To: Interested parties From: John King, CNN chief national correspondent Re: The Monday Memo
(CNN) — From start to finish, this week offers tests of whether economic recovery is taking root and also should answer whether months of Senate negotiations on health lead to a bill with any Republican support. First, the economy. President Obama heads to Wall Street, exactly one year after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, to offer his assessment of whether the financial sector and the overall U.S. economy are out of the woods. Count on Obama to prod Congress to act ASAP on the financial reform package the administration has sent to Capitol Hill. And both political and economic forecasters will be listening closely to the president’s tone. At a dinner last week, a senior administration official voiced optimism the economy would begin adding jobs in the fourth quarter of 2009. It will be interesting to see whether Obama is as optimistic in his public assessment.
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Whatever he says Monday will be put to the test quickly. Among the government economic reports out this week: • The Producer Prices Indexes (Tuesday) and the Consumer Price Indexes (Wednesday) from the Labor Department will offer a glimpse at inflation in August. • The August Retail Sales Report. • New home starts in August. • New regional and state employment figures. • The Manufacturing and Trade Inventories and Sales data will offer hints at whether factories might soon see increased activity. Health care reform “We think we are very close to an agreement.” When Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad of North Dakota spoke those words on “Fox News Sunday,” he raised the stakes for what we knew was already certain to be a telling week in the health care debate.
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The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to begin work on its version of health care reform, and what Republicans say about the proposal will be watched as closely in Washington, as will the details of the plan. It will not include a so-called “public option” but instead calls for nonprofit cooperatives to compete with private insurance companies. Those involved in the talks also promise it is deficit neutral and will ultimately extend health coverage to more than 90 percent of Americans. In any event, any plan with a chance to pass the Finance Committee and the Senate will immediately become the framework of further health care policy and political debate. All of which guarantees a meaningful week. Other events of note: • An Obama fundraiser for Republican-turned-Democrat Sen. Arlen Specter. • A presidential visit to a GM plant in Ohio. • The launch of Jay Leno’s new prime-time gig. • And the release of the late Senator Edward Kennedy’s memoir, “True Compass.” Enjoy the week.