WASHINGTON, Feb. 8
President Bush was scheduled to have met with King Abdullah of Jordan in the Oval Office this morning. (King Abdullah will be making the rounds on Capitol Hill as well. Leader Pelosi hosted a breakfast for him with some House Democrats and Sen./Dr./Leader Frist will have a photo opportunity with the King.)
Later today, the President delivers remarks on his budget priorities in New Hampshire and signs the "Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 2005."
ABC News' Jessica Yellin reports that, while in New Hampshire, the President will argue that the economy is strong, that spending restraint is important, and that performance assessments make a difference. The Note also predicts he will tease Judd Gregg and Tom Rath from the podium, John Sununu privately, and Mike Dennehy not at all.
(Performance Assessments are the Office of Management and Budget's system of stars and slashes that rates how effective are various federal programs. You can check it out here: LINK)
The audience for the President's speech will be the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire which is a combo of big (over 50 employees) and small (under 50) companies. The President will also talk competitiveness, energy, health care, and the deficit. But the focus will be the budget. (The New Hampshire Union Leader has more for you: LINK)
(Note Note: For a visual lesson in what it looks like to be the President versus what it looks like to want to become president, we urge you to compare President Bush's New Hampshire appearance today -- taking place in the same location -- with that of Mark Warner's appearance on Friday evening at the New Hampshire Democratic Party's annual fundraising dinner.)
Americans United, a liberal umbrella group, is expecting "hundreds of protestors" at Veteran's Park on Elm St. in Manchester, NH from 10:00 am - 12:00 pm ET. At a press conference Monday afternoon, Americans United unveiled a television ad to air on WMUR during the President's visit Wednesday morning. The ad, which says it's "time for a change" while urging people to support the Democrats' version of lobbying reform can be viewed here: LINK
ABC's Ann Compton reports that Mrs. Bush has departed for Rome and then the Olympics in Turin. "Most of the members of the presidential delegation to the Olympics have accepted rides over with Mrs. Bush including athletes Dorothy Hammil and Kerry Shrug, and presidential pals Brad Freeman and Roland Betts." (Note: That means that Elisabeth Bumiller apparently allows her two best sources to fly on the same plane, unlike, say, the two people who know the recipe for Coke.)
"Mrs. Bush does two Vatican press interviews (with Vatican Fox News contributor and with Telepace in Rome) following her meeting with the Pope tomorrow."
All eyes on Capitol Hill will be on the body language between Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) at 2:00 pm ET today when the two testify on lobbying reform before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. The other witnesses include Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN).
The grand jury investigating the leak of former CIA operative Valerie Plame's name is scheduled to meet at 9:30 am ET.
Mark McClellan goes before the Senate Finance Committee at 10:00 am ET to discuss the Medicare prescription drug benefit.
Today is the House's turn to get in on the budget action. Various Cabinet officials will appear before the House Armed Services, Ways and Means, Veterans' Affairs, and Budget Committees today.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a 9:30 am ET hearing on "Iraq Stabilization and Reconstruction." Witnesses include Stuart Bowen Jr., special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, and James Jeffrey, senior adviser to the secretary of state and coordinator for Iraq policy.
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) was scheduled to have delivered remarks to the United Auto Workers at the Marriot Wardman Park Hotel this morning. DNC Chairman Howard Dean was expected to address the UAW as well.
RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman is in southeastern Pennsylvania today. He drops by Lincoln University to talk with political science students, has a luncheon with Hispanic leaders in Kennett Square, PA, meets with the Chester County executive committee and activists, and raises money for the Pennsylvania Republican Party.
The Minuteman Project holds a rally with Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) at 11:30 am ET on the West Lawn of the US Capitol to draw attention to illegal immigration and what the group calls the "guest-worker amnesty plan."
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) participates in an 11:00 am ET Family Research Council and Marriage Savers discussion on "Saving Marriages One Community at a Time" to commemorate the signing of the 200th community marriage policy.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice holds a 1:30 pm ET press briefing to announce the release of the President's emergency plan for AIDS relief.
Brookings and AEI kickoff their Election Reform Project, which will focus on providing a "bipartisan, practical national policy for election reform," at the offices of the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. Sen. Obama delivered the keynote address at 9:15 am ET.
One week after President Bush made breaking America's addiction to oil a top national priority, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman delivers 1:00 pm ET remarks on the department's science, competitiveness, and energy initiatives before the Universities Research Association, a consortium of 90 leading research-oriented universities, at the National Academies of Sciences.
The Congressional Internet Caucus holds its annual "State of the Net Conference." Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) delivers remarks at noon ET at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill.
Lt. Gov. Kerry Healy (R-MA) announces her bid to succeed Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) as the chief executive of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at 12:15 pm ET at the Omni Parker House Hotel in Boston, MA.
Majority Leader Boehner:
When the over/under on when Boehner investigative stories would start appearing in the press was placed at seven days, many of you were wise enough to pick under.
Courtesy of the Associated Press and the Washington Post, we are starting to get a better sense of some Boehner/lobbyist relationships.
The AP's David Hammer explores current Karl Rove deputy and former Rep. Boehner staffer Barry Jackson's decision not to take a trip to the Mariana Islands put together by Jack Abramoff and David Safavian. LINK
The story creates a Boehner/Abramoff association clearly within the walls of the West Wing, something all parties involved (save perhaps Abramoff and Safavian) probably would have rather avoided.
The Washington Post's Tom Edsall and Jonathan Weisman report that Rep. Boehner rents a two bedroom English basement apartment (at market rate as far as they can tell) from lobbyist John Milne, whose clients have interests which fall under Boehner's purview. LINK
(By sheer coincidence, the Washington Post did what appears to be the definitive piece on the English basement apartment last November, describing it as "a basement apartment with windows that are at or at least partially above street level." LINK It appears that Edsall wrote that piece under the pen name "Courtney Brianne Mabeus.")
Don Seymour, Boehner's spokesman, "does not know if other members of Milne's mCapitol Management firm have lobbied the new House Majority Leader.
"'We really have no idea on this one,' he said. 'We'd have to know who else works for those firms, which we don't offhand. It's possible the answer is yes, but we don't know.'"
Democratic operatives who are trying to connect the lobbying story to issues "real people" actually care about will, no doubt, take Note of the connections the Washington Post duo attempt to draw between the interests of Milne's clients and the GOP's support for health savings accounts and a $5.15 per hour minimum wage.
Rep. Boehner's press secretary Don Seymour offers this response to both pieces to The Note this morning:
"They're both non-stories being pushed by John's opponents on the left. One of Boehner's staffers DIDN'T go on a trip 10 years ago? Boehner rents an apartment at fair market value from a guy who DOESN'T lobby him? Shudder. Meanwhile, Boehner will join Speaker Hastert and the rest of the House Republican conference at a planning retreat this weekend that will help set the course for action not just on meaningful lobbying reform, but also reforms to the congressional earmarking process Jack Abramoff sought to exploit for personal gain at the expense of American taxpayers," said Seymour.
Terry Holt, a former Boehner staffer speaking to The Note from the private sector says, Leader "Boehner pays rent at fair market value, like everyone else in the building. And he pays on time."
"Where is the advantage here for either the renter or the landlord? It sounds like John heard about the apartment at a social gathering. In Washington, aren't social gatherings populated by people who have coinciding areas of interest? Please, this is a basement apartment, one block from the highway, not a yacht on the tidal basin. This story is a cheap shot. Dirt cheap."
Since Boehner has boasted of his relationships with K Street lobbyists, we wonder if his staff has a system in place for the inevitable drip drip of these kinds of stories in the current political environment. And how they deal with the reality of nothing improper being alleged versus the potential perception of "more of the same," will be interesting to Note.
(We're thinking the "We really have no idea on this one" language will probably soon go away.)
Roll Call's Norman Ornstein reminds Leader Boehner that he's got his work cut out for him in balancing work on the ample 2006 GOP agenda with progress towards lobbying reform.
The New York Times' Adam Nagourney and Sheryl Gay Stolberg put forth a must-read on the Democrats' continued political weakness, with the party's lack of national leadership, confusion about where to stand on key issues, and continued inability to defend itself on national security issues. LINK
The result, they write, is increasing pessimism among the party's leadership about the midterm elections, even in the face of a struggling Republican Party: "To a certain extent, the frustrations afflicting Democrats are typical for a party out of power. . . Yet in many ways, the Democratic Party's problems seem particularly tangled today, a source of frustration to Democratic leaders as they have watched opinion polls indicating that the public is souring on the Republican Party and receptive to Democratic leadership."
"[A]mong more establishment Democrats, there is concern that many of the party's most visible leaders -- among them, Howard Dean, the Democratic chairman; Senator John Kerry, the party's 2004 presidential candidate; Mr. Kennedy; Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader; and Al Gore, who has assumed a higher profile as the party heads toward the 2008 presidential primaries -- may be flawed messengers."
Elaine Kamarck pens a Newsday op-ed in which she lays out a strategy for Democrats: be strong on defense and don't, "get sucked into a debate over tactics in the war on terror." LINK
Big Casino budget politics:
Bush ally Rep. John E. Sweeney (R-NY) calls out the President's proposed Medicare cuts, telling the New York Times they "disproportionately lays the burden on hospitals, and that has a devastating impact up and down New York." LINK
The Washington Times' Fagan has Sen. Grassley explaining the political realities of pushing through the President's proposed Medicare cuts in an election year. LINK
USA Today reports that many veterans -- along with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) -- are unhappy with the President's proposal that the increase in the VA budget be covered in part by asking vets to pay an enrollment fee for health care services. LINK
The Washington Post's Amy Goldstein reports that just one in six of the 141 programs that President Bush wants to abolish or substantially reduce are new targets. "The rest are cuts that Congress has at least partly rejected in the past," according to Administration sources. LINK
Robert Samuelson takes apart the Bush and Democratic "delusions" on the budget. LINK
Politics of surveillance:
New Mexico Republican Rep. Heather Wilson ratcheted up pressure on the House Intelligence Committee to conduct its own inquiry into the surveillance program yesterday, telling the New York Times a "painstaking" review of the "increasingly untenable" program is needed. LINK
The Times' Lichtblau links Wilson's and other Republicans' discomfort with midterms: "As for the politics, some Republicans say they are concerned that prolonged public scrutiny of the surveillance program could prove a distraction in this year's midterm Congressional elections..."
The Washington Post's David Ignatius claims that liberal interest groups are refusing to compromise on the wiretap debate. LINK
"I'm told they were urging Democratic members of Congress this week not to amend FISA. They would rather wait until next year, figuring they will have more congressional support after the 2006 elections. They also want to pursue their lawsuit charging that the President's actions are illegal."
The Washington Post's Dan Eggen has national security law experts saying that the Bush Administration's foreign-domestic distinction "makes little sense legally, because the Administration has concluded that President Bush has the constitutional authority to order wiretaps on US citizens and residents without court approval." LINK
McCain vs. Obama:
Jeff Zeleny of the Chicago Tribune reports that both Senators Obama and McCain are moving forward after their brief phone call on Tuesday. (But not before Sen. Obama calls Sen. McCain "cranky.") Zeleny Notes, "the prospects of a bipartisan solution on one of the most contentious issues of the election year --ethics reform-- remained uncertain in light of the fissures exposed in the unusually abrasive back-and-forth between McCain and Obama." LINK
As for that lobbying reform agenda, the Wall Street Journal reports that, later today, Sen. Obama will propose the creation of a Senate Ethics Enforcement Committee, made up mostly of judges and former Members of Congress. The outsiders would have the power to initiate investigations and issue subpoenas, but discipline would still be meted out by Congress. Rep. David Drier's (R-CA) reaction: "I'm not enthused."
Bloomberg's Brian Faler also writes up the ramped up effort to reform earmarks. LINK
Congress's newfound concern over lobbying practices has reached government-chartered housing companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Senate Finance Committee will investigate whether the two companies improperly used their charitable arms to skirt campaign finance laws.
The Wall Street Journal uses David Safavian's upcoming court hearing to take a new (but not particularly fresh) look at the ties that bind him and Abramoff to the White House.
The Los Angeles Times explores links between Duane Gibson, "a Washington lobbyist under federal scrutiny in the Jack Abramoff scandal, and Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA). LINK
Jonathan Kaplan of The Hill looks at allegations against Rep. Pombo's chief of staff potentially violating House rules. LINK
The New York Times' Carl Hulse takes a crack at the growing appetite for earmark reform in Washington, Noting that even House Appropriations Committee Chair Jerry Lewis (R-CA) believes the earmark process has gotten "excessive." LINK
The Hill's O'Connor previews the President's remarks at the House GOP retreat this week. LINK
Politics of Iraq:
The National Guard and reserves will play a much smaller role next year in Iraq and Afghanistan, dropping to less than one-fifth of overall US forces there, the nation's top military officer said yesterday. LINK
Politics of energy:
Rick Klein of the Boston Globe reports on President Bush's arguably "mixed message" energy policy. LINK
Jill Lawrence and Susan Page of USA Today begin the countdown (1,000 days until the 2008 election) with a clever little story about the ever-quickening pace of presidential politicking. Most Noteworthy: a grab from an AP story that has the crowd shouting "future president!" as they gave the Clintons a standing ovation at Coretta Scott King's funeral/ ex-presidential popularity contest yesterday. LINK
Gov. Barbour (R-MS) will not run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 because he is still taking care of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, the Washington Times reports. He will instead seek a second term as Mississippi governor in 2007. LINK
Gov. Mitt Romney asks his legislature for $36.5 million dollars for "pandemic preparation," reports the Boston Globe. LINK
On Good Morning America this morning, ABC's Jake Tapper reported on all the buzz surrounding Sen. Clinton's national standing. LINK
Sen.Clinton's reelection campaign has cancelled a planned fundraiser at Hell's Kitchen nightclub Pacha. The official reason for the cancellation is a lack of space at the venue -- but the New York Times' Patrick Healy wonders aloud if it might have something to do with Pacha's hot tubs, "wet-n-wild dancers," and allegations of rampant drug use and public sex at the club. LINK
Ken Mehlman has it wrong, Maureen Dowd writes in the New York Times: Hillary Clinton isn't too angry -- she's not angry enough.
"From Iraq to Katrina and the assault on the Constitution, from Schiavo to Alito and N.S.A. snooping to Congressional corruption, Hillary has failed to lead in voicing outrage. She's been too busy triangulating and calculating to be good at articulating. The Republicans can't marginalize Hillary. She has already marginalized herself," concludes Dowd.
The Washington Times' picks up Sen. Clinton's defense of her contribution to Pennsylvania Senate hopeful and pro-lifer, Robert Casey. LINK
Iowa Republicans are implying that Gov. Vilsack's new state budget is merely a means to impress presidential voters, the Des Moines Register reports. LINK
For years, the rap on the born-to-run-in-a-general Evan Bayh has been that the former DLC chair doesn't appreciate the synthesis of populist and DLC themes that Bill Clinton ran on in 1992.
The St. Albans-bred son-of-a-Senator still has some things he can improve upon. But he certainly roused the United Auto Workers on Tuesday with his call for tougher trade rule enforcement on China.
Referring to GM's allegation that the Chinese Chery ripped off the design of GM's QQ minicars, Bayh got his first standing ovation for saying: "If those allegations are true—those Cherys can sit on the dock and rust!"
What does Bayh want to do about Chery policy-wise?
Under the "Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Act" legislation that he introduced with Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) last year, companies like Chery could be specifically targeted for enforcement action. The bill calls for the United States and other countries to "identify, arrest, and prosecute individuals and companies involved in the production and sale of counterfeit goods."
Dan Pfeiffer, Bayh's spokesman, says the Senator believes that companies "pirating our products abroad should not be allowed to do business in the United States."
Bayh also spoke out against allegations that the Chinese "manipulate the value of their currency."
Maureen Groppe of the Indianapolis Star Notes that Bayh revved up the autoworkers by saying "a proposed $510 million pay package for Delphi executives, while the company seeks wage cuts from workers, is "a disgrace.'" LINK
She also Notes that Bayh voted against requiring higher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles last year, a stance which puts him "on the side of autoworkers but against environmentalists."
Elsewhere in '08er-ville, Sen. Feingold took to the Senate floor on Tuesday to excoriate members of Congress, including "some Democrats," for cheering President Bush's State of the Union defense of his domestic spying program. LINK
Keying off of his Monday questioning of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Feingold also argued in his Tuesday speech that President Bush misled the country in last week's State of the Union by saying that previous presidents "have used the same constitutional authority" that he has and that "Federal courts have approved the use of that authority."
NRSC Chairwoman Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) handed out orange-and-black boxes containing a hammer, a slide rule, and a tape measure yesterday in order to instill a more "workmanlike attitude" among Senate Republicans, whose fundraising efforts are not so impressive when compared to the DSCC's coffers, writes Alexander Bolton of the Hill. LINK
One hears a lot about the culture of corruption generally and Tom DeLay in particular. But while speaking to the UAW on Tuesday, DCCC honcho John Lapp indicated that DeLay is only one of five incumbent House Republicans that the DCCC is planning on targeting on the basis of ethics. He also singled out Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC), and Rep. Don Sherwood (R-PA).
Lapp on Sherwood to his "brothers and sisters" in the UAW: "He ran on family values and then decided that choking is a family value."
J.B. Poersch, the DSCC's executive director, underscored the precariousness of the Democrats' current position in the Senate when he said Democrats "risk powerlessness" and "risk irrelevancy" if they lose seats in November.
When it was her turn to speak, the DGA's Penny Lee was quite candid about the situation facing Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI) in the Wolverine State. A slide shown during her power point presentation read: "The downturn of Michigan's economy in conjunction with an antagonistic full-time Republican legislature has taken a toll on the governor's popularity." Another bullet point read that Granholm is facing an "angry, socially conservative electorate."
Lee identified Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) as the most vulnerable incumbent Democratic governor.
"He's number one," she said.
"Ending months of speculation about his political future, attorney Mike Ciresi on Tuesday said he would not be a DFL candidate for the U.S. Senate," reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. LINK
We can almost hear the EMILY's List/DSCC/Klobuchar cheers from here.
Chris Lehmann of the New York Observer analyzes the numbers from the latest Club for Growth survey and starts (strangely) ringing the death knell for the GOP. LINK
State Health Commissioner Antonia Novello yesterday announced she will not run against Sen. Clinton in a general election. The move leaves former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer as the "front-runner" for the GOP nomination, per the New York Daily News. LINK
Lynn Swann all but became the Republican nominee for governor yesterday when Bill Scranton dropped out of the race, per the Washington Times. LINK
The Washington Times' reports that Policy Impact Communications is holding a fundraiser tonight for Tom Campbell, who is running against incumbent Rep. Tom DeLay in the March Republican primary. LINK
The Hill looks at DeLay's return to committee work. LINK
Roll Call's Samson Habte profiles the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America PAC, of which retired Gen. Wesley Clark is a board member.
The Bush appointee who limited reporters' access to a NASA climate scientist resigned yesterday. LINK
The Wall Street Journal editorial board gives some space to the Free Enterprise Fund's lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a key portion of the Sarbanes-Oxley bill of 2002. LINK
Note the high powered legal team.
In a sign of the religious right's growing concern -- and influence -- in global warming politics, a group of 86 evangelical Christian leaders have signed a statement, to be released today in Washington, that says "millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors." After releasing the statement of concern, the leaders will meet with senators and their staff members who deal with legislation on energy and the environment. LINK
Under an "Island escape" header, the Washington Times Notes that Sen. Kerry's legislative director, George Abar, has left the Senator's office to accept a position as vice president for communications at Island Press, a "leading publisher of environmental books, including former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt's tome 'Cities in the Wilderness.'" LINK
The Wall Street Journal's editorial board Notices that Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) has changed his tune on UN Ambassador John Bolton. The mustachioed man he once called "arrogant" and "bullying" is now "working very constructively to move forward."