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K Street Files: Try and Try Again

In his first prime-time news conference on Monday night, President Barack Obama pitched into conservative lawmakers bent on keeping billions of dollars in school construction funding out of the roughly $838 billion stimulus package, wryly asking them, “Why wouldn’t we want to build state-of-the-art schools?”

[IMGCAP(1)]“I think there are areas, like education, where some in my party have been too resistant to reform and have argued only money makes a difference,” Obama said later in the press conference. “And there have been others on the Republican side or the conservative side who said no matter how much money you spend, nothing makes a difference, so let’s just blow up the public school systems.”

But with the bill now headed to conference, the nation’s largest teachers union is angling to shovel as many of those discarded construction dollars back into the bill, conceding on Monday that ditching it was the only pathway to the 60 votes necessary for cloture.

“We hope they restore much of what the Senate version doesn’t have,” National Education Association lobbyist Randy Moody said. “They had to do what they had to do, but we don’t think

it’s sufficient … but you have to remember we started with nothing,”

Despite the setback in the Senate, Moody was confident Monday that the final legislation, which could land on Obama’s desk by early next week, will include at least part of the $16 billion in education construction money that wound up on the cutting room floor.

“You know how conferences work,” Moody said. “A lot of times they split the difference, so we’ll see how it goes.”

MoveOn’s Marching Orders. As eight banking executives ready themselves for tough questions that House Financial Services Committee members are expected to direct at them in today’s hearing, they might be in for a surprise.

The liberal-minded and its members have plied lawmakers with some questions of their own.

Upset with what they see as a lack of accountability with the financial bailout, MoveOn asked members this week to sign a petition and send committee members questions that they have for the financial services execs.

The petition states: “Congress must place enforceable, common-sense limits on salaries at all the banks that have taken taxpayer dollars.”

The group is set to deliver to Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and the rest of the committee 323,000 signatures or nearly 8,000 pages Wednesday morning, according to Daniel Mintz, campaign director for MoveOn.

Tune in to see whether Frank will call an audible and use MoveOn’s material.

Wichterman Returns. Covington & Burling is welcoming Bill Wichterman back into the fold. Wichterman is rejoining the firm’s government affairs group as a senior legislative adviser. He is returning after a stint in the Bush administration, where he served as special assistant to the president and deputy director of public liaison at the White House.

Known for his conservative ties, Wichterman served as a policy adviser to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and chief of staff to Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) and then-Rep. Bill Baker (R-Calif.).

K Street Moves. The Biotechnology Industry Organization picked up Democrat Matthew Schumaker. Schumaker, who most recently worked at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, joins the trade group as managing director of federal government relations. Prior to moving to the DCCC, Schumaker served as the first-ever executive director of the New Democrat Coalition.

• KRL International brought on Mark Clack as a senior adviser. Clack joins the firm after serving as a senior legislative assistant to Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.).

• Lisa Kay Layman has jumped to Brown Rudnick. Layman, who most recently was vice president for government affairs at the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, joins as director in the firm’s government law and strategies group. Prior to joining the trade group, she was senior policy adviser to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

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