The Note: Cowboy and Indians


President Bush held a press availability with the Indian Prime Minister while you were sleeping this morning (details below). At 10:00 am ET, President and Mrs. Bush attend a state dinner at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace in New Delhi.

Meanwhile, the American people, the Gang of 500, and the House Republicans all want straight talk on Iraq and on the federal budget.

(Pause two beats for optional eye rolling and/or laughter.)

You must read:

1. George F. Will asking for -- and doling out -- straight talk on Iraq. LINK

2. Jim Hoagland on same. LINK

3. The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers -- the 536th Member of Congress -- says (a) Senate Republicans are not going to abide the restraints in the growth of entitlement spending that the White House asked for and (b) Senate Republicans are sick up and fed with "routine" "emergency" spending bills. LINK

Note-y summaries can't do them justice; read them in full.

Vice President Cheney delivers 9:30 am ET remarks to the SAVER Summit at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC. See here for more from the Department of Labor on the summit's mission to encourage retirement savings. LINK

Speaker Hastert and Leader Pelosi lead a three-day CODEL to the Gulf Coast to observe progress in cleanup and rebuilding efforts from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Rep. Pelosi holds her weekly presser at 10:45 am ET before departing for the Gulf Coast.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) addresses the Kaiser Foundation at 2:00 pm ET where she is expected to discuss evidence-based medicine and comparative effectiveness, and the work of Consumers Union to aid patients and doctors identify "effective, safe, affordable drugs." Sen. Clinton then heads to a press conference for Citizens Campaign for Environment. Earlier in the day, Clinton is expected to attend Armed Services and HELP Committee hearings.

At 10:00 am ET, the Senate will resume consideration of the Patriot Act conference report. A vote on the conference report is expected at 3:00 pm ET.

Also at 10:00 am ET, the House Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on the Dubai ports deal, with Edward H. Bilkey, chief operating officer, Dubai Ports World -- who probably feels he deserves a Member's pin by now.

Chairman Shelby (R-AL) holds a Banking Committee hearing on foreign management of US ports at 10:00 am ET.

The Judiciary Committee marks up Chairman Specter's immigration reform proposal at a 9:30 am ET hearing.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee marks up lobbying reform legislation at 10:00 am ET. Sens. Reid (D-NV), Dorgan (D-ND), and Leahy (D-VT) hold a 10:30 am ET press conference on ethics reform.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was scheduled to have received a closed briefing from DNI Negroponte on Iran's nuclear capabilities at 9:00 am ET.

Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) heads to the Palmetto State for back-to-back county GOP conventions. First up is the York County convention at 5:30 pm ET in Rock Creek, SC and then he heads to Mt. Pleasant, SC for the Charleston County convention.

Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) signs legislation at 1:00 PM et to transition New Mexico to a statewide system of voter verifiable paper ballots.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean addressed the 7th Annual Interethnic Congressional Awards Ceremony and Reception at 9:00 am ET.

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman and Co-Chairman Jo Ann Davidson held a media availability earlier this morning with women members of Congress to discuss the RNC's new women's leadership training program.

Happy Birthday, Sen. Feingold. We're sure Sen. Frist did not deliberately schedule the Patriot Act vote to spoil your special day!

Politics of Katrina:

The Associated Press got its hands on a previously unseen videoconference showing Brownie and Co. briefing the President -- who asked not a single question of them -- on the day before Katrina struck. DHS says there's "nothing new or insightful" on the tape. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin says watching it gave him a "sinking feeling in [my] gut." Which leaves some Googling monkeys wondering what the cables will have to say as they endlessly loop the video today. LINK

The video got big play on the morning shows.

ABC News' George Stephanopoulos said on "Good Morning America" that the video shows President Bush was "very engaged . . . as engaged as you would expect a President to be."

CBS' Early Show: "Questions for President Bush over the President's delayed response to hurricane Katrina. Newly-released tapes show the President and other top officials had early warnings about the devastation"

CNN's "American Morning" characterized it as "more evidence about the apparent government confusion."'s Ben Brandzel sent a mass e-mail to the liberal group's supporters at 2:25 am ET with this ominous subject line: "BREAKING: Bush knew about Katrina threat -- and let it happen."

Yesterday's "newly leaked" Katrina videos, per the Washington Post, "threatened to renew public scrutiny of the Bush administration," and prompted Washington Democrats to issue statements "newly critical of the government response." LINK

The Los Angeles Times has the videos on its website. LINK

Democratic Sens. Landrieu and Reid took the opportunity to criticize President Bush's handling of Katrina, reports the New York Times' Shane and Kirkpatrick. LINK

The Katrina fund led by formers presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush has yet to distribute nearly $20 million in relief aid for churches along the Gulf Coast -- a fact that, per the Washington Post, is garnering the bipartisan fund some bipartisan anger. LINK

Bush Administration agenda:

President Bush calls the nuclear agreement reached with India "historic" and now has the tough job of selling it to Congress, reports the New York Times. LINK

The nuclear deal, which needs congressional approval before taking effect, was the focal point of the President's first trip to India, and negotiators have been working intensely over the last several days to ensure that a deal would be reached while the President was in India, ABC News' Karen Travers reports

. Back in Washington, there are critics of the nuclear deal who say that it undermines the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which India has not signed, because the country will have an un-monitored military nuclear program in addition to its civilian program.

Per Bloomberg, President Bush acknowledged that "selling lawmakers" on his nuclear agreement with India will be difficult, although Bush "said he was 'confident' Congress would eventually go along because the pact is 'in the interests of the United States.'" LINK

Overnight East Coast time, President Bush held a press availability in which he commented on the Karachi attack, saying: "Terrorists and killers are not going to prevent me from going to Pakistan," ABC News' Jessica Yellin reports.

"The bombing that took place prior to my trip is an indication that the war on terror goes on and that free nation's must come together to fight terrorism," he continued.

The President's "surprise" visit yesterday to Afghanistan served to underscore, the Washington Post's VandeHei and Lancaster write, that "nearly five years after Bush declared that he wanted Osama bin Laden, the initiator of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, 'dead or alive,' the al-Qaeda leader remains at large." LINK

With Bush's visit to Pakistan just days away, a Washington Post editorial urges the President to "stop banking" on Pakistani Gen. Pervez Musharraf and "start planning for the democratic government that should succeed him." LINK

Newsweek's Howard Fineman's online column provides a comparative analysis between George W. Bush's dichotomous view of the world and Bill Clinton's penchant to explain things in all their complexity. LINK

Of the three network newscasts last night, only CBS Evening News topped its broadcast with President Bush's unannounced visit to Afghanistan.

The New York Times' Bumiller on the President's visit to Afghanistan -- the first for a US president since President Eisenhower in 1959. LINK

Carl Leubsdorf of the Dallas Morning News analyzes the most pressing problems for the Bush administration, proposing a Gangland-style change in top-level White House staff. LINK

Politics of Iraq:

"Senior Pentagon officials said Wednesday that in the aftermath of a burst of sectarian violence in Iraq, it was unlikely that a decision would be made on a reduction in troop levels when top Army commanders meet with President Bush next week," writes the New York Times' David Cloud. LINK

"Officials also said it was possible a decision would be made but not announced immediately."

Port politics:

Members of Congress began to "coalesce" yesterday behind proposals that would allow Congress to reject foreign investments, reports the Washington Post's Paul Blustein, in a turn of events that "showed that the administration has only partially succeeded in quelling the political storm surrounding the approval of the deal by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States." LINK

The White House has undertaken another national security review of a Dubai-owned company's plans to purchase American assets -- this time, those assets are plants in Georgia and Connecticut that make components for use in military aircraft and tanks. But unlike with the ports deal, the Post's Weisman and Schmidt Note that the White House notified Congressional committees this week of CFIUS' investigation into this deal, as well as into a planned purchase by an Israeli company of a Maryland software firm. LINK

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) tells the New York Times that the comments he hears from constituents on the ports controversy range from "critical to dubious." Timesmen Hulse and Shane also write up the latest piece of string -- an unsubstantiated (and perhaps impertinent) Al Qaeda document from 2002 claiming the organization had infiltrated U.A.E. LINK

The Washington Times reports that some grass roots GOP organizations are content with the Presidents port deal. LINK

Amy Fagan of The Washington Times Notes that a bipartisan group of Senators reviewing the Dubai port deal reminded the executive branch of their ability to kill the deal. LINK


The collective wisdom of most people who attended yesterday's oral arguments in the Texas redistricting cases is that the Court is likely to uphold all, or most, of the current map.

Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times writes "it appeared unlikely by the end of the intense two-hour argument that a majority of the court would overturn the 2003 redistricting plan, or any other plan, for that matter, as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander." LINK

The Washington Post's Charles Lane writes that "the justices seemed likely to let stand all or most of DeLay's handiwork" after yesterday's oral argument in the Texas redistricting case. LINK

"Perhaps the worst sign for the opponents came in the hostile questioning by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, whose past opinions on election law issues suggest that he might be the swing voter in the case. Kennedy said it would be 'very dangerous' for the court to bar mid-decade redistricting that favors one party."

Roll Call's David Drucker writes, "At least five Supreme Court justices appeared skeptical Wednesday that the Texas Congressional map engineered by Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) in 2003 needs to be redrawn."

While hearing arguments on the Texas redistricting case, Justices of the SCOTUS "appeared to press the plaintiffs harder than they did the defendants," writes Jonathan E. Kaplan of the Hill. LINK

If the Court invalidates the map, writes Kaplan, then Democrats are likely to regain some of the seats they lost in 2004. If the Court upholds the map, Republicans will go into the 2006 elections in good standing, and, as a long-term effect, "state legislators and their allies in Congress could design new boundaries every time power shifts from one party to the other."

Bloomberg agrees with the conventional wisdom. LINK

In his analysis of yesterday's arguments in the Texas Redistricting case, Bob Bauer of More Soft Money Hard Law Notes that Justice Anthony Kennedy was critical of a flat-ban on mid-decade redistricting, saying that such a policy could potentially be "very dangerous." LINK

Pusey and Gillman of the Dallas Morning News write that the "justices appeared cool to the much-anticipated claim that a 2003 map of congressional districts approved by the GOP-dominated Legislature amounted to excessively partisan politics."

"But a majority seemed open to the possibility that one part of the map -- a finger from Central Texas to the Lower Rio Grande Valley -- might have disenfranchised Hispanic voters." LINK

The Houston Chronicle's Patty Reinert writes that the justices "appeared reluctant" to throw out the "Republican-friendly map on the grounds that the political gerrymandering had gone too far." But she adds that Justice Kennedy "made clear the map could be rejected for another reason: Some districts redrawn by the Texas Legislature in 2003 may violate the federal Voting Rights Act by discriminating against minority voters." LINK

As for President Bush's Court picks, Justice Alito was very quiet but Chief Justice Roberts was fully engaged.

As for color, there are some who would like to obsess over allegations that Justice Ginsberg took a quarter hour snooze yesterday. But knowing that Supreme Court cases are decided mostly on the papers (and having nodded off a few times at the Court ourselves), we won't go there.

We will tell you that the best color may have been the color man himself.

Dana "The Sketcher" Milbank spent the first 15 minutes of oral argument trying to get a seat that would allow him to see the judges.

(Something that the spillover reporters who sit behind the screen cannot do.)

"But I've got to write the scene," he kept repeating. "How can I write the scene if I can't see what's going on?"

With an assist from Bloomberg News, the Sketcher ponders what would happen if Brian Lamb prevailed in his long quest to get cameras in the Court. LINK

Among the star-studded list of attendees were RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman and Bob Kerrey, the former Nebraska Senator who has penned a foreword for the forthcoming Jarding-Mudcat book: "Foxes in the Henhouse: How the Republicans Stole the South and the Heartland and What the Democrats Must Do to Run 'em Out."

Thank you, Dr. Dobson:

Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg confirmed yesterday that Alito sent a letter of thanks to Focus on the Family founder James Dobson for his assistance during the confirmation process. LINK

The New York Times on Alito's letter of thanks to Dr. Dobson: LINK

Comments on Think Progress are nearly breathless. LINK


Rep. Tom DeLay's (R-TX) campaign team is using "micro-targeting" to connect with voters in Texas's 22nd district, reports the Houston Chronicle's Samantha Levine. LINK

Per the Associated Press, a travel agency was subpoenaed yesterday for records about a trip to England and Scotland that Rep. Tom DeLay took in 2000 with lobbyist Jack Abramoff. LINK

The Dukester:

Federal prosecutors filed new documents yesterday urging a judge to give former Congressman Duke Cunningham a maximum of 10 years in jail when he is sentenced tomorrow. LINK

Fitzgerald investigation:

ABC News' Jason Ryan reports that a 19-page affidavit in the CIA leak case has been filed by Patrick Fitzgerald in the Libby case but most of its contents have been redacted, including a five-page section with only the word "redacted" appearing. The affidavit offers only a few clues about those involved besides Libby and perpetuates the mystery of who Bob Woodward's source was ("Official"). The Libby defense says the "official" is an official outside the White House.

The affidavit notes, "Libby testified that he learned from [redacted] on July 10 or July 11 that Novak was aware of Wilson's wife employment at the CIA and that Novak planned to publish a story about Wilson and his wife."

Libby's lawyers had requested that Judge Walton provide them with the identity of Official 1 but Fitzgerald has stated that it is still grand jury material and therefore secret. One paragraph does indicate that the official spoke with Bob Woodward and Notes, "Libby has been given a redacted transcript of the conversation between Woodward and [redacted] and Novak has published an account briefly describing the conversation with his first confidential source [redacted]."

This seems to indicate that Woodward or his source have an audio recording of their conversations which they have provided Fitzgerald.

The CIA is expected to file an affidavit in the case today describing how long it will take them to collect the PDBs Libby and his defense team have requested.

Clintons of Chappaqua:

Robert Novak wonders if the Clintons' public parting on the Dubai ports issue is a sign of trouble ahead for the Senator, who "plays politics by the numbers", in contrast to her husband's "freewheeling, intuitive style." LINK

The New York Post's Deborah Orin picks up on the Financial Times report that Bill Clinton advised Dubai to submit to a 45-day review to quell the opposition to the ports deal and on Bob Novak's reporting that Clinton recommended Joe Lockhart to be a spokesman for Dubai Ports World. LINK

The Financial Times story: LINK

Lloyd Grove also looks at the Bill Clinton/Dubai relationship and wonders if Ron Burkle's private investment firm is a conduit for that relationship. LINK

Politics of surveillance:

The Washington Post puts on A1 details of a Saudi charity that claims it has evidence it was spied on as part of the NSA's domestic surveillance program. The Post Notes that, if true, this would represent the "first detailed evidence of U.S. residents being spied upon" by the program. LINK

Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) tells the Los Angeles Times that GOP Senators are working on an oversight plan, but "we can't bring anything to the floor until we have agreement among the core senators, which we don't have yet." LINK

Patriot Act:

ABC News' Zach Wolf reports that the Senate is scheduled to vote at 3:00 pm ET on the conference report that went to both chambers last year. It is expected to pass overwhelmingly. That conference report, as well as the Sununu ride-along bill to increase civil liberties protections in the Patriot Act, which passed 95-4, will then go back over to the House. The House has already passed the conference report, and will need to pass the Sununu bill before the two bills go to the President. The House is expected to take up the Sununu bill sometime next week.

The loudest voice of dissent over this compromise (only four voted against the Sununu bill, which is essentially the compromise) has been Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI). While the Senate voted overwhelmingly to cut off debate on the Patriot Act conference report today, Sen. Feingold vowed to use all the remaining debate time he could to voice his dissent. Under parliamentary rules, he can only have about 7 of the 30 hours allocated after cloture was filed today.

He spent some of that time hopping off and on the Senate Floor to read various letters and municipal resolutions against the Patriot Act from around the country.

At about 2:10 pm ET, he read from the Constitution itself.

USA Today comes down squarely on the side of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) and others who oppose the renewal of the Patriot Act. An editorial board leery of civil liberties abuses asks, "What is it about the Fourth Amendment ('The right of the people to be secure ... against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated') that Congress doesn't get?" LINK

Patriot Act supporter Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) rebuts with an argument for the legislation's effectiveness in fighting terrorism, and the legality of its provisions: "Despite many challenges, no federal court has declared unconstitutional any of the Patriot Act provisions Congress is renewing." LINK

Politics of mining:

". . . the Bush administration has decreased major fines for safety violations since 2001, and in nearly half the cases, it has not collected the fines, according to a data analysis by The New York Times," write the Gray Lady's Ian Urbina and Andrew Lehren in what will no doubt turn into a DNC must-read in no time. LINK

Politics of energy:

It's time for fill-in-the-blank analogy:

Dick Morris calling for everyone to get along on energy independence is like _________________ calling for _____________________. LINK


Rhode Island Secretary of State Matt Brown's campaign may have violated campaign finance laws, reports the AP. LINK

"The Brown campaign struck a deal in which the Hawaii Democratic Party would give a $5,000 donation to Brown and in exchange, the party would receive money from Brown supporters, Jane Sugimura, the Hawai'i party's treasurer said."

Brown's campaign spokemsan Matt Burgess denies any wrongdoing and offers this quote to the AP: "We always encourage our supporters who want to elect Democrats to help organizations who have been helpful to us."

Rick Klein of the Boston Globe reports that today Democrats launch the Senate Majority Project, a group that will "collect and disseminate political information critical of all GOP senators." Former Senator Tom Daschle is helping to fundraise the project and the focus of today's launch will be Sen. Bill Frist. LINK

The Hill's Savodnik and O'Connor look at the intended recipients of the GOP"s Retain Our Majority Program fundraising efforts. "ROMP was the creation of former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), but Republicans do not expect the program to suffer now that he has lost his leadership post." LINK

The Chicago Sun Times' Sweet reports Tammy Duckworth is heading to New York on March 12 for a fundraiser hosted by Sen. Clinton. LINK

Roll Call's Billings and Stanton report that both parties are rallying the troops to help endangered incumbents.

Roll Call's Stu Rothenberg presents his favorite House candidates for 2006, in no particular order.

During his testimony on the Pennsylvania Treasury Department's budget request, Bob Casey, Jr. "found himself peppered with pointed and politically tinged questions from Republicans on the panel, including some about his campaign contributions and several about the amount of time he spends in Harrisburg at his desk," writes Angela Couloumbis of the Philadelphia Inquirer. LINK

The New York Times writes up Rep. Shays' cross-party endorsement of Sen. Lieberman, though Shays tells the paper he is unlikely to start a pro-Lieberman Republican trend in Connecticut. LINK


David Broder Notes that the nation's governors, including ones eyeing '08 like Gov. Romney and Gov. Vilsack, are emphasizing their ability to work across the aisle. He Notes that Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), a former governor, is dwelling much more on his years as governor than on his tenure in the US Senate. He writes that Sen. McCain "largely avoided the label of extreme partisanship because of his reputation as an independent thinker." LINK

And then he ends with this: "But what about Hillary Rodham Clinton? She leads all the early polls for the Democratic nomination. But can she avoid being seen simply as a battle-scarred veteran of the partisan Washington wars? Is there anything in her record that speaks to the hunger for consensus?"

All in all, Chris Matthews ought to be able to get three or four shows out of that one column.

Note to David Broder: have you seen who Senator Clinton's co-sponsors are on some of her bills?

With only 978 days until the 2008 presidential elections, The Hotline's Chuck Todd offers his top five prospects for each party (with no surprises in the #1 slots).

For the Republicans:

1) Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)

2) Sen. George Allen (R-VA)

3) Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA)

4) Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR)

5) Fmr. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA)

For the Democrats:

1) Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY)

2) Fmr. Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA)

3) Fmr. Sen. John Edwards (D-NC)

4) Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN)

5) Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM)

2008: Republicans:

With Sen. McCain and conservative stalwart Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) "locking arms on lobbying reform," The Hill's Jonathan Allen sees an opportunity for Sen. McCain to "burnish" his credentials among "conservative donors and activists, whom he must court if he hopes to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2008." LINK

Morton Kondracke observes in Roll Call that Gov. Mitt Romney's (R-MA) forward-looking policy proposals could prove beneficial in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination.

"Values and "culture" issues -- the red meat that candidates usually toss to their base -- come fourth in Romney's list of challenges facing the country, behind terrorism, the fiscal crisis and competition from China and India."

Gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Kerry Healy (R) distanced herself from Gov. Romney's pro-life remarks yesterday and firmly asserted her pro-choice stance.LINK

Joan Vennochi of the Boston Globe devotes her column to Gov. Mitt Romney's alleged flip-flopping ways. LINK

The Boston Herald reports that Massachusetts Democrats slammed Gov. Romney for not attending a local gun control function yesterday. Democratic Party spokeswoman Cyndi Roy said, "Regardless of whether or not he's running for re-election there are still issues in this state that need to be addressedÉyou need someone from the state who is engaged in these kinds of conversations." LINK

Gov. Pataki made his first public appearance since undergoing two surgeries at a medical briefing on his condition for reporters yesterday. Dr. Lawrence Altman of the New York Times still appears to be somewhat dissatisfied with the information flow from doctors to reporters. LINK

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) got some national broadcast television exposure yesterday when he was a voice in a "World News Tonight" piece by Miguel Marquez.

Sen. George Allen (R-VA) will make his first visit to Iowa on Mar. 17. Also visiting Iowa this month: Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) and Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), reports the Des Moines Register's Thomas Beaumont. LINK

2008: Democrats:

The New York Post's Deborah Orin breaks down the White House strategy on Hillary Clinton as the Rove/Mehlman bad cops against President Bush's good cop in an effort to guarantee both her nomination and general election defeat. LINK

The AP on Sen. Feingold's Patriot Act filibuster attempt: LINK

Per Reuters, Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) yesterday signed a bill to fund space tourism program. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

The Los Angeles Times looks at the filings for all the contenders for governor and finds that (surprise!), they're all millionaires. LINK

Remembering the good ol' times of Conan the Barbarian, Gov. Schwarzenegger plans to make an appearance as a gladiator "god" at a major pay-per-view "ultimate fighting" event in Columbus, Ohio, writes Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle. (Be sure to Note Sen. McCain and Gov. George Pataki's takes on the "gladiators.") LINK

Lobbying reform:

The New York Times writes up the Collins-Lieberman proposal, set to be unveiled today, for an independent office to investigate ethics abuses in the House and the Senate. LINK

The Washington Post's Jeffrey Birnbaum previews the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs' hearings today, which members hope will lead to draft legislation that will increase lobbyists' reporting of their contact with government officials. LINK

Politics of immigration:

With today marking the start of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings into creating a guest worker program, the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman takes another look at how immigration has "split Republicans as no other issue before Congress." Despite both sides talking victory, Weisman writes that "voices on both sides concede they would rather see legislation die in Congress than accept the compromises that may be necessary to win passage." LINK

Democrats are skeptical of a provision in Sen. Specter's immigration bill, that would allow immigrant guest workers to benefit from a Social Security privatization plan, reports Emily Pierce of Roll Call.

A Washington Post editorial reviews Sen. Specter's guest worker legislation and concludes it "is hard to see how this bill is even worth passing." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's June Kronholz predicts the Senate may in fact come to a bipartisan consensus on immigration -- but that agreement may simply be to postpone making tough decisions about immigration:

"The House in December avoided the issue of the current illegal population altogether. Instead, it passed a border-enforcement law that, among other things, makes it a felony to be in the U.S. illegally and a crime to aid an illegal immigrant. With midterm elections looming, Republican security hawks might opt for a companion bill in the Senate if legislation stalls over the fate of the current illegal population. Meanwhile, if an overhaul bill leaves illegal immigrants with no way to earn citizenship, moderate Republicans and Democrats might be just as willing to wait a year and try again."

Several Southern Senators are pushing for a temporary worker program and increased security along the Mexican border, reports Michelle Mittelstadt of the Dallas Morning News. LINK

Los Angeles' Cardinal Roger Mahoney used his Ash Wednesday sermon to reiterate his position that Catholics should "make room in our hearts" for immigrants," irritating some at the service. LINK

Ballot measures:

In his Thursday "Washington Update," Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council writes that a number of "marriage proposals" are headed for the ballot this year.

More Perkins: "These include Alabama (spring), and Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia, all this fall. The Wisconsin and Maryland legislatures are still in session, considering ballot proposals. Also still to be resolved are marriage measures in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Illinois."

"Pro-marriage forces have never lost a state-wide referendum defending marriage," writes Perkins.

Casting and counting:

The US Department of Justice has filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against New York State for failing to comply with HAVA. LINK

New Orleans:

The NRA has filed a motion for contempt against the City of New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin, and the acting police chief for failing to comply with a temporary restraining order, handed down Sept. 12, 2005, ordering an end to all illegal gun confiscations.

More from CNS News LINK and NewsMax LINK

Dean's Democrats:

DNC Chairman Howard Dean has invited the 43 members of the Congressional Black Caucus to meet with him today to discuss minority hiring and '06 politics, reports Roll Call's Steve Kornacki.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) touted his plans for coal gasification and bio-fuels at the University of Virginia yesterday, reports Bob Gibson of the Daily Progress. LINK

He also shared his favorites for the 2008 nominations: Gov. Warner and Sen. Clinton for the Democrats and Sen. Allen for the Republicans.


Per the AP, the Iowa GOP "scrubbed" yesterday a proposition to increase state minimum wage, "effectively ending any chance of the measure being approved this year." LINK

David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register has details on the Chet Culver vs. Mike Blouin gubernatorial primary: "I told you this primary was going to get ugly." LINK


Democrats are pushing for C-SPAN coverage of the House Rules Committee Panel, which is a determining factor on the majority party's influence on legislature, writes Josephine Hearn of The Hill. LINK

Virginia Republicans yesterday demanded Virginia Democratic Gov. Timothy Kaine "publicly disavow" his chief of staff's comments that the Kaine plans retribution against Republicans who do not support his transportation plans. LINK

The Washington Post's Matthew Mosk on the continuing saga of Maryland Republican state Sen. John A. Giannetti, who saved his political rival from choking on Monday night: LINK

The Washington Post editorializes on the politician-helps-rival story: LINK