The Note: The Note



President Bush holds a pre-State of the Union meeting with his Cabinet at 10:00 am ET. This afternoon, President Bush will sign the Presidential Proclamation in Honor of the 4th Anniversary of the USA Freedom Corps at 1:15 pm ET.

At 3:50 pm ET, DSCC Chairman Sen. Schumer (D-NY) and DCCC Chairman Rep. Emanuel (D-IL) will host a conference call with reporters to discuss what they see as the ramifications of the State of the Union address on the 2006 midterm elections.

The "Conservative Members Retreat" sponsored by the Heritage Foundation gets underway in Baltimore, MD this morning, with the House leadership voting scheduled for Thursday. Rep. Blunt (R-MO) makes his pitch to his colleagues at 3:00 pm ET, followed by Rep. Boehner (R-OH) at 4:00 pm and Rep. Shadegg (R-AZ) at 4:30 pm. The four candidates for Mr. Blunt's whip position will also make presentations today. Newt Gingrich, Former Sen. Phil Gramm, and columnist George Will all address the group tomorrow.

The closed-door session with the entire House Republican Conference where Members will be able to question the Majority Leader candidates will take place on Wednesday. The conference will also hear any motions for additional leadership elections on Wednesday, a day before the voting.

The budget cutting bill the Senate shipped back over to the House before the holiday break comes up for an anticipated close vote on Wednesday -- an opportunity for Rep. Blunt to demonstrate his vote counting abilities.

Sen. Ted Kennedy takes to the Senate floor at 10:00 am ET to explain why he believes filibustering the Alito nomination is the right thing to do. The cloture vote -- the vote to end the filibuster and cut off debate -- is scheduled for 4:30 pm ET and is expected to succeed. The final vote on confirmation is currently scheduled for 11:00 am ET tomorrow.

At 2:00 pm ET, Cindy Sheehan, Ralph Nader, Ramsey Clark, and others will hold a forum at Bus Boys and Poets to discuss impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Democratic Reps. Dingell, Stark, Waxman, and Wasserman Schultz hold a 1:00 pm ET press conference to introduce "emergency legislation" related to the new Medicare prescription drug benefit.

First Lady Laura Bush will deliver remarks at the "National Awards for Museum and Library Services" in the East Room of the White House at 10:20 am ET.

Secretary of State Rice is London meeting with fellow representatives of the permanent members of the UN Security Council to discuss their continued strategy in dealing with Iran.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) is in Washington, DC today for Republican Governors Association finance meetings.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) holds a town hall meeting in Wheeling, IL at 11:30 am ET.

Democratic candidate for the US Senate Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) holds a 12:30 pm ET press conference in St. Paul, MN in advance of the President's State of the Union address.

Would you like to give your own State of the Union address? ABC News and would like you to participate in our coverage of the speech by telling us what issues matter the most to you this year. Send in digital video of your own State of the Union speech, and it may be included in an ABC News broadcast. LINK

See below for our look at the week ahead.

Thanks to all of you who have sent your prayers and best wishes for our colleagues Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt.

SOTU: political analysis:

Dan Balz's must-read from Sunday's Washington Post. LINK

Ron Brownstein from Sunday's Los Angeles Times: LINK

Newsweek's Wolffe and Bailey on what they see as the President's strategy for 2006 to emphasize war. LINK

Bloomberg's Roger Simon has Stu Rothenberg saying that Democrats taking control of the House is "difficult, but not impossible" to imagine, while he sees the Democrats taking control of the Senate as "tough to imagine." LINK

Gina Glantz, a Democratic consultant who advised Howard Dean in 2004, believes "much of the criticism that Democrats direct toward Bush doesn't touch the daily lives of most Americans. 'People are not worried about spying or corruption' or the nomination of Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the U.S. Supreme Court, she says. 'They are worried about being in debt, paying the mortgage, health care and good schools for their kids. Bush will say to them: 'I am strong and will make your life better.' That is what people are interested in.'"

The Los Angeles Times' McManus on GOP Members of Congress' hopes for a good SOTU this election year. LINK

In his State of the Union preview, ABC News' Teddy Davis has NRCC Chair Tom Reynolds (R-NY) saying at Friday's pen-and-pad briefing: "Lobbying reform is not on the American people's tongues as far as what they want in action." LINK


On the front page of Sunday's New York Times, Robert Pear took a must-read look at the health care debate expected to be sparked by the President's speech framed through Clinton 1994 v. Bush 2006 comparison. LINK

While calling into Don Imus' program, Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) said four years after President Bush's "axis of evil" speech, North Korea has four times as many nuclear weapons, Iran is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons, and Iraq is in "chaos."

Mr. Bush's speech will address alternative use of energy sources and incremental initiatives in healthcare and tax reform during a time when only 43% of Americans approve of Bush's job performance and 52% approval of Bush handling war on terror, Boston Globe's Michael Kranish reports. LINK

The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller pens her "White House Letter" on President Bush's speechwriter William McGurn, who is on his twentieth SOTU draft and boasts that President Bush is easier to work with than some of his past copy editors. LINK

David Jackson of USA Today looks at how a SOTU speech comes together and explains the various ways a policy initiative can end up in the President's big speech. LINK

Jennifer Loven from the Associated Press also details how the SOTU address is crafted and reveals Bush's no-nonsense speech-prepping: "Bush himself is quick to spot any unsanctioned, last-minute alteration in the text. More often than not, he accurately identifies the staffer who demanded that the speechwriters include it, and then orders that the offending item be scrubbed." LINK

Bob Lewis of the Associated Press revealed on Saturday the purpose of Gov. Kaine's response to the President's address, which would "urge an end to Washington's poisonous partisanship and try to nudge his own party toward the center." LINK

According to Christina Bellantoni of the Washington Times, Kaine's rebuttal to SOTU will be "upbeat and positive." LINK

Samuel Alito for Associate Justice:

"Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden predicted that the attempt to block Judge Alito, scheduled for today, will fail," writes Charles Hurt of the Washington Times. Although both Senators will support their party's filibuster, "at least 62 senators were sticking with their pledge to oppose a filibuster -- two more than the number needed to kill a filibuster." LINK

Obama had harsh words for the filibuster concept and Democrats' handling of the Alito debate, reports Jeff Zeleny of the Chicago Tribune on the Senator's "This Week" appearance Sunday morning. LINK

On the eve of the likely Alito confirmation, the New York Times' Kirkpatrick Notes the success of the Federalist Society and others in the conservative movement having groomed young Reagan-era attorneys such as Roberts and Alito to ascend to the bench. LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

Robert Pear's New York Times story on health care spending restraint and children losing access to care is sure to be the first of many such pieces as the President's budget details get unfurled. LINK

Washington Times' Amy Fagan writes that House Republicans return this week to dispute Democrats over a budget bill approval that would cut back $40 billion from entitlement programs. LINK

Blunt v. Boehner v. Shadegg:

The balloting set for Thursday led to exaggerated votes claimed by three House majority leader candidates. "They can't all be right, since the totals claimed by Republican Reps. Roy Blunt, John Boehner and John Shadegg far exceed the 132 lawmakers eligible to vote when the rank and file selects a news leader for an era of political peril," points out Associated Press's David Espo. LINK

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman on the GOP leadership race being shaped by calls for reform. LINK

Carl Hulse of the New York Times covers similar territory and reminds all that the winner will instantly become "the new face for House Republicans." LINK

Time Magazine's Perry Bacon, Jr. Notes the Gentleman currently in the lead, Rep. Blunt, is the one who represents the most "continuity" in the leadership. LINK

Shadegg sets himself apart from recent GOP troubles, Billy House of the Arizona Republic writes. LINK

Jonathan Riskind of the Columbus Dispatch offered a Sunday piece looking at what a Leader Boehner could mean for Ohio. LINK

Lobbying reform:

Bloomberg's Jonathan Salant writes that in their current push for lobbying reform, congressional Republicans are "standing against their own history of embracing lobbyists and relaxing ethics rules since they took control of Congress in 1995." LINK

In Sunday's Los Angeles Times, Janet Hook and Richard Simon wrote about the growth of earmarking since the GOP took control of Congress. LINK

Bob Novak on the McCain-Coburn crusade to challenge future earmarks as a violation of Senate rules. LINK

The Abramoff affair:

Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) called for the President on Sunday to disclose White House contacts with the guilty lobbyist, Notes Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press. LINK

Time Magazine's Brian Bennett asks whether President Bush's nomination of Noel Hillman, head of the Abramoff investigation, to a federal judgeship was a strategic move or just coincidence. LINK

To the DNC's delight, the American Prospect published an analysis of Abramoff-related donations which attempts to dispute the GOP talking point that this is a bipartisan scandal. LINK

The politics of Medicare:

Bloomberg's Jonathan Salant on the 15 lawmakers, congressional aides, and Bush Administration officials who went to work for the health-care industry "within a year" after they pushed through the "costliest Medicare overhaul in history." LINK

Alice Dembner from the Boston Globe warns that senior citizens who made modest purchases or donations may be ineligible for Medicaid under rules Congress is expected to approve as early as Wednesday. LINK


Based on the Des Moines Register's latest polling, Tom Beaumont declares the Iowa gubernatorial candidates a "cast of relative unknowns." LINK

2008: Republicans:

The Washington Post's Jackson Diehl contrasts the Bush Administration's "ambiguity" on Iran with Sen. McCain's "decisive judgment." LINK

Amanda Carpenter of Human Events writes that Sen. McCain's campaign finance law purposely left some loopholes for Indian tribe contributions due to their special sovereign status. LINK

The AP on Gov. Huckabee's (R-AR) trip to Iraq and Pakistan. LINK and LINK

The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers writes that the past 12 months have been "difficult politically" for Sen. Frist. But Rogers predicts that his emphasis on global health care will be a "highlight of his legacy" when he leaves the Senate at the end of the year.

Mary Matalin and Don Imus sparred over George Allen's intellectual heft earlier today.

2008: Democrats:

The New York Sun's Josh Gerstein's must-read on Sen. Clinton's appearance with the less than pointed Jane Pauley in San Francisco over the weekend includes a mention of her nine-minute-long response to a question about her 2002 Iraq war vote. LINK

Gerstein also has a story on Kerry-pal Jim Rassmann's protesting of Clinton's visit to Oregon. LINK

"Aiming to increase her visibility in the Democratic powerhouse fund-raising state of California, [Hillary] Clinton chose an unusual format for her high-profile appearance: a 90-minute 'in conversation' event with journalist Jane Pauley on stage before a largely supportive crowd," reports San Francisco Chronicle's Carla Marinucci in her article titled "The Hillary Show." LINK

Geoff Earle of the New York Post writes about Hillary Clinton's position on the war. LINK

Dean's Democrats:

Democratic leaders are voicing their disappointment with Howard Dean after seeing that the DNC has only $5.5 million in its coffers in comparison with the RNC's $34 million, report Billings and Whittington of Roll Call.

"'People are bringing him to Jesus,' said a Democratic source familiar with DNC operations. 'It's being expressed to him. He knows it.'"


Per the Los Angeles Times, the California Teachers Association endorsed state Treasurer Phil Angelides on Saturday in the Democratic primary for governor, offering "a big boost" to his campaign against state Controller Steve Westly. LINK

Time Magazine's Sean Scully on the televised "racial gaffe" by Lynn Swann's GOP primary opponent that may mark a "turning point" in the race for the GOP's gubernatorial nomination. LINK

Attorney General Jim Petro will announce state Sen. Joy Padgett as his Republican running mate for governor today, the Columbus Dispatch reports. LINK


In a Wall Street Journal op-ed adapted from a recent lecture given at Stanford's Hoover Institution, Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) lays out his five rules for school reforms, describes the package of reforms he is planning for this year, and vows to change state law, or the Florida Constitution, to protect "school choice programs" from "activist court rulings."

The Washington Post's Shankar Vedantam on a study that claims to have found that supporters of President Bush and other conservatives had "stronger self-admitted and implicit biases against blacks than liberals did." LINK

The RNC's Brian Jones "questioned whether the researchers themselves had implicit biases against Republicans," Noting that two people who helped conduct the study – the University of Virginia's Brian Nosek and Harvard psychologist Mahzarin Banaji -- had given campaign contributions to Democrats.

Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) hasn't ruled out a run for Majority Whip -- especially if Sen. Santorum is unsuccessful in his bid for reelection, report Billings and Pierce of Roll Call.

The week ahead:

President Bush delivers his State of the Union address tomorrow evening at 9:00 pm ET. (Make sure to catch the best coverage and analysis of the speech on the ABC News television network, ABC News Radio, and

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan presides over his final board meeting tomorrow. Greenspan's likely successor, Ben Bernanke, is expected to be confirmed by the US Senate tomorrow as well.

2005 year-end FEC reports are due tomorrow.

On Wednesday, former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) delivers a speech at Iowa State University in Ames, IA and Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) headlines a Congressional Black Caucus PAC fundraiser in Washington, DC.

Gov. George Pataki (R-NY) headlines an Iowa GOP Victory 2006 event at Luciano's Restaurant in Sioux City, IA on Thursday.

The trial of former Cheney Chief of Staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby is expected to get underway on Friday.

Also on Friday, Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) will be the "special guest" at the Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner in Hampstead, NH and Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) headlines the Oakland County Lincoln Day Dinner in West Bloomfield, MI