Morning Political Note: Jan. 24

Washington is a mad, mad, mad world today, with news leads proliferating as quickly as congressional Enron hearings.

News Summary

Speaking of which, Ken Lay's resignation, on which the dust continues to settle today, works to keep the laser beam of press and Capitol Hill scrutiny on Lay and the company and away from the White House, even as key Senate and House committees convene hearings on the company's collapse.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan visits with the Senate Banking Committee today and possibly gives some clues as to the Fed's plans for interest rates.

President Bush, accompanied by homeland security chief Tom Ridge, addresses a group of mayors and county officials, and probably parcels out more details of the increased funding for local homeland security efforts that will appear in his State of the Union address and his budget. He also meets with his Cabinet.

Two potential, if not likely, Democratic presidential candidates for 2004 make some high-profile maneuvers today.

And Laura Bush becomes the first Republican first lady to testify before Congress.

Less visible, but nevertheless controlling the political thermostat in Washington: Democrats are reacting cautiously today to the wartime president's proposed hike in defense spending, mirroring the reaction of the White House and some Republican lawmakers to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's slimmed-down stimulus proposal.

While Texas Reps. Dick Armey and Tom DeLay are, as usual, among the exceptions to this kind of rule, some rank-and-file Republicans nervously looking toward November might not agree with them.

And some Democrats are having flashbacks to the 1980s: They already are at risk of regaining their anti-tax cut scarlet A's — the last thing they need is to add on the kind of anti-defense tag that kept them out of the White House for most of 20 years.

While the CBO estimates get lots of play in the papers, it's likely that most of America didn't notice, amidst the flood of John Walker Lindh video, more of which will come today.

The second-day stimpak stories overall seem to suggest a tone of cautious optimism, at least for the proposal's fate in the Senate. The Wall Street Journal says that although Senate Republicans have agreed to start debating the stimulus bill today (with amendments allowed to Daschle's new float), "Republicans hope to stretch out the debate beyond Tuesday, when President Bush comes to the Capitol to deliver the … State of the Union."

The Washington Post reports, "Vowing to bring up the consensus proposals as the Senate's first order of business, Daschle said they could be passed immediately, possibly by the end of the week. The White House and Republicans continued to argue that a more 'comprehensive' package was needed, including income tax rate cuts. But, politically at least, the plan helped Daschle shed the 'obstructionist' label and shift the onus to Republicans if they choose to block a compromise. As of late yesterday, Senate Republicans were still reviewing Daschle's proposal, and some House Republicans criticized its details." ( )

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