The Note: Bet the Ranch

On Sunday, Jane Norman of the Des Moines Register offered a colorful recount of last week's Social Security saga, featuring a high-strung Sen. Chuck Grassley jerked mercilessly in every direction, in addition to Tom Harkin as Tom Petty/dancing fool (not to mention his morsel of MSM time on "Larry King Live" during which decried the President's privatization intentions). She went on to explain that Congress' other half evidently became nauseated from Sen. Grassley's syncopated attempts at the bipartisan bargaining table, so they took matters into their own hands Friday and scheduled Social Security talk time in the House. LINK

On Saturday, the Los Angeles Times' Peter Gosselin took a look at President Bush's plan to ensure Social Security stability and better benefits for the poor, Noting that the message some middle-class workers are hearing is that they'll get less from the program and need to save more on their own. LINK

Filibuster battles:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, in an interview with USA Today, said a showdown over judicial nominees is "almost inevitable," and that he'll push for a vote on the candidates before Memorial Day, Kathy Kiely reports. LINK

Derek Rose of the New York Daily News Notes Pat Robertson's "This Week" comments and George Stephanopoulos' offered opportunity to rethink those comments. But you'll have to read all the way to the bottom for the blind quote from a GOP aide on whether or not Sen./Dr./Leader Frist has the votes. LINK

"I don't think Frist has the votes," a GOP aide said. "He's now in his own corner. If he doesn't have the votes, he's really screwed."

Progress for America "intends to spend $1.5 million on television commercials over next two weeks to help Senate GOP leaders in a showdown over President Bush's judicial nominees," along with $350,000 of radio ads on Christian stations, AP reports. LINK

ABC News' Marc Ambinder reports that the group decided to do the ad buy after receiving a $3 million donation from a single individual who wanted it earmarked for the judicial nominee battles.

Abramoff and DeLay, ethics and travel:

Salon's Mark Benjamin looks at the relationship between DeLay's "political machinery" and his charities. LINK

Read it carefully.

Roll Call's John Bresnahan and Erin Billings write that at the moment, congressional Democrats and Republicans are holding their fire in the ethics war, and are waiting to see if there's a subcommittee created to investigate House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, as well as the scope of that probe.

"Members of Congress, led by Republicans Michael Oxley and Deborah Pryce of Ohio, have tripled spending over the last four years to host fund-raisers in Vail, financing their journeys with money provided by donors," reports Bloomberg, blaming Leadership PACs.

The Washington Times nabs an interview with DeLay, who says he is ready to clear his name before the ethics committee. LINK

Bob Novak says DeLay was central to getting a budget resolution, proving that the old horse still has it in him to pull victory from the jaws of defeat.

"DeLay has made mistakes, though many errors -- such as playing golf overseas on a special interest's dime -- hardly warrant the death penalty. Former aides and associates have entered Washington's bipartisan culture of lobbying greed, though DeLay cannot be held responsible for them. He has been rude to reporters, lobbyists and even colleagues, though that is a common failing among strong leaders." LINK

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