Good Morning. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future” proposes a transformation of the Medicare program. In a few weeks, Republican members of the House will be asked to vote in favour of this transformation. That vote will likely be the key issue in their re-election campaigns.
2. President Obama on Wednesday will call upon Republicans to join him in writing a broad plan to raise revenues and reduce the growth of popular entitlement programs. As the NYT notes, Mr. Obama will in effect “come off the sidelines” of the debate over reducing the nation’s debt, and get in the game.
3. A bipartisan Senate group, which has been working on a debt reduction plan, would rather President Obama stay on the sidelines. They’re concerned that the president’s new level of involvement with the nation’s fiscal problems will complicate the politics of their efforts.
4. President Obama “has opened the door to a deal with Republicans that would allow the U.S. to increase its ability to borrow, potentially easing worries in financial markets that the country might default on its debt,” the WSJ reports. Previously, the White House had insisted that Congress raise the debt ceiling without conditions.
5. Remember last week’s FY 2011 budget deal? Last Friday’s budget deal? It faces a close vote in the House of Representatives. There’s a chance it might not pass, although most Congressional vote-counters expect that it will squeak by.
6. Top Federal Reserve Bank officials yesterday sent a clear signal that the Fed will not lift interest rates from rock-bottom levels anytime soon. These officials dismissed the idea that soaring commodity prices will lead to broader U.S. inflation.
7. Drought in much of the Southwest is hurting farmers across several states — especially Texas and New Mexico — potentially reducing supplies of crops and cattle. This year’s drought has been especially bad.
8. Pakistan is demanding that the United States dramatically reduce Special Forces and CIA operations within its borders. The demand was made by the head of Pakistan’s intelligence service, who is in Washington for meetings with high-ranking US national security officials.
9. “As a delegation of Afghan officials traveled to Washington to present their plan to international financial authorities to dismantle Afghanistan’s largest private bank, President Hamid Karzai on Monday denounced Western accounting firms and advisers for corruption and failing to detect the bank’s troubles,” The New York Times reports. Mr. Karzai wins the prestigious Chutzpah Award for 2011, so far.
10. US policy-makers imagined that the “humanitarian intervention” into Libya would be a short-lived affair, ending in Col Qaddafi’s removal from power. It hasn’t turned out that way. Stalemate in Libya raises the question: “what next?”
11. Mitt Romney announced the formation of an exploratory presidential campaign committee. Mr. Romney is expected to formally announce his candidacy for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination later this year.
12. Donald Trump now says that he will “probably” run as an independent presidential candidate in 2012 if he is not the 2012 GOP presidential nominee . Which he won’t be. Mr. Trump says he is not doing this to boost the ratings for his NBC TV show, he’s doing it because he “hates what’s happening to this country.”