From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, Huma Zaidi, and Jennifer Colby
As President Bush prepares to address world leaders at the United Nations later this morning, the Senate Republican holdouts are considering an "alternative draft proposal" on convening military tribunals for detainees which the White House sent to Capitol Hill last night, per NBC's Ken Strickland. Messrs. Graham, McCain, and Warner could respond as early as this afternoon, but more likely later this week. It's unclear where the Administration may have made some concessions, Strickland says, but its desire to redefine the Geneva Conventions has been the biggest sticking point for the three Republicans.
White House advisors seemed anxious to appear proactive in reaching a compromise. "We are eager to find a resolution, so just as we've been willing over the past several weeks, we are proposing new ideas and solutions so that Congress can take the next legislative step," one of them told NBC's Kelly O'Donnell. Advisors refused to get into specifics about what was changed, saying the alterations are "narrow in scope."
Also unclear is what the new proposal will do to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's timetable and terms for the debate over this issue. In addition, Strickland notes, Frist also must figure out when to start debate over the White House bill that authorizes the NSA's controversial surveillance program. Frist appears on MSNBC's Hardball today at 5:00 pm.
White House aides have billed Bush's address to the UN General Assembly as the culmination of his latest series of speeches intended to bolster public support for the war in Iraq as central to the broader war on terror, and say he will tout progress in Iraq and Afghanistan. The White House is also back to talking up Bush's "Freedom Agenda" (their caps, our quote marks), which he introduced at the start of his second term. Before his speech, Bush meets with the President of France and the UN Secretary-General. Afterward, he takes part in a handful of meetings, including one with the President of Iraq.
Vice President Cheney is out in public today at several ceremonial events. Although the White House has delayed meeting with representatives of the Big Three automakers until after the elections, Cheney addresses the National Automobile Dealers Association's legislative conference in Washington this morning. It may be a safer photo op for the Administration than to be seen with the automakers when their employees are losing jobs and benefits and the government doesn't seem inclined to bail them out. Cheney also swears in the new chair of the National Transportation Safety Board and makes remarks at the Jesse Helms Center "salute" to retiring House International Relations Committee chair Henry Hyde (R).
And it's primary day in Massachusetts and Washington -- two of the last states to hold their nominating contests this year (Hawaii holds its primary on Saturday, while Louisiana's is on election day). The only noteworthy race today is the gubernatorial match-up in Massachusetts between Democrats Chris Gabrieli, Deval Patrick, and Tom Reilly. A recent Boston Globe poll found Patrick -- who's trying to become the state's first African-American governor -- leading the other two, although other polls have shown Gabrieli in a stronger position. The winner will face Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey (R), who gets her shot now that Gov. Mitt Romney (R) is retiring and running for president.
Because of Romney's decision not to run for re-election in this deep blue state, Democrats see this as one of their best gubernatorial pick-up opportunities. "Any of the three Democrats would have the edge going into the general election," says Nathan Gonzales of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. Polls in Massachusetts open at 7:00 am and close at 8:00 pm. Polls in Washington state open at 10:00 am ET and close at 11:00 pm ET.