The Note: Minister With Portfolio

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 --

NEWS SUMMARY

All things -- apparently -- are possible.

Although we have not seen donkeys fly (yet), peace is breaking out in the Middle East; Wizards' losses are considered a surprise; and Karl Rove has been given more power.

If Democrats spent less time being afraid of Rove (and less time trying to mask their fear by using macho anti-Rove language in public), and more time trying to recognize the efficacy of the power of ideas (and the power of, uhm, power), they just might be better off.

With their leaders still seemingly flummoxed and organizing, the Democratic Party's best hope would seem to be that Rove will now have to spend even more time in meetings and dealing with personnel issues, and that could sink him.

That sounds like a plan!!!

(Let's see how quickly Sen. Reid's war room analyzes the preceding five paragraphs.)

Today, President Bush meets with President Kwasniewski of Poland at around 11:25 am ET; there is a pool spray at the bottom.

At 1:20 pm ET, Bush participates in a discussion about class action lawsuit reform legislation at the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Senate debates that bill beginning at 9:30 am ET.

The House Administration Committee holds a hearing on election system reform at 10:30 am ET.

At some point today, John Kerry will post a message on his Web site about the Democratic National Committee. We wait anxiously.

Tonight, the Washington Press Club Foundation holds its 61st Annual Congressional Dinner.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean appears tonight at the Capitol City Brewery around 7:00 pm ET to thank his DC-based supporters.

Big Casino budget politics: Medicare spending:

The Washington Post's Ceci Connolly and Mike Allen report that the Medicare prescription drug benefit will end up costing more than $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years -- considerably higher than advertised when it passed in 2003, and a big boost from the $534 billion over 10 years figure that Mark McClellan quoted last September. LINK

AP prefers the $720 billion that McClellan said will be the bottom line on the program after savings and offsets. LINK

We're not saying the difference between $1.2 trillion and $720 billion is small, by any means. But both numbers are substantially higher than the $400 billion originally quoted when the drug benefit passed, or the $534 billion revision.

Writes Robert Pear in the New York Times: "Dr. [Mark] McClellan tried to reconcile the numbers on Tuesday night. He said the $345 billion figure and the $1.2 trillion showed 'gross costs' and did not reflect the premiums that would be paid by Medicare beneficiaries, compulsory contributions by states or savings to Medicaid that would result from the new law." LINK

We know what Democrats and the press think of this -- over to you, Rush Limbaugh, Paul Gigot, and small-guvmint congressional Republicans.

Big Casino budget politics: the budget:

Rep. Jim Nussle, the leader of the House Budget Committee thinks the White House might want to consider vetoing a budget it finds unacceptable. LINK

"Even raising the prospect of a veto illustrated how uncertain Republicans were that they could force through the spending bills that would be required to meet the administration's overall goals, even if the details were rearranged."

The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei writes a thumb sucker that says conservatives aren't thrilled with the size and scope of government that President Bush's budget proposes. LINK

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