Obama: Cut more to pay for overhaul

WASHINGTON - President Obama said yesterday that he wanted at least $200 billion cut from Medicare and Medicaid spending over the next decade to help pay for overhauling the nation's health-care system and providing coverage to 50 million uninsured Americans.

The reductions in the program would come atop the $300 billion in cuts already proposed in his budget.

In a letter to Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D., Mass.) and Max Baucus (D., Mont.), Obama also said that if Congress ended up requiring individuals to buy health insurance, people who can't afford it and small businesses should be exempt. He strongly reiterated his support for a new public health-insurance plan to compete against private insurers.

Kennedy and Baucus head committees writing health-care bills. Obama has asked the House and Senate each to finish legislation by early August, so that the two can combine their bills in time for him to sign a single, sweeping measure in October. - AP

GOP's Leach gets humanities post

WASHINGTON - President Obama said yesterday that he would nominate former Rep. Jim J. Leach (R., Iowa) as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Leach, 66, who served 30 years in the House, chaired the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services. He also founded and served as cochair of the Congressional Humanities Caucus. After he left Congress in 2007, Leach taught at Princeton University and was interim director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Last year, he endorsed Obama for president and addressed the Democratic National Convention.

The endowment supports endeavors in scholarship and teaching, principally in history, literature, and philosophy. - Washington Post

Oakland to issue IDs to residents

OAKLAND, Calif. - Oakland is set to become the third U.S. city to issue identification cards to all its residents, including illegal immigrants.

The city council approved the proposal Tuesday, but it will not start until council members approve a plan for implementing it. The intent is to help anyone who may have trouble obtaining a state-issued ID.

New Haven, Conn., has a similar program. San Francisco began issuing cards in January after a judge tossed out a lawsuit alleging that the program aids and abets illegal immigration. - AP

Elsewhere:

NASA has cleared the shuttle Endeavour for a June 13 launch to the International Space Station. Endeavour is to carry up the last part of Japan's science lab and a replacement resident for the station.

The IRS has filed a $819,848 tax lien against Sen. John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign, but Kerry (D., Mass.) yesterday blamed an IRS clerical error for the claim and said his campaign owed no tax penalties. Kerry said the IRS mishandled payroll tax forms that he said his campaign filed correctly in 2005. IRS spokesman Anthony Burke declined to comment.