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Congress: Bailout hopes fading

Hopes for a last-minute compromise on auto industry aid are fading for the 110th Congress, but look for a vote on unemployment insurance in the Senate before the end of the week.

In fact, the auto executives' testimony was a disaster after they got slapped down for their decision to fly in on private jets. And it appears there may not be a congressional vote on a bailout this week and, perhaps, for the rest of this year.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal and others reported that "Waxman won the first-round of voting today in his bid for a hostile takeover of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. A panel of big-shot Dems voted 25-22 in favor of Waxman unseating John Dingell, the Michigan Democrat who now chairs the committee. The final vote comes [today], when the full House Democratic Caucus will vote on who should hold the gavel… Dingell may get backing from rank-and-file congressmen wary of shaking up the seniority system, as well as moderate Dems who find Waxman (D., Calif.) too liberal."

Politico's Bresnahan characterizes Republicans in the Senate -- down 13 seats since before the 2006 cycle and awaiting the results of two more unpredictable races -- as being "in a deep funk."  The rancor appears to be deepened by infighting among GOP senators unsure of how to restructure their message and their caucus on the Hill.

"More than three decades after he first appeared before the panel as a 27-year-old Vietnam veteran-turned-antiwar protester, Senator John F. Kerry will be named chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, giving him enormous influence over President-elect Barack Obama's foreign policy, according to congressional officials," the Boston Globe reports on its front page with a black-and-white photo of a Vietnam-era Kerry testifying before the committee. "Aides to Kerry said he is already laying out a broad agenda for the committee, beginning with new legislation to strengthen the United States' hand against terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan; provide oversight of efforts to end the war in Iraq; and seize what he sees as a new opportunity to curtail the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons."

More: "Kerry, 64, is still considered by some political observers to be a possible pick for Obama's secretary of state, but Senator Hillary Clinton of New York and former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, each of whom met separately with Obama at his Chicago transition office last week, are considered far more likely selections for the position of top diplomat."