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The agenda: About that $700 billion...

"Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson yesterday backed away from the original strategy behind the $700 billion US plan for propping up the limping economy, opening the door to pump government cash into credit card companies, auto financing firms, and other consumer lenders in addition to banks."

Does anyone else get the funny feeling that we're going to discover very soon that the $700 billion has been spent and no one is quite sure what it got spent on? So far, the Bush Administration has committed nearly $300 billion of the $700 billion. And the Washington Post notes there's no oversight. "Yet for all this activity, no formal action has been taken to fill the independent oversight posts established by Congress when it approved the bailout to prevent corruption and government waste. Nor has the first monitoring report required by lawmakers been completed, though the initial deadline has passed. 'It's a mess,' said Eric M. Thorson, the Treasury Department's inspector general, who has been working to oversee the bailout program until the newly created position of special inspector general is filled. 'I don't think anyone understands right now how we're going to do proper oversight of this thing.'" 

As for the auto industry bailout, "The White House and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. made clear that while they are open to helping the auto industry, they are strongly opposed to Democrats' plans to carve cash out of the government's $700 billion financial rescue program. Despite those warnings, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said he would move ahead and draft legislation, setting up a final showdown with the Bush administration."

With the auto industry taking center stage, Congressional Democrats are expressing doubt about the feasibility of one of Obama's other top priorities: an economic stimulus package. "House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in separate comments to reporters both cast doubt on Congress and the White House agreeing to a stimulus package. With no deal, anything Democrats could move through Congress might be vetoed by the White House."

"A leading Senate Democrat rolled out a sweeping healthcare plan yesterday, signaling that Democratic leaders in Congress intend to aggressively pursue significant - and probably expensive - healthcare legislation despite an expanding federal deficit and President-elect Barack Obama's intense focus on the ailing economy," the Boston Globe writes. "Senator Max Baucus of Montana, the head of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, unveiled an 89-page policy proposal that in many ways resembled the one Obama put forward during the campaign, with an important difference - it requires everyone to buy health insurance. In that respect, it is even more like the plan Massachusetts enacted in 2006 than Obama's, which did not include an individual mandate."

Here's the Baucus blueprint.

"Transition officials call it Obama 2.0 -- an ambitious effort to transform the president-elect's vast Web operation and database of supporters into a modern new tool to accomplish his goals in the White House. If it works, the new president could have an unprecedented ability to appeal for help from millions of Americans who already favor his ideas, bypassing the news media to pressure Congress," the AP's Fouhy writes. Republican pollster Frank Luntz marveled at Obama's 10 million-strong network, warning Republicans at the Republican Governors Association that Obama and his supporters are the most influential special interest group in America.

"Despite objections by Russia, the outgoing head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency urged President-elect Barack Obama on Wednesday to stick to the Bush administration's plans to place missile defenses in Eastern Europe. Dropping the planned installation of missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic 'would severely hurt' U.S. ability to protect against Iran's growing missile force, said Lt. Gen. Henry Obering of the Air Force." Obama "has said he would make sure any missile defense system has been proven to work before it is deployed." Obering said he has "confidence in the system."