From Mark Murray, Huma Zaidi, Lauren Appelbaum, and Carrie Dann
Four days until Bush's State of the Union address, here's where things stand: House Democrats have passed their entire "Six for '06" agenda; the Iraqi government has arrested a top aide to the Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr; the bipartisan Senate resolution condemning Bush's troop increase has been introduced and will hit the floor in the next couple of weeks; and the presidential contest -- even if some candidates aren't officially in -- is already well underway.
Democratic leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi deliver their own kind of State of the Union address this morning at the National Press Club. According to excerpts, Reid will say this about Bush's troop increase in Iraq: "The President's plan will receive an up-or-down vote in both chambers of Congress. It is the only way the American people can have their voice heard. Our hope ... is that the President will hear the bipartisan chorus opposing escalation, and work with Democrats to find a new course." Pelosi will add that many House members support the non-binding resolution on Bush's plan, and she will also touch on her next legislative priority: curbing global warming. "We want to work with President Bush on this important issue in a bipartisan way. But we cannot afford to wait."
And Reid will say this about Iran: "This morning, I'd like to be clear: The President does not have the authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking congressional authorization."
Over at the Republican National Committee's winter meeting, its 168 members vote today to elect longtime party operative Mike Duncan as their chairman and Florida Sen. Mel Martinez as general chairman. At lunchtime, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell addresses the meeting. And tomorrow morning, White House press secretary Tony Snow concludes the RNC's four-day gathering with remarks at breakfast.
As we've mentioned before, a few RNC members have expressed their displeasure at Martinez and his pro-immigration views. "Choosing an RNC chairman who supports amnesty is tantamount to telling the conservative majority of Americans that they do not matter," one committee member told the Washington Times. The group English First is even running an ad on National Review Online, which calls Martinez "the wrong choice" for chair. An RNC spokesman tells First Read that he expects just 10 to 15 votes against Martinez's election -- which, if true, won't threaten his chairmanship. "Martinez will be fine," the spokesman says. (However, at departing chair Ken Mehlman's farewell address yesterday, the audience applauded after Mehlman praised Duncan, but remained silent after he did the same for Martinez.)
There's also plenty of oh-eight news today and over the weekend. First, Sen. Sam Brownback formally announces his presidential bid tomorrow in Topeka, KS. Today, Tom Vilsack makes a few stops in New Hampshire, while Mitt Romney huddles with supporters at a closed event in East Brunswick, NJ. Sen. Chris Dodd rallies with supporters in Hartford, CT before heading this weekend to New Hampshire, where he'll meet with activists and supporters. John Edwards holds a town hall in Iowa City, IA tomorrow to discuss the troop escalation in Iraq. And John McCain, along with Ted Kennedy, does Meet the Press on Sunday.
Finally, former Rep. Bob Ney (R) -- who resigned from Congress due to the Abramoff influence-peddling scandal, and who certainly contributed to the GOP losing his seat -- receives his sentence today. NBC's Joel Seidman reports that the Justice Department is asking for a term of 27 months in prison.