From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carrie Dann
*** Bush's farewell newser: At 9:15 am ET, President Bush will hold what will probably be the final news conference of his presidency. Per NBC's John Yang, White House press secretary Dana Perino says Bush "will make a brief opening statement, commenting on the important role the White House press corps has in covering presidents and the White House, and then will take questions. The President is looking forward to discussing the important events of the last eight years as well as issues in the news today." Bush's newser comes after conducting several exit interviews with the media, including one that aired yesterday in which Bush warned the GOP of becoming anti-immigrant. (Who needs to hear that message? RNC chair candidates? Congressional leaders? Tom Tancredo? Rush Limbaugh?) It also comes as the Washington Post today front-pages that Bush "has presided over the weakest eight-year span for the U.S. economy in decades." One possible question you might hear today: Is that economic record evidence that large tax cuts targeted to the wealthy aren't the answer for economic expansion? After all, Bush's predecessor -- who raised taxes early in his first term -- saw a much greater economic expansion during his presidency.
Video: TODAY's Meredith Vieira talks to NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd about the latest in politics, including the transition of power at the White House and President-elect Obama's economic plan.
*** Stimulus odds and ends: Of course, Obama -- even before he's inaugurated -- is already working on his own economic legacy with his stimulus plan. The actual stimulus bill isn't being introduced in the House today (as had been anticipated earlier), so that's a mini-setback for Team Obama. However, it's trying to tweak the stimulus as it hears the various critiques coming from Congress. (And Paul Krugman today offers his own two cents on how to improve the plan.) As Politico writes, "The Obama team told about 35 Senate Democrats gathered at Sunday's meeting that it would grow the size of an energy-tax incentive package and modify proposed tax credits for individuals and for businesses that hire new employees, according to meeting attendees." Yet what also is clear is that the remaining $350 billion in TARP money has become a thorn in the Obama team's side as it begins lobbying Congress to release that money. No doubt it's a problem to have that issue sitting out there while asking for another $800 billion. One more economic note: The New York Times reports that the Obama folks are going to use YouTube, etc. to go over the heads of the media to help sell the stimulus. That is something we said they WOULD do, and now they're doing it. Also today, Obama meets with Mexican President Calderon in DC…
Video: President-elect Obama is urging Congress to act quickly to free up another $350 billion in bailout money for use by his administration shortly after the inauguration. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.
*** Blago'd: As NBC's Ken Strickland reported yesterday, attorneys for Roland Burris are expected to file new documents today with the Senate in a renewed effort to claim the seat vacated by Obama. According to Sen. Dick Durbin (D), a decision of whether those papers satisfy Senate rules could come as early as today. And get this: Per Strick, the Burris matter got top billing in a rare Sunday meeting that was originally planned as a briefing from Larry Summers and Obama's economic team. Summers and company stood outside the Mansfield Room until Durbin finished his class on Illinois politics. So Burris is trumping Summers and the economy right now? It's just more evidence that this entire Blago/Burris story has become a big distraction for the Democrats and incoming Obama administration.
*** Dropping like flies: Yesterday, First Read confirmed that Ohio Sen. George Voinovich will announce today that he won't run for another term in 2010, becoming the third Republican in recent weeks (Kit Bond and Mel Martinez were the others) to make that decision. Also, Sen. Sam Brownback is widely expected to run for Kansas governor in 2010 instead of seeking re-election, meaning the minority party is already set to defend four open seats. And there are at least two more potential retirements GOP in Jim Bunning of Kentucky and Chuck Grassley of Iowa. All of this means that new NRSC chief John Cornyn has his work cut out for him. One could argue, however, that the GOP would rather have an open seat in Kentucky…
*** Paterson's choice: Also over the weekend, we learned that Caroline Kennedy met with Gov. David Paterson to discuss the New York Senate seat. She might very well find out her fate this week. Yet regarding how this all might play out, New York Dems have warned us not to assume that Paterson is a "C.W." kind of guy. He can be unpredictable -- meaning that just when it looks like he's sending signals to one candidate, poof, he's actually leaning another way. That said, has Kennedy heard anything positive out of Paterson publicly in the last two weeks? If she has, that's news to us.
*** Confirmation hearing week: In addition to the ongoing Blago/Burris story, the latest with the economy, and the build-up to next week's inauguration, the big news this week will be all of the Senate confirmation hearings for Obama's cabinet picks. On Tuesday, we'll see four hearings (Chu for Energy, Clinton for State, Donovan for HUD, and Duncan for Education). On Wednesday, there will be one (Shineski for Veterans Affairs). And on Thursday, we'll see four more (Holder for AG, Napolitano for Homeland Security, Rice for UN ambassador, and Salazar for Interior). Of course, the two biggest of those hearings will be Clinton's and Holder's -- and Holder's, in particular, is shaping up to be contentious. Every day that goes by in the papers seems to resurrect another Holder controversy, whether it's the Marc Rich pardon, the FALN ones, the Vignali commutation, or his private work for firms like Chiquita, which the New York Times wrote about yesterday. But while we're hearing lots of chatter about tough questions for Holder, it's clear he's going to get confirmed. Ditto Clinton.
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 8 days
Countdown to RNC winter meeting: 16 days
Countdown to VA Dem primary: 148 days
Countdown to NJ GOP primary: 141 days
Countdown to Election Day 2009: 295 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 659 days
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