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First thoughts: The Big Two

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** The Big Two: Congress is out of town, and Americans are getting ready for the long July 4 weekend. But the Obama White House is busy trying to keep up the momentum for both the energy bill and health-care reform. Yesterday, President Obama gave a five-newspaper interview to energy reporters that was part victory lap after Friday's narrow House passage, and also part negotiating tactic with the Senate. As for health care, the president will hold yet another town hall on the subject on Wednesday -- this one in Annandale, VA (which has a major online component). This two-track push is certainly putting Republicans a tad on the defensive. What do they focus on? As we've noted before, the Obama administration juggling several balls at once makes it difficult for the opposition to focus its fire on all the different balls. Still, you've got to wonder: If presented with the choice -- drop the push for energy this year to get votes on health care -- would the White House take that deal?

*** New Haven style? So far, it's been smooth sailing for Obama Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. In fact, a new Washington Post/ABC poll shows that 62% support her elevation to the nation's highest court. But today could get somewhat bumpy for her. On the last day of its session, the U.S. Supreme Court today is expected to issue its ruling in the New Haven firefighter case. Serving on the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, Sotomayor denied claims that white firefighters had been discriminated against when New Haven threw out the results of a promotion test because not enough minorities had scored high enough on it. As the AP points out, it's retiring Justice David Souter's last day on the court, and he'll be ruling on a case that impacts the woman trying to replace him -- Sotomayor. Expect the decision to come out around 10:00 am or 11:00 am ET.

Video: The Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling soon in a reverse discrimination lawsuit filed in New Haven, Conn., in which court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, ruled that the city acted properly in throwing out a firefighters promotion exam that minority candidates scored poorly on.

*** Iraq is back? Just askin', but how is it that one of the most significant foreign-policy mileposts/deadlines -- withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraqi cities -- is arriving tomorrow without barely any notice? Indeed, it's just another reminder that the story that dominated American politics from 2003-2007 has become an afterthought right now. Ironically, as attention has turned to other hotspots, violence has been increasing in Iraq. Still, Gen. Ray Odierno told CNN yesterday that Iraq is ready for the transition. "They've been working towards this for a long time," he said, per the Washington Times. "And security remains good. We've seen constant improvement in the security force; we've seen constant improvement in governance. And I believe this is the time for us to move out of the cities and for them to take ultimate responsibility."

Video: After six years in Iraq, American forces are drastically reshaping their posture – the first step towards withdrawing all combat forces home in 2011. NBC's Tom Aspell reports.

*** Stonewall, Colombia/Honduras: At 4:25 pm ET today, President Obama and the first lady host an event at the White House to celebrate LGBT Month. It comes one day after the 40th anniversary of Stonewall. And it also comes after the Obama administration has received plenty of criticism from liberals and the gay community for its brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act, as well as for not moving yet to overturn "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." As Adam Nagourney wrote on Sunday, "The conflicting signals from the White House about its commitment to gay issues reflect a broader paradox: even as cultural acceptance of homosexuality increases across the country, the politics of gay rights remains full of crosscurrents." In addition today, Obama meets with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe at 2:15 pm. The two will most likely discuss the military coup in Honduras. Obama already condemned the action, but what will happen next? Apparently, the U.S. played a major behind-the-scenes role to stop this.

*** Rudy and 2010:

If you don't think Rudy Giuliani is seriously eyeing a bid for New York governor, then you probably didn't read his New York Times op-ed last week, in which he called for a constitutional convention to resolve some of the state's political problems. But more than hint about his gubernatorial intentions, Rudy's op-ed might serve as a roadmap for others running for governor in 2010. Let's face it: Two of the nation's largest states (New York and California) have some serious problems right now, and much of it is due to how these states currently operate. However, one of Rudy's ideas in his op-ed -- requiring a supermajority to raise taxes -- is one of the reasons some believe why California is in the mess it's in.

*** Is the end in sight? Finally, the Minnesota Supreme Court has to be ruling soon on the never-ending Franken-Coleman contest, right? GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty told CNN yesterday that he would abide by whatever ruling the state court makes in the contest, where Democrat Al Franken seems to have an upper hand. "I'm prepared to sign [the certification] as soon as they give the green light," Pawlenty said. "I'm not going to defy an order of the Minnesota Supreme Court. That would be a dereliction of my duty."

Countdown to Election Day 2009: 127 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 491 days

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