The federal budget picture will look slightly better next week. Relatively speaking.
The White House plans to announce the federal deficit will still be a record breaker, at $1.58 trillion, for the current 2009 fiscal year. But the amount is about $262 billion less than officials predicted earlier this year.
That's mostly because the administration erased a $250 billion contingency fund it had penciled into the budget in case Wall Street needed more government help in getting out of the financial crisis.
President Barack Obama has indicated a willingness to drop a government-run health care plan from any overhaul. The White House says that's not a shift. Actually, it is.
Fierce proponents of a government-run health plan for months, Obama and senior administration officials, bowing to pressure from Republicans and skeptical voters, suggested that such a public option is not do-or-die.
"All I'm saying is, though, that the public option, whether we have it or we don't have it, is not the entirety of health care reform," the president told a town hall-style audience in Grand Junction, Colo., on Saturday. "This is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it."
Critics are shouting extreme things about the Obama administration, it's said, and there is some truth to the charge as well as a reason for it -- the administration is doing extreme, off-the-wall things, hopelessly leftist things, such as appointing John Holdren director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
There they go again, say Obama supporters about the Holdren complaints, but the complainers have been right about a wasteful, politically shaped stimulus package, about overreaching health-care proposals, about an utterly pointless, economically dangerous global warming cap-and-trade bill, and it seems to me they have a strong case against Holdren, a professor of zany alarmism.
The White House is blaming unnamed political groups for the unsolicited e-mails it had wrongly insisted no one was receiving from its online operation.
"We're certainly not interested in anyone receiving e-mails from the White House who don't want them," White House online director Macon Phillips said in a blog posting Monday night.
Phillips said groups outside the White House — he offered no specifics — had signed up their members to receive regular White House updates about President Barack Obama's projects, priorities and speeches. Adding names from a commercial or political list to the White House list was not the practice there, he said.
The top Republican on the House's oversight committee asked the White House on Monday about an e-mail from a top political adviser urging support for a health care overhaul and whether officials are collecting names of President Barack Obama's critics.
In a letter to White House counsel Greg Craig, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., asked for details about who received a health care e-mail signed by Obama adviser David Axelrod. Issa also wanted to know how, exactly, the White House was using a separate e-mail account designed to track what it called "fishy" claims about its proposed overhaul — an account that was disabled Monday afternoon.
Liberal Democrats warned President Barack Obama on Monday that a retreat on support for a government-run health insurance plan could endanger passage of major healthcare reform in Congress this year.
In the face of intense Republican opposition, the White House signaled over the weekend it was not wedded to a public insurance option as long as the final healthcare measure increases choices for consumers and competition for insurers.
But the liberal backlash highlighted Obama's difficult task in winning Republican support for a healthcare overhaul, his top domestic priority, without alienating Democrats who must also be on board to pass it.
The Obama administration is tripling the number of workers processing Cash for Clunkers transactions as some dealers complain the government has been slow to reimburse them for the car incentives of up to $4,500 per vehicle.
An administration official said Monday the Transportation Department hoped to have 1,100 public and private sector workers processing the vouchers by the end of the week, up from a work force of about 350 through the end of last week.
President Barack Obama's weekend concession on a health care "government option" drew complaints from liberals and scarce interest from Republicans and other critics on Monday, a fresh sign of the daunting challenge in finding middle ground in an increasingly partisan political struggle.
The White House insisted there had been no shift in position, adding the president still favors a federal option for the sale of health insurance. "The bottom line is this: Nothing has changed," said a memo containing suggested answers for administration allies to use if asked about the issue.
But some supporters of health care overhaul sounded less than reassured.
Barack Obama's vow to quell "slash and burn" politics, which helped sweep him to the presidency, is facing a decisive test in the angry echo-chamber imperiling his health reform drive.
"Do we participate in a politics of cynicism, or do we participate in a politics of hope?" Obama asked in the 2004 Democratic convention speech which rocketed him into the public eye.
Bowing to Republican pressure, President Barack Obama's administration signaled on Sunday it is ready to abandon the idea of giving Americans the option of government-run insurance as part of a new health care system.
Facing mounting opposition to the overhaul, administration officials left open the chance for a compromise with Republicans that would include health insurance cooperatives instead of a government-run plan. Such a concession probably would enrage Obama's liberal supporters but could deliver a much-needed victory on a top domestic priority opposed by GOP lawmakers.