Congressional breaks are supposed to be fun for President Bush -- no pesky meetings with Democrats, no competition for the media spotlight, plenty of time for recess appointments that don't need Senate confirmation. Coming off what may have been the president's best week of the year last week, the Memorial Day break promised to be especially sweet.
But with members of Congress back in their districts for the week, the president may find himself wishing that no one had left Washington. On the major issues of the moment -- the Iraq war and immigration reform -- the noise being heard back home isn't the message the president wants delivered.
On Iraq, Bush's victory on war funding masks an uncomfortable political reality for the president: the war is growing more unpopular by the day, and all signs point to a September date by which the GOP will be fed up. The Los Angeles Times' Julian Barnes has military leaders "seeking ways to redefine success" because they are "increasingly convinced" that most of the political goals laid out for the Iraqis by the president won't be met. (Would the Bush administration be talking with card-carrying members of the "axis of evil" if officials weren't worried?)
And on immigration reform, which Bush plans to push with a speech today in Georgia at 11:30 am ET, Democrats and Republicans are coming under fire from members of their own party for reaching a compromise no one seems to love. The bill survived numerous challenges on the Senate floor last week, but bigger tests could come on lawns and at community centers this week.
A snapshot of what Congress is hearing from the rank-and-file: "None of these were happy calls. Truly, from our headquarters to the 15 county parties, the ratio was 100 to zero," Sean McCaffrey, the Arizona GOP's executive director, told The New York Times' Michael Luo.
On the 2008 front, much of the field camped out in Iowa over the long weekend. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is still there today, and this time he's following Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., in making an announcement. As he seeks to flesh out his agenda, Obama will unveil his plan for universal healthcare, calling for an end to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and a new tax on most businesses that don't provide health coverage. "The climate is far different than it was the last time we tried this in the early '90s," Obama plans to say, per Bloomberg's Jay Newton-Small and Aliza Marcus.
The president this morning outlined new economic sanctions against Sudan, delivering on his weeks-old threat before leaving next week for the G8 summit, ABC's Jonathan Karl reported this morning on "Good Morning America." "For too long, the people of Darfur have suffered at the hands of a government that is complicit in the bombing, murder, and rape of innocent civilians," Bush said.
Also from the (sort of busy) holiday weekend: