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Congress: Pushing ethanol, AMT

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is likely to hold a news conference at 11:00 am ET to push cutting ethanol subsidies as part of the debt-ceiling talks and calling out Republican senators who had voted for that previously.

That despite Sen. Dianne Feinstein telling The Hill “that she had reached an agreement with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Thune (R-S.D.)” on cutting ethanol subsidies – “although the lawmakers say there is not yet a final deal.”

A Capitol Hill source tells First Read the Aug. 2nd drop-dead, debt-ceiling deadline date may not be as firm as Treasury has been saying -- and likely could, if necessary, move back to mid-August without catastrophic consequences.

“Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said this week he believes Republicans could be enticed to vote for controversial revenue raisers if Democrats promised to provide permanent relief from the alternative minimum tax — which for years has bedeviled both parties as they’ve watched the tax intended for the wealthy threaten middle-income Americans,” Roll Call reports.

Let the sniping and griping begin… Senate Democrats are complaining that President Obama hasn’t pressed the case more strongly for why the debt-ceiling needs to be raised. “One senior Democratic senator called the White House leadership on framing the debt-ceiling debate ‘feckless’ and said he couldn’t understand why Obama hasn’t been more outspoken in calling for action,” The Hill writes. Another said it would be “disappointing” if he didn’t call out Republicans for playing “Russian Roulette.”

On the Kerry-McCain Libya resolution, aides said not to expect a full Senate vote before the July 4th recess, but Sen. John Kerry told NBC’s Libby Leist yesterday he hopes there will be one this week.

“The White House and congressional lawmakers neared a breakthrough in the long-stalled effort to finalize coveted free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama — pacts President Obama has hailed as a boon for the US economy,” AP writes, adding, “The White House, acknowledging concerns from labor unions, had threatened to hold up passage of the pacts unless the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, or TAA, was renewed. The Senate Finance Committee will begin considering the trade agreements and the assistance program tomorrow.” Republican don’t want TAA tacked on.

“Senate Democrats renewed an uphill push yesterday for legislation that would give young illegal immigrants a shot at legal status by arguing that the hundreds of thousands affected would improve the nation’s economy and security,” AP writes.