The Note: Who's in Charge Here?

"The prospect of a crisis in the Medicare drug program, coming during a congressional corruption scandal and a shake-up of the House GOP leadership, is politically terrifying to some Republicans."

Samuel Alito for Associate Justice:

Just a bit more than half the Democratic caucus in the Senate showed up to the closed door meeting on the Alito nomination at which several Democratic Judiciary Committee members made their case for the importance of voting against Alito and then using that vote as a possible campaign issue, per the New York Times' David Kirkpatrick. LINK

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) tells the Los Angeles Times she will vote against Alito, but it's too soon to say how many of her Democratic colleagues will join her. LINK

The Washington Post follows the Boston Herald in reporting that Sen. Kennedy has formally cut his ties with a male-only Harvard social club. LINK

Lobbying reform:

In addition to indicating that Democrats intend to push the "culture of corruption" theme all year long, Carl Hulse of the New York Times writes yesterday's unveiling of their reform agenda "showed that Democrats did not intend to strike a deal easily with Republicans on an ethics overhaul." LINK

The Washington Post reviews the Democrats' reform plan and asks if an "ethical 'arms race'" is developing. LINK

Dorning and Zeleny of the Chicago Tribune call to our attention loopholes in the lobby reform plans of both parties: exceptions for campaign fundraising, trips on private planes, and a strong means of enforcement. LINK

USA Today's Jim Drinkard reports on the fact-finding trips, a congressional perk on the endangered list. LINK

All this talk about lobbyists seems to have inspired USA Today to shine a harsh light onto the relationship between Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and "vulture fund" Cerberus. LINK

The Boston Globe's industrious Michael Kranish reports that Democratic Congressman Michael Capuano (MA) and his wife "went on a $19,403 corporate-sponsored trip to Brazil -- one of the most expensive trips taken by any member of Congress during 2005, according to congressional travel records." LINK

Per Zachary Coile of the San Francisco Chronicle: "Watchdog groups said the Democrats' plan had the same major flaw as the GOP proposal: no clear system for enforcing congressional ethics rules." LINK

Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann take to the New York Times op-ed page to suggest that Congress needs to take a look in the mirror and reform how it does its legislative business before any lobbying reform can have meaningful impact. LINK

Ben Pershing of Roll Call reports that lobbyists have been cut from the guest list of an upcoming GOP retreat, meaning Congressmen will have to pay their own way, as well as for any attending staffers.

A Wall Street Journal editorial scoffs at the "hilariously predictable" lobbying reform proposals, which will do nothing to "truly reduce corruption."

The Abramoff affair:

Can Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) be beaten by a Democrat decrying the lawmaker's role in what he called the "Abaramoff" affair? The Hill takes a look at the competition facing Representative No. 1. LINK

Democrats are failing to take full advantage of the Abramoff scandal because of internal divisions about the extent to which they should adopt reform proposals, suggests a Bloomberg story. LINK

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