Politics Today is CBSNews.com's inside look at the key stories driving the day in politics, written by CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:
**Obama becomes the first U.S. president to chair a UN Security Council meeting...
** Deval Patrick names an interim senator to replace Ted Kennedy...
**The Senate slogs through health care...
5331005PRESIDENT OBAMA: The president winds up his attendance at U.N. by chairing a Security Council meeting this morning – the first U.S. president to do so. Later, he and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown co-chair a meeting on Pakistan.
This afternoon, Mr. Obama heads to Pittsburgh for the G-20 Summit and attends a working dinner there tonight.
At the U.N. Security Council meeting this morning, the president "will use the forum of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday to press his efforts to slow the spread of nuclear weapons and reduce global stockpiles," reports the Washington Post's Mary Beth Sheridan and Colum Lynch. "Diplomats have finished negotiating a Security Council resolution that affirms many of the steps Obama plans to pursue as part of his vision for an eventual 'world without nuclear weapons.' They include a new worldwide treaty halting production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium and the strengthening of the global Non-Proliferation Treaty, which has controlled the spread of nuclear weapons for decades but now is in danger of fraying."
Meantime, what's expected at the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh this week?
McClatchy Newspapers' Margaret Talev and Kevin G. Hall report, "As the leaders of the Group of 20 nations gather Thursday and Friday for an economic summit in Pittsburgh, they'll be testing two themes: How much appetite remains for coordinated economic decision-making among the world's leading and developing nations as the global crisis shifts into recovery mode?
"Can President Barack Obama, the host of this third meeting of G-20 government heads in a year, persuade his country to help him deliver the financial revisions and climate change initiatives that he's told other nations he wants?
"Organizers don't expect to announce major new spending at this G-20; nothing like the summit last April in London, where leaders committed more than $1 trillion to manage the economic crisis and help poor nations. On the contrary, they'll talk about how to dial back spending as they cautiously congratulate one another on using central bank coordination to avert a global depression."
"Obama will tell world leaders that the global economy cannot continually rely on huge borrowing and spending by Americans and massive exports by countries such as China," adds the Associated Press' Charles Babington. "In informal chats and fancy receptions at the two-day summit beginning Thursday, the buzz words will be 'balanced and sustainable.'
"Obama gave a hint of the message when he spoke at the United Nations in New York on Wednesday. He said other nations cannot 'stand by and wait for America to solve the world's problems alone. Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.'"
"Anticipating the protests, the Pittsburgh also enlisted the assistance officers from scores of other departments across the country. All in all, it represented an unprecedented police presence for Pittsburgh, one that would strain the donut-shop infrastructure of a much larger city."
Associated Press' Darlene Superville, "Michelle Obama is international hostess at summit": " While the presidents and prime ministers spend Thursday evening and Friday chewing over the world's problems, Mrs. Obama will entertain their spouses by introducing them to Pittsburgh as well as to some of her own interests, including art and architecture, arts education, and sustainable farming and eating locally grown food."
New York Times' Ian Urbana, "For Pittsburgh, G-20 Meeting Is a Mixed Blessing": "The mayor, Luke Ravenstahl, has estimated that the thousands of attendees and protesters will spend $35 million in the city during the two-day conference, which starts Thursday. But his office has also said the extra security may cost more than $19 million. The federal government is providing $10 million, and the state around $4 million, leaving the city responsible for the rest."
United Nations roundup:
CBS News' Katie Couric's exclusive interview with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:
CBS News' Jim Axelrod, "Gadhafi Sparks Tensions at U.N."
New York Times' Helene Cooper, "Obama Makes Gains at U.N. on Iran and Proliferation": "President Obama, in his first visit to the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, made progress Wednesday on two key issues, wringing a concession from Russia to consider tough new sanctions against Iran and securing support from Moscow and Beijing for a Security Council resolution to curb nuclear weapons. The successes came as Mr. Obama told leaders that the United States intended to begin a new era of engagement with the world, in a sweeping address to the General Assembly in which he sought to clearly delineate differences between himself and the administration of President George W. Bush.
"One of the fruits of those differences — although White House officials were loath to acknowledge any quid pro quo publicly — emerged during Mr. Obama's meeting on Wednesday afternoon with President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia, the first between the two since Mr. Obama decided to replace Mr. Bush's missile defense program in Eastern Europe with a version less threatening to Moscow.
"With a beaming Mr. Obama standing next to him, Mr. Medvedev signaled for the first time that Russia would be amenable to longstanding American requests to toughen sanctions against Iran significantly if, as expected, nuclear talks scheduled for next month failed to make progress."
Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman, "Obama Sets Broad Goals for Leaders": "In a half-hour speech that was greeted warmly by world leaders, the U.S. president outlined 'four pillars' that he called "fundamental to the future that we want for our children" -- nuclear disarmament, Middle East peace, environmental restoration and economic growth. He chastised North Korea and Iran, warning of consequences if they don't back down from their nuclear programs."
Bloomberg News' Janine Zacharia, "Obama Says U.S. Won't Accept Settlements in West Bank": "President Barack Obama called Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegitimate a day after he praised Israel for showing restraint in their construction, a comment that had left Palestinians angry."
"Governor Deval Patrick huddled with a small group of trusted advisers last night to finalize his choice for an interim US senator, with indications pointing to former Democratic National Committee chairman Paul G. Kirk Jr., who has the strong backing of the immediate family of the late Edward M. Kennedy, as the overwhelming favorite," report the Boston Globe's Matt Viser and Frank Phillips…
"For weeks, it has been clear that this is not a choice that Patrick relishes making and not one that either he or his aides believe will benefit him politically. Some advisers and observers believe that, regardless of whom he chooses, he will anger key elements of the Democratic establishment. Further, many moderates and independents do not believe Patrick should even have the power to pick someone."
The Boston Herald's Jessica Van Sack and Hillary Chabot add, "The push for Kirk gained momentum yesterday after the late senator's widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, and sons Patrick and Ted Jr. urged the governor to appoint Kirk to the temporary post, a source close to the Kennedys said. The governor confirmed hearing from Vicki Kennedy 'multiple times' on the matter but declined to elaborate.
"Kirk, 71, a retired lobbyist and lawyer who lives on Cape Cod, raked in a whopping $250,942 in salary and stock options as a board member for Hartford Financial Services, the umbrella for The Hartford, which sells health coverage to retirees.
"Until a successor is elected in January, Kirk would wield a critical vote in health insurance and financial industry reforms, raising concerns about potential conflicts."
UPDATE: The Hartford disputes the Herald's report and says they're "not a health insurer"
UPDATE Sept. 25, 11:21 a.m ET: The Boston Herald reports that The Hartford's website does advertise "Group Retiree Health" plans, contrary to what The Hartford told CBS News. (http://groupbenefits.thehartford.com/products/employers/retiree.html) The Hartford has not responded to a CBS News request for clarification.
"The next junior senator from Massachusetts will not get plum committee assignments, primo Capitol Hill office space, or the much-coveted 'hideaway' for private gatherings. The temporary fill-in for the late Edward M. Kennedy should not count on the perks - or the respect - that the 'Lion of the Senate' accumulated over nearly five decades in office," writes the Boston Globe's Joseph Williams.
"But Kennedy's interim replacement will get one of 100 votes in the Senate - and the immediate attention of top Democrats looking for all the troops they can find for the upcoming battle over legislation to overhaul the nation's health care system."
"The legislators' reluctance to control premium costs comes despite the fact that they intend to require virtually all Americans to get health insurance, an unprecedented mandate -- long sought by insurance companies -- that would mark the first time the federal government has compelled consumers to buy a single industry's product, effectively creating a captive market.
"'We are about to force at least 30 million people into an insurance market where the sharks are circling,' said California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, a Democrat who served as the state's insurance commissioner for eight years. 'Without effective protections, they will be eaten alive.'"
"Slogging through a second day of work on legislation intended to overhaul the nation's health-care system, the Senate Finance Committee wrestled Wednesday with politically volatile proposals to squeeze money out of Medicare," add the Washington Post's Ceci Connolly and Lori Montgomery.
"As they continued marking up the bill, a process expected to stretch into next week, Democrats fended off attempts by Republicans to restore proposed reductions to the program, which serves the elderly, and get rid of government restrictions on the ways insurance companies market to seniors.
"Although the day-long session was marked by a slow pace and partisan sniping, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) could take comfort in several signs about the bill's prospects.
"Early indications suggested that two key swing senators -- Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) -- were inclined to back the bill. Additionally, Baucus, who has not always enjoyed broad support in his caucus, held the Democratic bloc together in the face of an energetic assault from GOP senators."
5326800AFGHANISTAN: "The senior American commander in Afghanistan on Wednesday rejected any suggestion that his grim assessment of the war had driven a wedge between the military and the Obama administration, but he warned against taking too long to settle on a final strategy," report the New York Times' Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt.
"The commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, said in an interview that he welcomed the fierce debate that had emerged this week over how to carry out the war.
"'A policy debate is warranted,' General McChrystal said in a telephone interview from his headquarters in Kabul.
"'We should not have any ambiguities, as a nation or a coalition,' he added. 'At the end of the day, we're putting young people in harm's way.'..
"General McChrystal would not address how many additional combat troops he would seek in a request he is preparing to send to the Defense Department. Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said Wednesday that the commander's request would be submitted this week, even though no decisions would be made until the administration had finished its newest review of Afghanistan policy."
Washington Post's Karen DeYoung, "McChrystal Request to Reach Pentagon by End of the Week": "Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's request for more troops and other resources to fund the expanded counterinsurgency campaign he has proposed in Afghanistan will arrive at the Defense Department by the end of this week but will not be immediately turned over to the White House, a Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday. 'It is simply premature to consider additional resources until General McChrystal's assessment has been fully reviewed and discussed by the president and his team,' spokesman Geoff Morrell said."
Wall Street Journal's Peter Spiegel, "Dubious Afghan Vote Drove U.S. to Revisit Strategy": " According to senior administration officials, the Afghan war plan that President Barack Obama announced in March -- which called for a comprehensive and manpower-intensive counterinsurgency strategy -- was built around the assumption that [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai would emerge from last month's elections with new legitimacy, a critical factor in fighting a guerrilla enemy. But allegations of widespread vote fraud in the Afghan balloting have revived long-held skepticism within Mr. Obama's national-security team -- including the increasingly influential Vice President Joe Biden -- about Mr. Karzai's role, convincing the White House that a complete rethink was warranted."
"The government has already paid out around $48 billion of the $49 billion that was expected to go to states and localities in the fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30, putting the rate of spending slightly ahead of schedule, according to the report, which was issued by the Government Accountability Office. The vast majority of the money spent so far — 84 percent — was provided in the form of extra Medicaid and education money to keep states afloat during the downturn; about 4 percent of it was for highway construction."
Meantime, the Wall Street Journal's Louise Radnofsky writes, "Stimulus money is helping states plug budget holes, but state officials are worried about how they will sustain programs after the federal funds run out, according to a new Government Accountability Office report released Wednesday.
"Around $90 billion of the $787 billion stimulus package was dedicated to state Medicaid programs. The money, which goes out quarterly to the states and is known as FMAP funds, has moved faster than stimulus dollars allocated to many other spending categories.
"The GAO, the congressional watchdog charged with monitoring how states are handling their share of the stimulus package, found that most states it studied were using the Medicaid funds to cover increased caseloads and to maintain their current services and eligibility criteria. Some states were also using the funds to avoid cutting payments to hospitals and doctors.
"State officials 'expressed concern about the longer-term sustainability of their Medicaid programs after the increased FMAP funds are no longer available, beginning in January 2011,' the report said."
Wall Street Journal's Damian Paletta and Kara Scannell, "Democrats Soften Financial Bill"
Washington Post's Brady Dennis, "Geithner Presses for Regulatory Overhaul"
Washington Post's Ellen Nakashima, "Democrats Seek to Tighten Oversight of Surveillance Methods"
NY Daily News' Elizabeth Benjamin, "Paterson Hedges on 2010, Suspects Cuomo Connection"
Politico's Alex Isenstadt, "New York Democrats urged W.H. to push David Paterson"
Washington Post's Carol D. Leonnig, "ACORN Sues Over Damaging Video"
Politico's Josh Kraushaar, "McMahon and the WWE"