With the Social Security debate humming along and Howard Dean's ascendancy imminent, the first budget of President Bush's second term takes center stage today, with all the normal Washington hoo-hah.
The budget hits Congress at 8:30 am ET, the boxes are opened at about 10:00 am ET, and the President meets with his second-term cabinet this morning at the White House to tout it.
There are numerous departmental briefings all day: Ag, Labor, Interior, NASA at 1:00 pm ET, DOD, DOT, DHS and the Army Corps of Engineers at 2:00 pm ET.
The $2.5 trillion budget faces opposition from Congress and from many interest groups, and probably a slew of "Bush is cutting programs for the poor" coverage from less discerning media outlets.
The weekend and morning coverage emphasizes the farm cuts (and Republican opposition to them) and the overall DOA perception from some on the Hill.
The reality is that if you took the current budget plan and the current Social Security plan and put them in a business-as-usual case study of how Washington works, you would find deep skepticism that the President can get what he wants on either.
And indeed the tone of the press coverage and the Gang of 500 implicitly questions whether any of this will happen.
The ONLY two reasons that "DOA" is not being sung from every Beltway rooftop are:
A. The President's record of CW-defying legislative accomplishment.
B. The sheer political strength and savvy of the President's team (as contrasted with the still-organizing opposing team).
Can the fight over the budget (which, as we have said, will cause at least some intra-GOP tensions) in any way HELP the President with the Social Security battle? We don't see how, but we are open to be persuaded.
So while we still look for reliable measures of the how the Social Security roll-out went last week (Surely, Casa Blanca cannot be completely thrilled with the free media coverage -- even if it wasn't as bad as it might have been . . . ), today at least is all about some figures and programs that completely ignore those transition costs!!!
See below for more on the budget and Social Security fights.
At 2:00 pm ET, President Bush grips and grins with the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup champion. The U.S. Senate convenes at 2:00 pm ET and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee questions DHS nominee Michael Chertoff at 6:00 pm ET. The National Association of Secretaries of State ends its winter meeting in Washington with a discussion with Election Assistance Commission officials.
If you're interested in the recent Iraqi codel, you can watch Sen. John Thune make the rounds; he appears on "IP" at 4:00 pm ET and "Hardball" at 7:00 pm ET.
Tuesday, President Bush speaks to the Detroit Economic Club in the morning and returns to the White House to make remarks to the Council and Scholarly Committee of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Also tomorrow, the New Hampshire Presidential Primary Democratic Task Force meets in Concord, NH.
On Wednesday, the President meets with the president of Poland and then rallies the class action reform lobbyists at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Postal Service is expected to release a stamp honoring Ronald Reagan. In South Carolina. former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani attends a fundraiser for tsunami victims. And the AFL-CIO's organizing committee meetings.