From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carrie Dann
*** The full Obama Cabinet: At his last press conference of the year before departing for Hawaii, NBC's Savannah Guthrie reports, Obama will unveil his final cabinet picks (and maybe others!): Ray LaHood for Transportation secretary, Hilda Solis for Labor, and Ron Kirk for U.S. Trade Representative. As transition expert Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution tells First Read, this is the earliest an incoming president has assembled his entire cabinet since Richard Nixon announced his cabinet picks on Dec. 11, 1968. Also, we've learned that Obama has picked Dennis Blair, a former Navy admiral, to be his director of national intelligence. The next question is if -- or when -- Obama decides to replace the current CIA chief. The Washington Post has a new name for the list, but we should remind folks that Obama isn't under any Jan. 20 pressure to name him/her. He could keep current chief Hayden in place for as long as he and Hayden want. The CIA director's term doesn't expire at end of a president's term, but instead simply serves at pleasure of president. Hayden would stay if asked...
*** Updated Cabinet census: Here's our updated list after the Solis and Kirk picks:
-- 8 State Schoolers (Daschle, Vilsack, Chu, Napolitano, Salazar, Gates, Solis, Kirk)
-- 7 Ivy Leaguers (Clinton, Duncan, Geithner, Holder, Donovan, Orszag, Jackson)
-- 5 Raised in the Midwest (Clinton, Daschle, Gates, Duncan, LaHood, Vilsack) Note: This doesn't include Chu, who was born in Missouri but grew up in New York or Vilsack who can be now considered a "midwesterner" since he had lived in and lives in Iowa, but he grew up in Pennsylvania.
-- 5 Women (Clinton, Napolitano, Solis, Rice, Jackson)
-- 4 Raised in New York (Holder, Donovan, Geithner, Chu -- who grew up on Long Island) Note: This does not include Napolitano who was born in NYC or Clinton who currently lives there.
-- 4 Basketball Players (Duncan, Rice, Holder, Kirk -- who also was a cheerleader in college)
-- 4 African Americans (Holder, Kirk, Rice, Jackson)
-- 3 Hispanics (Salazar, Richardson, Solis)
-- 3 Westerners (Salazar, Richardson, Napolitano -- who was born in NYC but raised in Albuquerque) Note: Solis is from L.A., but is that really a Westerner?
-- 2 Asian Americans (Shinseki, Chu)
-- 2 Republicans (Gates, LaHood)
-- 2 Sitting Senators (Clinton, Salazar)
-- 2 Sitting Governors (Napolitano, Richardson)
-- 2 Raised in the South (Kirk, Jackson -- who was born in Philadelphia, but adopted a few weeks later and grew up in New Orleans' Ninth Ward)
*** An auto deal? At publication time, President Bush is making a statement on the administration's plan to assist the auto industry. Here's a quickie summary of what he'll announce: Magic number is $17.4 billion, with the last $4 billion coming from Part 2 of the TARP and with $13.4 billion available immediately; there's no use of the word "bankruptcy"; and the emphasis is on "restructuring," but viability has to be proven by March 2009 (of course, there will be a new administrator of the TARP by then). The bottom line here, it appears: The Bush administration is punting. It is offering enough money for GM and Chrysler to stay alive for a few months, but make no mistake -- this is now in Obama's hands. Also today, at 10:15 am, President Bush and the first lady attend the unveiling of their portraits at the National Portrait Gallery.
*** Stimulate this: The New York Times reports today that the Obama team hopes to have its stimulus plan ready by next week, so Congress can take up the legislation before Obama is sworn in. But get this -- the Obama plan might be just 15 pages, and Congress will be able to fill in the blanks. Wow, talk about trust in congressional Democrats! Some questions this will raise: What are the restrictions Obama will put on earmarks? Will there be transparency on pork? And will Obama threaten any vetoes if some members take advantage of the situation? Already, there is a coalition of unions ready to sell this package, semi-sight unseen.
*** Just askin': With no real surprises with the Clinton Foundation donor list, why didn't Bill Clinton release this information last year, before the primaries got underway? Or would Bill have been forced to release them had Hillary become the Democratic nominee?
*** The never-ending recount: Just when you thought the Senate recount in Minnesota couldn't become more bizarre -- or go on any longer -- the state Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the canvassing board must count improperly rejected absentee ballots (which Franken's campaign had wanted, and Coleman's didn't), but also said that two campaigns must agree on how they'll be counted (which allows the campaigns to drag their feet if they want). The decision makes it likely that the recount will go for more weeks, possibly after the new Congress is supposed to reconvene on Jan. 6. That would mean that the next Congress might have two unfilled Senate seats: Minnesota's (due to the recount) and Illinois' (due to the Blago scandal). For some perspective, the Minnesota recount has now gone on six days longer than the 2000 Florida recount, which ended Dec. 13. By the way, the state Supreme Court ruling came as Franken -- as expected -- nearly erased Coleman's lead in the recount in Day 3 of the canvassing board's decisions on the challenged ballots. Per the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Coleman's lead is now just five votes; the AP has it at just two. No matter the number, yesterday was a huge gain for Franken, and he very well might win. But is there a specific lead he needs to make Senate Dems comfortable seating him?
*** Happy holidays and looking ahead: This will be the final morning First Read note of the year, although we'll be updating our online blog as news warrants. The morning note will back first thing on Monday, Jan. 5. To whet your appetite for the big month ahead, here's a quick look at what to expect for January:
Jan. 6: Congress returns (and gets to work on a stimulus plan)
Jan. 7: President Bush hosts a White House lunch with Obama and the three living ex-presidents: Clinton, Bush 41, Carter
Jan. 7: Terry McAuliffe makes an announcement about his intentions for Virginia governor
Jan. 8: Congress conducts its electoral vote count
Jan. 15: The Senate Judiciary Committee holds its confirmation hearing on Eric Holder's nomination for attorney general (the other hearing dates haven't been announced, but NBC's Ken Strickland says that key hearings are expected before Obama is inaugurated so these people can be confirmed after he's sworn in)
Jan. 20: Obama's inauguration
Jan. 28-31: RNC winter meeting in DC, where new RNC chair will be selected
Countdown to Electoral Vote Count In Congress: 20 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 32 days
Countdown to VA Dem primary: 172 days
Countdown to Election Day 2009: 319 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 683 days
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