The Note: Tight Under the Collar

WASHINGTON, July 26

After his welcome meeting and press conference at the White House yesterday, Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki addresses a joint session of Congress this morning at 11:00 am ET in what has proven to be a controversial invitation, as Democrats have fought to persuade House Speaker Rep. Dennis Haster (R-IL) to cancel the speech. After Maliki came nowhere near the apology Democrats were hoping for during the press conference yesterday, some Democrats remain miffed while some GOPers say they detect a transparent effort to court Jewish voters in the United States. LINK

Following his address to Congress, the Prime Minister is scheduled to attend a luncheon along with President Bush and military personnel and their families in Fort Belvoir, VA at 1:05 pm ET. The President then attends a campaign reception for Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) in Charleston, WV at 5:35 pm ET.

Up until now, Rep. Capito's race has not been considered truly competitive. But according to a recent expenditure, national Republicans have polled in her district, leading the DCCC to think/hope that the NRCC is privately concerned about Rep. Bob Ney's (R-OH) former chief of staff testifying that the Abramoff team received assistance on the GSA properties from several GOP members of Congress or their aides, including a former top aide to Rep. Capito. Asked about the findings of the poll conducted in Rep. Capito's Charleston-based district, NRCC spokesguy Carl Forti tells ABC News: "We don't discuss independent expenditure polling." As for alleged ties to Abramoff, Forti says: "She's already addressed this." Link to the expenditure on the FEC's Web site: LINK

This MIGHT be the most important story in the papers today relating to the midterms: House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) "said yesterday that Republican leaders would soon hold the first House vote in a decade on increasing the minimum wage, and predicted that the bill will pass on the eve of crucial midterm elections," reports the Boston Globe's Rick Klein. LINK

"'We're at the point where that vote is coming,' Blunt said. 'I'm not sure that it's a "must-pass," but it will probably be a "will-pass."'"

Vice President Dick Cheney is scheduled to attend the swearing-in ceremony for Steve Preston as administrator of the Small Business Association at an open press event at 4:45 pm ET. Last week's edition of Business Week highlighted Preston's credentials and his "tough road ahead" as head of a struggling organization. LINK

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice continues her travels abroad and arrives in Italy this morning to attend an international conference on Lebanon. Her morning press event got roadblocked cable coverage.

The House Republican Conference and the House Democratic Caucus held closed-door meetings at 9:00 am ET. At approximately 10:00 am ET, Majority Whip Roy Blunt (MO), Conference Chairman Deborah Pryce (OH), Chief Deputy Majority Whip Eric Cantor (VA), Policy Committee Chairman Adam Putnam (FL), and others discuss the GOP's legislative record outside of the Capitol Hill Club.

DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) will address the entire Democratic Caucus (if Speaker Pelosi's orders are followed by her foot soldiers) at its weekly meeting today. Rep. Emanuel is expected to update House Democrats on new polls since his last briefing to the group six weeks ago. LINK

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