WASHINGTON, Jan. 9
Only fools will be distracted by Vice President Cheney's health, the House Republican Leadership election(s), and/or the Alito confirmation hearings.
All of these are vitally important. They will all get a lot of coverage. And they should. But do yourself a favor: keep your eye on the prize/news by carefully going through the Boston Globe's Nina Easton must-read on President Bush's 2006 and State of the Union planning, with his eyes on history, conservatives, the suburbs, women, the House, and compassion. LINK
Then you can go back to a metabolic life not wholly unlike that of a cable television news control room producer:
After a visit to The George Washington University Hospital early this morning, Vice President and Mrs. Cheney have returned home. His schedule for the rest of the day is TBD at this writing. ABC News' Jessica Yellin reports that the POTUS and VPOTUS have indeed spoken today.
From Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride: "His doctors found that his EKG was unchanged and determined that he was retaining fluid as a result of anti-inflammatory medication he has been taking for a foot problem. They have placed him on a diuretic."
Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) will be in Washington, DC today continuing to make phone calls to his colleagues seeking their support for Majority Leader. He has no public schedule and no planned media interviews as of this writing.
Rep. Boehner (R-OH) is also in Washington, DC with no public schedule as he continues to focus on talking to members.
President Bush and Judge Alito appeared together in the Rose Garden just before 8:00 am ET. The President described Alito as a dignified man who will interpret the law instead of making the law from the bench. Mr. Bush called for a dignified Senate process. The President also, without apparent irony, lauded the Judge's ABA rating.
RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman is hosting a conference call with reporters at 10:00 a.m. ET to discuss the Alito hearings.
The Alito hearings begin at 12:15 pm ET. Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) will be the first to deliver his opening statement. He will be followed by each of the 18 members who will have 10-minutes for an opening statement. Alito will be introduced at 3:45 pm ET by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Christine Todd Whitman, the former Republican governor and EPA administrator. Alito will take his oath at 4:00 pm ET and deliver a 5-8 minute opening statement.
ABC News Now will break into news coverage at 12:00 pm ET to go live with a 15 minute pre-show with Sam Donaldson and Rob Simmelkjaer. ABC News Now will then go straight into the hearings when Specter gavels them open at 12:15 pm ET. ABC News Now will stay with the hearings straight through.
Learn more about ABC News Now here: LINK
On Tuesday, the first round of 30-minute questioning begins at 9:30 am ET. It will continue into the night, with a dinner break from 6:00-7:00 pm ET.
On Wednesday, Specter begins the second round of 20-minute questioning at 9:30 am ET. Questioning resumes after a dinner break at 7:00 pm ET. If the questioning is completed, the committee goes into a closed session to review Alito's FBI background check.
On Thursday, Specter resumes round two, if necessary, or begins round three of questioning at 9:30 am ET. There are no pre-determined limits to round three questioning. It's uncertain when round three of questioning will end. It could end Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Whenever it does end, the plan is for committee members to go into closed session, and then return to hear from outside witnesses.
As for the other non-Alito events of the day. . .
President Bush makes remarks on "No Child Left Behind" at the North Glen Elementary School in Glen Burnie, MD at 10:25 am ET.
In Jackson, MS, Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) delivers his first post-Katrina "State of the State" address at 7:00 pm ET.
A stitched-up Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) visits the Northeast Valley Health Corporation to discuss children's health insurance in North Hollywood, CA at 1:45 pm ET.
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) officiates at the swearing-in ceremony for Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice at 11:15 am ET in Garden City, NY. She then speaks at a leadership summit for nonprofits, labor, business, and government on Long Island at 12:30 pm ET.
Please see below for our look at the week ahead.
And we send our condolences and best wishes to the family of David Rosenbaum. LINK
Robin Toner, one of countless journalists who, like us, have had better lives because of David, said it smart and sweet, calling him "a terrific reporter and a great human being."
We already miss him a lot.
Follow the Leader(ship race):
Remember: this is not a public opinion contest. It is an election that is only about the Members, and that makes it the ultimate inside-of-the-inside game. And Members are, uhm, weird. Any risky gambit -- such as highlighting an opponent's past with an ethics play, even if not planted by the opponent's opponents -- could be seen as dirty pool. But we will see.
To kick off our coverage of the House Republican Leader race, we start off with exclusive-to-The-Note statements from the campaigns themselves.
Like most winning elements of The Note, this feature is stolen from the National Journal's Hotline (We consider it homage.).
Older readers will recall such statements from the 1988 presidential campaigns which introduced to the wider world the wit and wisdom of a fresh-faced Michael McCurry.
The rules are simple: the campaigns can write whatever they want (no editing by us) as long as the total is fewer than 150 words and they make at least an attempt at humor (keeping in mind that humor on Capitol Hill is graded on a curve). Statements are published in the order in which they are received.
(Good news for the Conference: these two cats have operations that know how to do rapid response, since we didn't give them much Monday morning warning.)
Only official candidates are eligible for this golden real estate. So, with thanks to the staffs of Mr. Boehner and Mr. Blunt (and with warning to them that we are doing this again tomorrow and until further Notice), without further ado, here they are:
From the Boehner campaign (courtesy of Kevin "We Have the Better Madden" Smith):
"In the first 24 hours of his Majority Leader candidacy, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) received strong support from a broad cross-section of members. Boehner announced his run on Fox News's Weekend Live program Sunday. His member whip team, comprised of more than 20 members, is joining Boehner in making calls to lock up support. Boehner is stressing his credentials as: a conservative who has led efforts to reduce government spending and promote fiscal responsibility; a reformer who helped expose corruption in the House Bank scandal; a legislator who has led efforts on education and pension reform; and as a leader with a proven record of bringing together members of both parties to support legislation based on Republican principles. The momentum in Boehner's office was momentarily halted on Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals went from playoff contender to playoff disappointment, but quickly resumed on news of additional member support."
From the Blunt campaign (courtesy of Jessica "Progress for Roy" Boulanger):
"More than two dozen Members representing the diversity of our conference---ideologically and geographically--have proactively reached out to Mr. Blunt to make calls on his behalf. Some of these Members include: Reps. Crenshaw, Kirk, Myrick, Blackburn, Camp, Goodlatte, Baker, Norwood, Frelinghuysen, Pitts, Nancy Johnson, Issa, Putnam, Westmoreland, and Ferguson."
"In his calls to Members, Blunt is emphasizing his commitment to swift enactment of reform legislation as outlined by Speaker Hastert yesterday. He's also talking about his proven track record as Whip and his experience at the leadership table."
"Mr. Blunt is committed to having individual conversations with Members of the Conference, as they are the only audience in this race. Sorry, Note readers and cable TV watchers: no interviews from this camp until this race is locked up. And even though this might annoy Mark Halperin, Blunt is committed to talking directly with his colleagues -- not the press!"
The race for Majority Leader (or Rely on Your Beliefs vs. the Freedom Project):
The election is expected to take place February 2, reports USA Today and others. LINK
The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers handicaps the leadership race in the newspaper's new daily on-line Washington Wire: "Blunt is seen as front-runner, but entry of additional candidates could aid Boehner's chances by denying him a first-ballot majority in leadership elections. Subsequent ballots would give Boehner and any other challenger an opening to peel away votes from Blunt."
Per the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman, Hastert has tapped Congressman Dreier to tighten rules on lobbyists amid signs that even the Speaker could be in trouble. LINK
"In the first sign that even Hastert could be in trouble, Rep. John E. Sweeney (R-N.Y.) said Republicans should consider whether to replace the speaker. 'The time is right for us to do some soul-searching and have an open dialogue about the direction of the House.'"
In special issue of Roll Call, Ben Pershing reports that DeLay's relinquishing of Majority Leader set off the biggest weekend of House GOP leadership campaigning in seven years. While the Boehner-Blunt race takes shape, Reps. Mike Pence, John Shadegg, and Jerry Lewis all made calls over the weekend to decide whether they should throw their hats into the ring as well. As of Sunday evening, none did.
The Hill's Patrick O'Connor with more on the fevered Boehner-Blunt race that's beginning to take shape. LINK
Here's a link (courtesy of the Center for Responsive Politics) to a list of members who have received some of the roughly $300,000 Rep. Blunt's leadership PAC has doled out thus far for the 2006 cycle: LINK
And here's the link to a list of members who have received some of the roughly $250,000 Rep. Boehner's leadership PAC has contributed so far this election cycle: LINK
Bloomberg's Laura Litvan and Jay Newton-Small look at the Blunt and Boehner PACs: "Blunt's 'Rely on Your Beliefs' PAC gave out $448,572 in campaign contributions the first 11 months of 2005, more than all but two members of Congress, while Boehner's 'Freedom Project' PAC gave out $337,529, ranking sixth, according to" FEC "records compiled by PoliticalMoneyLine, a Washington company that tracks donations." LINK
Carl Hulse of the New York Times picks up on Rep. Boehner's comments on Fox News Channel yesterday and depicts him as the candidate less vocally committed to new lobbying reform rules. Hulse also places the leadership race into a presidential context. LINK
"Mr. Bush had hoped to use January to accomplish two big goals: win the confirmation battle over Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s nomination to the Supreme Court, and show voters that he is overwhelmingly focused on the war in Iraq and the economy."
"But the fight for Mr. DeLay's old job will highlight the internal divisions among Republicans on a variety of topics, including immigration, at a time when the party's discipline has been fraying and Mr. Bush has had trouble holding thin legislative majorities together."
The Dayton Daily News Notes a top advisor to Karl Rove, Barry Jackson, is a former Boehner aide. LINK
(Not to mention Terry Holt -- he of the mini-me Boehner year-round tan.)
The first two words of Rep. Blunt's "Dear Colleague" letter announcing his intention to seek the Majority Leader's office on a permanent basis: "Tom DeLay"
Two words that do NOT appear anywhere in Rep. Boehner's "Dear Colleague" letter announcing his run for Majority Leader: Tom DeLay.
Jeff Zeleny and Mike Dorning of the Chicago Tribune elaborate on the demise of DeLay's hold on his Majority Leader post. LINK
Roger Ailes, please Note: whoever the bookers were for FNC yesterday, they deserve a raise. DeLay, Boehner, Dreier, Bob Novak's maiden staff appearance, Fred Barnes with a cold, Michael Barone with a semi-cold -- it was very impressive.
The Republican ethics agenda:
The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers reports, with an exclusive interview, that Hastert "looks willing to embrace portions of a bipartisan Senate bill introduced by" McCain that would "increase public disclosure of lobbyists' activities, including travel and meals provided to lawmakers. The Speaker was reluctant to discuss specifics, but moving toward the McCain bill will affect debate in the House and Senate and make it more likely that meaningful changes are enacted this year."
The Wall Street Journal's ed board whacks the House GOP again: "The real House GOP problem isn't about lobbyists so much as it is the atrophying of its principles."
Be sure to read all the way to the bottom when the Wall Street Journal writes: "Eventually, voters may grow more disgusted with Republicans who care only about re-election than they are afraid of Ms. Pelosi's San Francisco liberalism."
The Los Angeles Times leads with area-congressman Dreier being tapped to "target influence peddlers on Capitol Hill." LINK
Samuel Alito for Associate Justice:
"Six in 10 Americans plan to tune in to the Senate confirmation hearings that start today for Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito, and his supporters continue to outnumber his opponents by about a 2-1 ratio," writes ABC's Jon Cohen of the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll numbers. LINK
While appearing on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal," Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said with regards to a possible filibuster: "Certainly nobody has said that the filibuster is off the table."
In his opening statement, Chairman Specter will say that the Alito hearing comes "at a time of great national concern about the balance between civil rights and the President's national security authority." Specter plans to ask Alito about the relative constitutional powers of Congress and the President in light of an electronic surveillance program that "appears to conflict" with congressional legislation in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
On the issue of abortion, Specter plans to say that the hearing will give Alito the public forum to address whether his personal views and prior advocacy "will not determine his judicial decision."
In his opening remarks, Sen. Kennedy is expected to focus on Alito's views regarding executive power, by saying: "In an era when the White House is abusing power, has authorized torture, and is spying on American citizens, I find Judge Alito's support for an all-powerful executive branch and almost unlimited power for government agents to be deeply troubling."
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the committee's ranking Democrat, plans to cite Justice O'Connor's Hamdi decision in which she wrote that even war "is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens."
The Wall Street Journal's John Harwood reports that strategists from both parties consider confirmation of Alito as likely, but on "nearly a party-line vote." LINK
"Sen. Chafee of Rhode Island is considered the most likely Republican defector, and Sen. Nelson of Nebraska the likeliest Democratic crossover."
The Washington Post's Jo Becker and Dale Russakoff pick up on a "little-noticed" interview Alito gave Michael Aron of NJN News's "Front Page New Jersey" in 1988 in which Alito gave a ringing defense of Robert Bork. LINK
"I think he was one of the most outstanding nominees of this century. He is a man of unequaled ability, understanding of constitutional history, someone who had thought deeply throughout his entire life about constitutional issues and about the Supreme Court and the role it ought to play in American society."
USA Today's Joan Biskupic reports that while the Alito hearings will focus on abortion and civil rights, they will also carry a heavy emphasis on the president's right to order domestic spying without court approval. LINK
Walter Shapiro returns to the columnizing business this day with his Salon.com Alito curtain raiser which focuses on the nominee's rotten luck in going before the Judiciary Committee in the current political climate. LINK
Timesman Adam Liptak provides a primer for likely questions and answers to be heard at today's hearings and Notes the roadmap provided by the Roberts hearings. LINK
Evan Thomas and Stuart Taylor, Jr. of Newsweek provide their decoder key for those watching the Alito hearings on television this week. LINK
David Shipley struts his stuff today by inviting Leonard Leo, Cheryl Mills, Scott Turow, Stanley Fish, John Yoo, and Kenji Yoshino to each provide five questions for Judge Alito on the New York Times op-ed page. LINK
Carolyn Lochhead from Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle predicts that "a filibuster appears unlikely, so the key for Alito's backers is to secure a majority of 51 senators." LINK
While meeting the press on Sunday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said if Alito refuses to answers questions vital to Democrats, they are likely to block his nomination, the Washington Times' Charles Hurt reports. LINK
The AP has Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) telling a religious rally in Philadelphia that the "only way to restore this republic our founders envisioned is to elevate honorable jurists like Samuel Alito." LINK
The State's Lee Bandy on Sen. Graham's role in the Alito hearings. LINK
The New York Times' Kirkpatrick cleverly looks at the intersecting lives of Judge Alito and Chief Justice Roberts. LINK
In a Washington Times op-ed, Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) outlines Alito's record and asks committee members to follow due process with a "full investigation, full questioning, full debate and an up-or-down vote." LINK
For Saturday's Washington Post, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) penned an op-ed calling into question Alito's credibility in five areas: (1) his 1985 job application, (2) his membership in "Concerned Alumni of Princeton," (3) his failure to recuse himself in the Vanguard case, (4) his pledge to be absolutely impartial where the government is concerned, and (5) his pledge to leave his personal beliefs aside when he became a judge. LINK
The New York Sun's Josh Gerstein has Senate staffers saying that they believe Alito may indicate that his concerns about Princeton's treatment of ROTC could have led him to the controversial conservative alumni group." LINK
"The possibility that the nominee would offer such an explanation was first floated last week by a gossipy Web site, the Drudge Report."
Roll Call's Paul Kane and John Bresnahan have an interview with Noel Hillman, the DOJ's chief of Public Integrity, in which he acknowledges on the record the increased use of undercover wire taps and surveillance in white-collar political investigations.
Time Magazine's Karen Tumulty has an internal FBI e-mail in which the director of the FBI's Washington field office, Michael Mason, congratulates some 15 agents and 15 support for squeezing Abramoff to make a deal. But he added that "the case is far from over." LINK
Another official involved with the probe told Time Magazine that investigators are viewing Abramoff as "the middle guy" – suggesting there are bigger targets in their sights.
Time Magazine's Mike Allen and Matt Cooper report that aides to President Bush are trying to identify all photos that may exist of the President and Abramoff together. LINK
The New York Times looks at how Abramoff's law firm, Greenberg Traurig, has cooperated with all facets of the various investigations into Abramoff's activities and thereby seems to have escaped joining its former partner in his downfall. LINK
Kit Seelye of the New York Times looks at Jack Abramoff's work on behalf of the Magazine Publisher's Association. LINK
Newsweek's Clift and Hosenball explore Abramoff's reach and lay out many pieces of Bob Ney-related string. The duo writes Ney "seems to have particularly welcomed Abramoff's favors." LINK
The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein wrote in his now-on-Sunday column that sending back contributions from the Indian tribes "isn't only silly, it's destructive to the cause of reforming Washington. It perpetuates the fiction that 'bad' contributions can be segregated from 'good' contributions in some orderly fashion that allows politicians to raise millions without compromising their independence." LINK
Rick Klein of the Boston Globe reports that Republicans in Congress are now looking back and pushing forward on legislation that was once ignored by GOP members on lobbying reform. LINK
Sen. Reid (D-NV) sent a letter to his Senate Democratic colleagues Friday evening clearly placing his party's message against the Republican "culture of corruption" at the top of the Democratic agenda. The Senate Minority Leader previewed the lobbying reform agenda the party will soon unveil including increasing the length of time a former member has to wait before lobbying Congress and revising rules concerning gifts and travel.
Here is an excerpt from Sen. Reid's strategy memo:
"Democrats must stay on the offensive against scandal-ridden, Republican-run Washington. Together, we must clearly and effectively communicate to the American people that it is the culture of corruption created by Republicans in Washington that is standing in the way of action on their priorities. The American people want their elected leaders in Washington to focus on their interests, not the special interests. That the Republicans had the audacity to put the leader of their notorious K-Street Project, Rick Santorum, in charge of their "reform" effort shows just how out of touch they are with what's going on in this county."
Teeing up his Red State tour, Sen. Reid pens an op-ed in the Denver Post today in which he continues to hammer the reform message. "Honest leadership isn't a partisan goal. It is the key to a stronger union," writes Reid. LINK
Roll Call's Billings reports that January 18 is the day to mark on your calendars for the unveiling of a key component of the 2006 Democratic agenda, the "Honest Leadership Act."
Bush Administration agenda:
Bob Novak utilizes his Monday column to write up in must-read fashion some Republican concerns that the new Medicare prescription drug benefit may be a net loss for the GOP and Novak clearly hangs the program around Karl Rove's neck. LINK
"This program looks less like a bump in the road than a major pothole on Rove's highway to permanent majority status for the Republican Party. As Bush's principal political adviser, Rove has a brilliant strategic mind and can take credit for crafting the 2000 and 2004 presidential election victories. The drug plan was an audacious effort to co-opt the votes of seniors, reflecting Rove's grand design of building on the electoral majority by adding constituency groups. By failing to win new supporters while alienating old ones, the drug plan betrays a flaw in Rove's strategic overview and points to potentially disastrous consequences."
Novak chooses not to include any pushback from defenders of the program.
The Concord Monitor's editorial board criticizes Bush's Medicare plan, calling it a "highly-concocted" political move to "curry favor with the nation's most reliable voters, seniors." LINK
And of course Robert Pear pounded the program in the New York Times again over the weekend.
Fred Dicker's New York Post column includes an item about a bit of a freeze in the warm relations usually enjoyed by George Pataki and Jeanine Pirro, but many Note readers will find this line the most intriguing. LINK
". . .Pataki, who's gearing up for what many close to him describe as a quixotic quest for the presidency, found himself being mocked in national Republican circles after Pirro quit the race against Clinton."
At a time when critics accuse Sen. George Allen of pork-barrel spending, the Richmond Times-Dispatch Notes that the Senator defended the $1 million he sought in appropriations given to the American Civil War Center, calling it a "valuable expenditure" which was "secured under budgetary rules that are on the books." LINK
Rob Hotakainen of the Star Tribune writes that Allen remains one of the 5 Republican Senators most likely to support Bush even when his popularity dwindled in 2005. LINK
Gov. Mark Warner thinks Congress and the Bush Administration could take a few pointers from the state of Virginia when it comes to putting aside partisanship to get the job done. LINK
And be sure to Note that travel schedule!
Vermont Guardian's Shay Totten & Kathryn Casa Note that Sen. Russ Feingold, who stumped for Bernard Sanders of Vermont over the weekend, would not rule out calling for impeachment of the President if he did indeed break domestic spying laws. LINK
Portsmouth Herald News reports that Feingold paid a visit to the country's leadoff primary this past Saturday—his second visit to New Hampshire in the past five months. LINK
Sen. Bayh (D-IN) tells the Indianapolis Star that "heads out to roll" at the Defense Department if the New York Times (and other) reporting about some military deaths which possibly could have been prevented with better body armor proves true. LINK
Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register writes that Gov. Vilsack has a lot on the table in his last year in office and that a productive 2006 is worth its weight in gold if he runs for president in 2008. LINK
Vilsack stated over the weekend that he will start a long-term permanent fund starting at $15 million and later rising to $75 million, ensuring all preschoolers quality care despite skepticism that continual funding this year may not be manageable. LINK
John Edwards scores another anti-poverty clip in advance of a visit to Seattle, WA. LINK
Election-year politics threaten to pose a distraction and "take hostage" the Iowa legislative session that begins today. LINK
Elisabeth Bumiller's "White House Letter" in the New York Times explores one of the rare cases where the President and Scott McClellan's political interests diverge, the Texas governor's race. LINK
The New York Post's Fred Dicker reports Tom Golisano's wife has given her husband the "OK" for a gubernatorial run. LINK
The Schwarzenegger Era:
San Francisco Chronicle's Tanya Chevitz reports that Gov. Schwarzenegger will resume his Monday schedule as planned after having received 15 stitches, which resulted from yesterday's low-speed motorcycle collision. The governor's accident comes at time when "he has one of his most high-profile days of the year this week, when he formally introduces his budget Tuesday." LINK
The Los Angeles Times' George Skelton writes that the governor is showing signs of self-reform after a bad 2005. LINK
The week ahead:
On Tuesday, President Bush makes remarks on the war on terrorism at 10:15 am ET at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC. At 1:35 pm ET, he signs HR 972, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.
Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) delivers Iowa's "Condition of the State" address in Des Moines.
As part of his tour of Red States, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) visits Phoenix, AZ and Denver, CO.
Roger Hickey of the Campaign for America's Future and David Donnelly of Public Campaign Action Fund will unveil television, radio, and billboard ads that seek to link Congressman Tom DeLay (R-TX) and Congressman Bob Ney (R-OH) to one of the "worst corruption scandals to ever hit Washington."
On Wednesday, President Bush signs the US-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement in the Oval Office. He then makes remarks on the war on terrorism in Louisville, KY. Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) delivers his final "State of the Commonwealth" address in Richmond, VA. The Supreme Court hears oral arguments in House v. Bell, a DNA-death penalty case.
On Thursday, the President discusses Gulf Coast Reconstruction in Waveland, MS and raises money for the RNC at a private residence in Palm Beach, FL. Sen. Reid visits Omaha, NE. And the results of the DNA testing of Roger Coleman ordered by Gov. Warner are possibly expected.
On Friday, President Bush meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House and participates in a joint press availability. The President meets with business leaders on Central American relief and reconstruction efforts at 2:05 pm ET in the Oval Office.
On Saturday, Gov. Tim Kaine (D-VA) becomes the first Virginia governor to be sworn into office in Williamsburg, VA since Thomas Jefferson.