From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** A tipping point for Daschle? A day after we suggested that Tom Daschle would win confirmation because of (1) his help during the Democratic primary and (2) the fact that U.S. senators rarely eat their own, Daschle's nomination to lead HHS has now reached a tipping point of sorts. First, the New York Times today delivers a one-two punch at Daschle -- with a front-page story how the former senator's tax issues appear to contradict President Obama's call for an "era of responsibility," as well as an editorial calling for the withdrawal of his nomination. The Boston Globe's Peter Canellos also piles on, questioning how Obama can scold Wall Street for its excesses but then tolerate Daschle's tax lapses. And now there's the revelation that Daschle failed to pay even more taxes, plus an old Daschle TV ad showing him driving around DC in a simple Pontiac car. Despite the criticism and contradictions, Daschle can probably still get confirmed by a party-line vote. But is this what Obama wants, especially with so much else on his plate?
*** If at first you don't succeed…: Filling the Commerce slot hasn't been easy for Obama, either. First, he tapped Bill Richardson for the post, but the New Mexico governor withdrew his nomination after he became entangled in an alleged pay-to-play scheme in his home state. Then other names, including former Time-Warner CEO Richard Parsons and Symantec CEO John Thompson, surfaced and fizzled. But Obama seems to finally have his man now -- unless, of course, any tax problems come up. At 11:00 am ET at the White House, Obama will announce New Hampshire GOP Sen. Judd Gregg as his Commerce Secretary. But the biggest story surrounding the nomination is the increasing likelihood that New Hampshire's Democratic governor will appoint a Republican to replace Gregg in the Senate. Just how much involvement did the Obama team have with the governor to compromise on the idea of appointing a GOPer to fill this Senate seat? White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said they had no involvement yesterday. But everything, including yesterday's statement from the governor, suggests they did play a role. By the way, here's something that might have people scratching their heads: Per CQ, Gregg voted in 1995 to abolish the Commerce Department before he agreed to lead it.
*** Stimulus odds and ends: So what happened at last night's meeting between congressional Dem leaders and the president? It's interesting that the leaders somehow missed their chance to speak to reporters after the meeting -- something those folks RARELY do. Just what happened behind closed doors? We have our theories. Here's the Washington Post's take: "[T]wo Democratic sources with knowledge of the meeting said the president took a blunt tone with the lawmakers, urging them to drop whatever needs to be cut from the bill to gain bipartisan support and to pass Congress soon. One thing worth noting: The Obama White House appears adamant not to legislate publicly; they may be doing deals behind the scenes, but they hesitate to go public with deal specifics. Meanwhile, according to NBC's Savannah Guthrie, 19 Democratic and Republican governors -- led by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Charlie Crist, Jodi Rell, Deval Patrick, and Bill Ritter -- have signed a letter to Obama that expresses their support for the stimulus. "As stewards of the economies of our respective states and regions, we urge the Congress to reach prompt resolution of all outstanding differences and you to sign the bill when it reaches your desk."
Video: The Obama administration found itself on the defensive Monday, fighting Congressional resistance to the economic stimulus package. NBC's Chuck Todd reports.
*** The price of voting no? Sticking with the stimulus debate, the Los Angeles Times runs a story that the Obama administration probably would love more news outlets to do: checking in on some GOP congressional district where voters might be upset by their representative's vote against the stimulus. "Few believe [Rep. Connie] Mack's position puts his political fortunes in jeopardy. The stimulus bill is likely to pass, allowing the congressman to maintain his stance as a fiscal hawk with no risk to his constituents… However, if Mack chooses to run for Senate next year to replace the retiring Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), Democrats will be waiting to remind him of his vote. 'Americans will hold Republicans accountable for being the party of no economic help and status quo policies,' says Jennifer Crider, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee."
Countdown to NJ GOP primary: 119 days
Countdown to VA Dem primary: 126 days
Countdown to Election Day 2009: 273 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 637 days
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