deficit concerns

The Wall Street Journal on the latest NBC/WSJ poll: "After a fairly smooth opening, President Barack Obama faces new concerns among the American public about the budget deficit and government intervention in the economy as he works to enact ambitious health and energy legislation."

Video: NBC's David Gregory talks to former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean about a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll  showing a lower approval rating for President Obama.

Here's our take: "Obama remains a popular figure in the poll. But these numbers on the deficit and the government's intervention seem to mark a new period for the administration, as the public moves from welcoming his inauguration and first days in office to examining his initial actions as president."

The latest New York Times/CBS poll, which has Obama's approval rating at 63%: "A distinct gulf exists between Mr. Obama's overall standing and how some of his key initiatives are viewed, with fewer than half of Americans saying they approve of how he has handled health care and the effort to save General Motors and Chrysler. A majority of people said his policies have had either no effect yet on improving the economy or had made it worse, underscoring how his political strength still rests on faith in his leadership rather than concrete results."

CNBC's Steve Liesman has this response to Obama's financial overhaul plan: "On Wednesday, President Obama launched what you could call the 'Star Wars' of financial regulation, the government's defense system against Wall Street's weapons of mass destruction -- complex derivatives and subprime mortgages - that have brought the nation's economy to its knees," he writes in the New York Daily News.

But here's the New York Times' take: "On Wednesday, President Obama unveiled what he described as 'a sweeping overhaul of the financial regulatory system, a transformation on a scale not seen since the reforms that followed the Great Depression.' In terms of the sheer number of proposals, outlined in an 88-page document the administration released on Tuesday, that is undoubtedly true. But in terms of the scope and breadth of the Obama plan — and more important, in terms of its overall effect on Wall Street's modus operandi — it's not even close to what Roosevelt accomplished during the Great Depression."

Politico writes, "President Barack Obama's announcement Wednesday offering limited benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees failed to quell growing anger in the gay community that gay rights issues were getting short shrift at the White House."

Video: President of the Human Rights Campaign Joe Solmonese reacts to President Barack Obama's decision to only offer same-sex partners of federal employees some of the benefits granted to heterosexual couples.

Meanwhile, don't miss this statement by the White House on the Bipartisan Policy Center's Health Reform Proposal. One of the authors of the proposal is Tom Daschle, who was the administration's original choice to spearhead health-care reform: "The Bipartisan Policy Center, led by three distinguished former Senate Majority Leaders, has produced a serious and detailed proposal for health reform that reinforces the importance of the President's core principles: lowering costs for families, businesses and governments; guaranteeing choice of doctors and plans; ensuring quality and affordable health care for all Americans, and adhering to fiscal discipline that does not add to the deficit.
"This group of extraordinarily experienced legislators agree with the President that health reform must be enacted this year because the status quo -- skyrocketing health care costs, rising premiums, swelling deficits - is unsustainable. With this report, they have demonstrated what can be achieved with bipartisan effort. The Bipartisan Policy Center has produced a significant report, and the White House applauds their efforts." Hmm. Keeping Daschle in the game through a back channel?
And this is interesting: "President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats risk a major rift with their union allies if they decide to pay for health care reform by taxing employer-provided health benefits, according to union sources."

Politico: "President Barack Obama's strict ban on lobbyist contributions will limit the haul from Thursday night's fundraising dinner for congressional Democrats, but organizers have found a way around it: a morning-after event at the same hotel where lobbyists -- and their money -- will be welcomed with open arms. Invitations for the $5,000-per-person Issues Conference don't say it's an effort to skirt Obama's lobbying ban, but they walk right up to the edge.

Oberstar vs. LaHood? "Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, plans to unveil a six-year, $500 billion bill to overhaul transportation programs on Thursday. He wants Congress to pass the bill by Oct. 1, which is when the current law that authorizes transportation programs expires," the AP says. "Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood went to Capitol Hill Wednesday to tell lawmakers the administration will offer a plan to extend financing of current highway programs for 18 months. An estimated $13 billion to $17 billion will be needed under the plan to make up a shortfall in federal gas tax revenues, which fund highway and transit programs."