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Congress: A complicating matter

The New York Times notes how Robert Byrd's death yesterday now complicates the final passage of financial/Wall Street reform. "The death of Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia threw into doubt the ability of Democrats to win approval this week of a financial regulation bill and underscored how the smallest changes in the size and composition of their Congressional majority have complicated their efforts to pass ambitious legislation over near-unanimous Republican opposition."

The Boston Globe: "Senate Democrats, who were already dealing with a razor-thin margin of support, will have to persuade up to four Republicans to help them fend off a GOP filibuster when the plan, which Byrd backed, comes up for a vote."

Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold is a no on financial reform.

The Washington Post previews today's Senate confirmation hearing for Gen. David Petraeus. "Lawmakers in both parties have praised the selection of Petraeus, who is expected to be approved, but they will use the hearings as a way to press their views on the war. Some Republicans, such as Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), are likely to urge Petraeus to signal that the administration's plan to start a drawdown of troops in Afghanistan in July 2011 is just a goal and won't happen if conditions there would be helped by maintaining current troop levels. But some Democrats, such as Armed Services Chairman Carl M. Levin (Mich.), say a timetable is essential to pushing the Afghan government to take on more security responsibilities."

The AP: "Lawmakers will also question Petraeus about whether he will be as strict as McChrystal was about the military's rules of engagement. Some troops have charged that the restrictions on firepower have hurt their effectiveness and put them at risk. Democrats say they are willing to back Obama's ordered troop buildup of 30,000 for now, but they want to start seeing results by the end of the year. They also want assurances from Petraeus that troops will start leaving in July 2011, as Obama has promised."

The Hill: "President Barack Obama's nomination of Gen. David Petraeus has put some Democrats in a politically awkward position. While Senate Democrats are expected to rally behind Petraeus to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the top commander in Afghanistan, they must also ask tough questions about when the U.S. will withdraw troops from the war-torn country."

Another Hill piece: "Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the panel's chairman, said on Monday he plans to press Petraeus on whether the Afghan army should lead more military operations, particularly in the Kandahar region in the short term.

And really? A quarter of Americans either believe President Obama was born outside the United States or aren't sure? (Vanity Fair/60 Minutes poll: 13% outside U.S., 11% not sure which country.) And just 39% believe he was born in Hawaii?