The Note: The New Abnormal

As far as we can tell, Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) is the only (and decisive) unknown vote. But it seems that committee chair Richard Lugar (R-IN) intends to make sure Bolton's nomination gets to the floor regardless of how the committee votes today.

The Senate Judiciary Committee meets in closed session in the morning and has a 4:00 pm ET open session planned for consideration of judicial nominees Kavanaugh, Boyle and Pryor.

Democrats will try to get the picture of the day by appearing with those Princeton students who were filibustering in front of the Frist family building on the school's campus.

At 3:15 pm ET, Majority Leader Frist and Sen. Mitch McConnell meet with members of the Michigan House delegation about 6th circuit court of appeals judicial nominees.

We do not underestimate the weird mélange of nervous and confidence that both sides express about the eventual outcome of the filibuster wars. Our best nose counting suggests that the Republicans have at least 50 semi-solid votes --- but there are several wavering Senators who adamantly do not want to be that 50th vote --- but don't want to be the 51st vote either.

About 900 conservative luminaries have tickets to tonight's tribute to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, which begins at 7:00 pm ET. (Cocktails, fellas and dames, are at 6:00.)

Highlights include:

--- a slew of video testimonials to DeLay during dinner (from, we are told, Reps. Hastert, Blunt, Reynolds, Cox and Pence; Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Dr. James Dobson, and Sen. Jesse Helms.)

--- an eight-minute video right before DeLay speaks, focused on his Texas ties and accomplishments.

--- short speeches from Bob Livingston, Phyllis Schlafly, Morton Blackwell, L. Brent Bozell, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, and others.

DeLay is scheduled to come to the mic around 8:40 pm ET.

Behind the scenes, organizers are telling guests to use the occasion NOT solely as a celebration of DeLay but as a celebration of the conservative movement --- the triumph of pushing the judicial nominees forward, the Bolton vote, etc.

And that's what DeLay intends to speak about: he'll trace the conservative movement as he sees it from 1994 to the present, with specific references to what he believes he and his colleagues have accomplished. There'll be plenty of red meat, too.

And so there will be protests outside the Capital Hilton, and the United States Capitol Police will augment a perimeter with armed patrols and barricades. Democrats have already begun to use the occasion to press DeLay and Republicans on ethics matters. They'll drop research today showing what they consider to be questionable activities of several of the banquet's founders.

We expect RNC chairman Ken Mehlman and whip Roy Blunt to attend. Look for many Friday stories about who DIDN'T attend, though, at $250 a pop, it ain't cheap.

Meanwhile, CongressDailyAM reports that the House Ethics Committee is working to figure out staffing and logistics and has begun to look broadly into the practice of congressional travel. And Rep. Marty Meehan is still looking for Republican co-sponsors for his lobbying reform act. (Can someone explain to us why Christopher Shays hasn't already signed on?)

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