The Note

Big Casino budget politics:

Robert Pear writes the White House is siding with the Senate and telling Congress not to provide the prescription drug benefit to the six million poor elderly and disabled people who already qualify for such help through state Medicaid programs. LINK

Said a senior Administration official, "To spend federal money on people who have reasonably good drug coverage does not seem like the best use of the available resources."

Keep it tuned here for more on the coming Bill Thomas — Bush White House showdown.

Negotiations to resolve differing House and Senate plans for Medicare prescription drug benefits have stalled, reports the Wall Street Journal 's Sarah Lueck, and the White House doesn't look to be interested in helping move things along, according to Democrats.

Some Republican leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) have been cautiously optimistic in public that a deal will be done — a concern on both sides that they'll be facing an election without the promised drug benefit. And at the moment, there's no Plan B.

"The most vexing problem for congressional negotiators is how to fashion legislation that reshapes Medicare sufficiently to satisfy House Republicans without alienating so many Democrats that a bill can't get through the closely divided Senate. Some supporters of the Senate bill suggest the House isn't interested in compromise. Staffers say there are ways to craft a compromise that will be agreeable to both sides. But without active involvement by Mr. Bush, many on Capitol Hill say, lawmakers are unlikely to cut a deal."

"This conundrum has sparked speculation that the White House may send a high-level official, possibly Vice President Cheney or Bush political adviser Karl Rove, to sit in on congressional negotiating sessions and press for progress. Administration officials won't say whether they will take that step."

Politics: The Wall Street Journal 's John Fialka sets the scene for the hearing to confirm Utah Governor Mike Leavitt's nomination as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency — and the opportunity the Democrats are seizing to vent their spleen(s) about the White House's environmental policies.

Nothing personal, Governor Leavitt.

"'Into this cauldron comes a good man,' said Senator Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) before launching an attack on what he claimed was the Bush administration's secret assault on environmental laws."

The first round of fighting over Leavitt began yesterday with several Senators — Lieberman and Clinton among them — placing a hold on it, the Washington Times ' Amy Fagan reports. Senators Kerry and Edwards also promised to get in on the act if the administration doesn't study the health effects of proposed changes in air quality standards. LINK

USA Today 's Traci Watson reports on the power plant issue that highlighted Governor Leavitt's confirmation hearing on Tuesday. LINK

The AP reports that the ACLU "yesterday asked the federal courts to prevent the Secret Service from keeping anti-Bush demonstrators far away from presidential appearances while allowing supporters to display their messages up close." LINK

Salon on the "ties" the Rev. Sun Myung Moon has "cemented" with the Bush Administration — and the government money he has won for his closest disciples. LINK

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