Our twin leads from yesterday — campaign finance reform and the budget — carry on into today, but absent President Bush, who will be occupied with other matters, and possibly distracted by humming TVs all over Beltwayville showing the Enron hearings.
Click here, and we'll let you know when the note is ready each day.
Later this afternoon, Bush will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon. The Washington Post writes that Sharon is expected to urge Bush to pay more attention to Iran, while another Washington Post story reports that "Iran has begun funneling money and weapons to one of Afghanistan's most unpredictable warlords, a move that could further destabilize a country where order remains fragile at best, according to government authorities here in the Afghan capital." ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35510-2002Feb6.html ) and ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A36183-2002Feb6.html )
And every major paper curtain-raises the expected testimony of former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, backed up by a doo-wop parade of other former execs expected to plead the 5th today before the House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee. We don't see any clear preview of what Skilling has told investigators in advance, or what he plans to say today in tone or substance.
Cut to Vice President Cheney stopping in Louisville, KY this morning to appear at a fundraiser for Rep. Anne Northup, who regularly tops Democratic target lists and regularly wins re-election, albeit by narrow margins because of the competitiveness of her district. Northup's Democratic opponent yesterday called on her to support campaign finance reform.
Cut to your generic Capitol Hill backroom, where the House Republican leadership, including a now actively engaged Speaker Hastert, will be plotting and lobbying to either kill the Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bill, or make it more "workable" — a popular buzzword among GOPers that, best we can tell, seems to be a euphemism for "politically advantageous" — while House Democratic Leader Gephardt and his colleagues Shays and Meehan, with a little help from Senators McCain and Feingold, lobby from the other side.
Even with the Enron three-ring circus in full swing, it's not too early for the media to focus (as the activists and whips on both sides are) on the handful of moderate Republicans who are going to decide how this stage of the drama comes out. They are about to come in for an intense period of home-state and national editorials, leadership arm-twisting, the lobbying charms of the clean law firm of McCain, Feingold, Shays & Meehan, and some real soul searching. A few Democrats will get the same treatment.
There's a ton of legislative strategizing going on behind the scenes, leveraging off of the House rules, some of which we'll get into further below. The New York Times fingers what our sources say is one of the keys right now: "Supporters of the bill were considering changing its effective date until after the 2002 elections to get more votes for Democrats who fear their party will no longer be able to compete if soft money is abolished." ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/07/politics/07DONA.html )