From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carrie Dann
*** Welcome to Washington: It's still very early, but we're starting to have some flashbacks to '93 and '94, when congressional Democrats (Bob Kerrey jumps to mind) were a bigger problem for then-President Clinton than Republicans were. The first example this week was Dianne Feinstein, who criticized Obama's pick of Leon Panetta to head the CIA, although she has since warmed up to the idea after Obama apparently called her to apologize for not consulting with her first about the selection. On Wednesday, Michigan Rep. John Conyers urged his colleagues to oppose Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General, even though Conyers -- as a member of the House -- wouldn't have a say in any Gupta's confirmation. And now we're seeing Senate Democrats questioning various parts of Obama's stimulus plan (the $1,000 tax cut for families, the tax credit for businesses, and the overall scope of the plan). Who is Obama more annoyed at this week -- Republicans or members of his own party? The only real trouble Republicans appear to be giving Obama right now is over Eric Holder's nomination for attorney general.
*** Selling -- and polling! -- the stimulus: Bloomberg News has this nugget: The Obama team is polling the stimulus to sell it. "David Axelrod, Obama's chief political adviser, along with campaign media adviser Jim Margolis, are encouraging lawmakers to use the word 'recovery' instead of recession and 'investment' instead of 'infrastructure.' Those recommendations came from focus-group research indicating that such framing would make the package more appealing to voters." Of course, it's no surprise that a president polls. Clinton may have done it too much, while Bush went absurdly out of his way to claim he wasn't doing it....
*** Cornyn's challenge, part II: Last month, we noted that if Democrats didn't pick up a filibuster-proof 60 Senate seats in 2008 -- and they'll be just short at 59 if Burris and Franken are seated -- they'll have a chance at 60 during the 2010 midterms, given what looks like a pretty favorable map for the party. Well, that map is looking better and better for Dems now that 1) Jeb Bush opted not to run for the Senate in Florida and 2) that Missouri GOP Sen. Kit Bond has decided not to run for re-election. With Bond out of the picture, the Missouri Senate race could end up being one of the cycle's marquee contests, with possibly Rep. Roy Blunt or ex-Sen. Jim Talent running on the Republican side against maybe Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D). Given that Republicans seem to have more vulnerable incumbents or potential retirees (Bunning, Grassley, Vitter, Voinovich) than Democrats do for 2010 (Reid), a simple split of the Florida and Missouri Senate contests could put Democrats one step closer to 60 seats. Then again, we need to wait and see who ends up becoming the Democratic nominees in Illinois (Burris?) and New York (Caroline Kennedy?).
*** Driving the day: At 10:30 am ET at his transition office in DC, Obama will unveil his top intelligence picks -- Dennis Blair to be director of national intelligence and Leon Panetta to head the CIA. But the driving news of the day will be today's jobs report. Per the AP, the US lost more than 500,000 in December and the unemployment rate increased to 7.2%, from 6.7% in November. That's the highest unemployment rate since early 1993...
*** Impeachment in Illinois: In Illinois today, the state's House of Representatives is expected to vote to impeach embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich, after a legislative panel unanimously recommended the action yesterday. As the Chicago Tribune writes, a simple majority vote in the House today (60 out of 118 members) would send Blagojevich's impeachment to the state Senate for trial, where it would take a two-thirds (40 of 59) vote to expel the governor from office.
*** Dean's friends aren't too happy: Advancing the Dean-got-snubbed story, Politico's Martin has a new piece quoting several Dean loyalists, who were upset by Dean's absence at yesterday's Obama-Kaine event at the Democratic National Committee. Said the chairman's brother, Jim Dean: "If he had been asked to go to that event, he would have been there." Noted another Dean ally in the story: "The snub today was no accident. I guarantee you he would have rescheduled his trip if asked to attend. It's easy to [screw] over people when you are riding high in the polls, let's see how many people are singing his praises in six months." Added another ally: "If we can forgive Joe Lieberman for actively campaigning against Obama, this seems crazy to me. And Hillary Clinton did ok and lots of her people are getting plum assignments."
*** Caroline in trouble? We're sorry, but every day that goes by when David Paterson DOESN'T announce he's picking Caroline Kennedy to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate seat can't be a good sign for her, right? And it certainly doesn't help when Paterson mentions that she doesn't have legislative experience, as he did in an interview yesterday.
*** Solis' big day: Obama's pick to head the Labor Department, Hilda Solis, today has her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee at 9:30 am ET. Here's our breakdown of Solis:
Age: 51 (b. Oct. 20, 1957, Los Angeles; Home: El Monte, Calif.)
Key Prior Jobs: U.S. Rep., 2000-present; California state Senate, 1994-2000; California state House, 1992-94; Mgmt Analyst, Office of Mgmt & Budget, 1981; Editor, White House Officer of Hispanic Affairs, 1980-81
Education: B.A. Cal State Polytechnic; M.P.A., University of Southern California
Family: Married (Sam H. Sayyad, a small-business owner)
Potential Hold ups: (1) Staunchly Pro-Union: Solis, "the daughter of a Mexican union shop steward and a Nicaraguan assembly line worker," as the AP notes, she's the only member of Congress of Central American descent. She's seen as far left on labor issues, and there will likely be some tough questioning from more pro-business Republicans. She is so pro-union, in fact, she is the only member of Congress to sit on the board of American Rights at Work. Unions "expect her to press for legislation that would force businesses to recognize union representation once more than 50% of a company's eligible work force signs union cards, instead of waiting for secret-ballot elections." Card check is an explosive issue in the making. It stirs outrage among conservatives and several television and radio spots on the issue were aired during the presidential election. The one balancing factor, however, could be that Obama named the more pro-business Ron Kirk as his U.S. trade representative. Note: Solis would replace Elaine Chao, the only original member of Bush's cabinet still serving in it.
*** Enter Colin Powell: Also today, around noon ET, Colin Powell and the Presidential Inaugural Committee will hold a press conference in DC regarding Obama's call for national service. But, according to NBC's Andrea Mitchell, people close to Powell say that despite his presence today, he is not joining the administration. At the news conference, Powell will speak on the importance of voluntarism.
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 11 days
Countdown to RNC winter meeting: 19 days
Countdown to VA Dem primary: 151 days
Countdown to NJ GOP primary: 144 days
Countdown to Election Day 2009: 298 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 662 days
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