4707724President-elect Barack Obama heads to Capitol Hill at 12:30pm ET to meet with Senate Democrats as he continues to hammer out details of his economic stimulus package and works to convince Congress to release the remaining $350 billion in the financial bailout package.
"A week shy of taking office, President-elect Barack Obama already is putting his persuasion skills to a high-stakes test with Congress as he seeks access to the second half of the $700 billion financial bailout fund," reports the Associated Press's Jim Kuhnhenn.
In addition to Mr. Obama's visit to the Hill, "his transition team prepared to dispatch top aides to meet with Senate Republicans this week in anticipation of a possible vote Thursday on whether to release the money from the embattled Troubled Asset Relief Program.
"In the House, the Financial Services Committee scheduled a hearing on the program in advance of legislation offered by committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., that would place tough new restrictions on recipients of the money and require spending to reduce mortgage foreclosures. The legislation is scheduled to reach the floor of the House on Wednesday, with a vote set for Thursday."
Mr. Obama's top economic adviser Larry Summers, along with other members of his economic team, will meet with members of the Senate Finance Committee at 10am ET as well.
Mr. Obama's office said he plans to meet with Senate Republicans at a later date and, according to a House Republican aide, he has accepted an invitation to speak to House GOP members in a few weeks.
All of this comes a day after "President George W. Bush requested the second half of the $700 billion financial-rescue fund on behalf of President-elect Barack Obama, setting off a renewed political fight over the program as U.S. banks are set to report their worst quarterly results in years," report Deborah Solomon and Damian Paletta in the Wall Street Journal.
"Mr. Bush's call came amid mounting concerns about big U.S. lenders that have already received huge injections of government funds."
"Yesterday, [Mr. Obama] was forced to relent to skepticism on a separate politically complicated initiative, the economic stimulus package, by dropping his proposal to give businesses a $3,000 tax credit for every job they save or create," write the Washington Post's Lori Montgomery and David Cho.
"Lawmakers from both parties have complained that the Bush administration rushed the bailout through Congress and then badly mismanaged the program. Some lawmakers were upset that no help came for struggling homeowners. Others said banks and other financial institutions that have received money have failed to resume lending."
"The Senate's approval of the $350 billion would be a big relief for the Obama administration, which is hoping to avoid a messy legislative battle just as the new president takes office. That outcome seemed increasingly likely as some influential senators said they would urge their colleagues to approve the money," report David M. Herszenhorn and Edmund L. Andrews of the New York Times.
"'It's extremely important that we make these dollars available to the new administration so there is as much flexibility as possible to stabilize the financial system,' Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, said.
"Critics, including an oversight panel, have accused the Bush administration of badly mismanaging the program, in part by not adequately tracking how private banks have used bailout funds. ... But the request for the bailout money is still certain to generate impassioned debate....
"The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said he was reluctant to provide the additional money. ... Some lawmakers, including the House Republican leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, have said they will oppose disbursing the $350 billion.
"Other critics, including Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, have expressed a willingness to release the money provided conditions are attached to it. Mr. Frank has drafted a bill that would impose those controls and would also require at least $40 billion of the new money be used for home foreclosure prevention efforts.
"And in a sign that Mr. Obama's assurances just might not be enough, House Democratic leaders said they would push to approve Mr. Frank's bill this week. Even if the Senate approves the bailout money, the House will have to vote as well. And some Democratic aides said it was difficult to envision approval of the money without Mr. Frank's bill also being adopted."
Meantime, on the stimulus, "Federal aid for education could grow as much as $140 billion under a two-year economic stimulus bill now taking shape in Congress, where Democrats are proposing a new block grant for states and a $15 billion expansion of annual Pell grants to low-income college students," reports Politico's David Rogers.
"The commitment to education assistance dovetails with proposals under which Washington would also absorb a greater share of the costs for Medicaid, the joint state-federal healthcare program for the poor and disadvantaged. The increased Medicaid funding could run between $80 billion to $100 billion over two years, and again is designed to help governors maintain services and avoid major tax increases or layoffs that would work against the larger goal of generating new jobs.
"But the costs are huge, and there were signs Monday that the bill's price tag is growing closer to $850 billion rather than the $775 billion target that has been used most recently by the incoming administration."
"At a time of huge crises around the world, Sen. Clinton wants to take back some of the turf now held by the Defense Department. In a slap at President George W. Bush for increased reliance on force, or so-called hard power, Sen. Clinton will outline a broader arsenal of diplomatic tools that she calls 'smart power,' including economic agreements and social development that 'invests in our common humanity' to achieve improved security, advisers say."
Boston Globe's Farah Stockman writes, "Although Bill Clinton is not expected to attend today's Senate confirmation hearing on his wife's nomination to be secretary of state, the former president will loom large in the proceedings. Hillary Clinton will be peppered not only with questions about foreign donations to Bill Clinton's foundation, but also about how she plans to tackle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs - international crises that her husband made great efforts to solve, but ultimately passed on as unfinished business to future administrations."
A couple of questions that may come up: "Last month, after his wife was nominated as secretary of State, former President Clinton attempted to put an end to speculation about his secretive overseas fundraising by disclosing the names of some 208,000 donors to his foundation, which has collected more than $500 million to pay for a presidential library and to combat AIDS, malaria and other scourges.
"But nowhere on that list was the name Sakura Capital Management Co. Ltd. In 2003, Sakura, a short-lived Japanese American start-up, many of whose principals are not known, paid Bill Clinton $500,000, the highest cash fee he has reported receiving for a speech, for a talk he never delivered," reports the LA Times' Andrew Zajac.
Also, the Associated Press's Sharon Theimer dug this up: "Secretary of State appointee Hillary Rodham Clinton intervened at least six times in government issues directly affecting companies and others that later contributed to her husband's foundation, an Associated Press review of her official correspondence found. The overlap of names on former President Bill Clinton's foundation donor list and business interests whose issues she championed raises new questions about potential ethics conflicts between her official actions and her husband's fundraising. The AP obtained three of the senator's government letters under the Freedom of Information Act."
Warren P. Strobel of McClatchy Newspapers points out the "'Who's in charge' question looms over Clinton hearing": "If Obama, Clinton and their teams see eye to eye, they could aggressively remake U.S. relations: repairing frayed ties with European allies, channeling tensions that have built up with Russia, and opening a more cordial relationship with the Islamic world.
"But if the lines of authority are not clear, the result could be internecine conflict between the White House and the State Department of the sort that plagued both Democratic and Republican administrations of the past, according to current and former U.S. officials."
Today's hearing marks a milestone not only for Clinton but for the new Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. "After being edged out of the White House in 2004 by President Bush, Mr. Kerry has struggled to find his footing back in the Senate.
"A junior member of his panel — one Barack Obama — has gone on to win the presidency. For his secretary of state, Mr. Obama chose not Mr. Kerry, but Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton," writes the New York Times' Carl Hulse.
"Now Mr. Kerry's first hearing as chairman on Tuesday will be to consider the nomination of Mrs. Clinton, the woman he did not endorse for president, to the premier cabinet position in the administration of the man he did back. It cannot be the outcome he had in mind. Yet colleagues say Mr. Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat newly elected to a fifth term, is a perfect fit for the chairmanship of a committee that set his own political career in motion in 1971 when he appeared before it as an antiwar veteran to speak about Vietnam. They do not expect lingering tension between Mr. Kerry and Mrs. Clinton as she assumes her cabinet slot."
Washington Post's Anne E. Kornblut and Glenn Kessler write, "When Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) gavels the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to order today and welcomes Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) to her confirmation hearing as President-elect Barack Obama's nominee to be secretary of state, he will mark the ascendance of a new triumvirate dominating the foreign policy arena.
"The hearing will also call attention to a particularly awkward tangle of relationships. Kerry, who first put Obama in the national spotlight by inviting him to give the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, endorsed Obama over Clinton early in the 2008 presidential primaries, much to the irritation of the Clinton campaign.
"But Obama chose his defeated nemesis for the top diplomatic position -- a job that Kerry openly sought with the backing of many prominent Obama supporters. Instead of joining the Obama Cabinet, Kerry became chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, with the goal of leading it back to its former prominence. Now, the three appear to have largely put the past behind them, with Kerry and Clinton having preliminary discussions about what foreign trips they can take together and Obama working to forge a close working relationship with Clinton in a series of regular phone calls and meetings since he chose her for secretary of state in mid-November.
"Still, Kerry will have a different mission than Clinton and the president she serves. In an interview, Kerry said it is not his goal to hold the Obama administration's feet to the fire. 'On the other hand, I don't work for them,' Kerry said. 'The committee is an independent branch . . . and where necessary, we're obviously going to push and cajole and prod and try to hold accountable. But we'll do it in a way that I hope is entirely constructive and in partnership wherever possible.'"
Also having their confirmation hearings today: HUD Secretary nominee Shaun Donovan, Energy Secretary nominee Steven Chu, Education Secretary nominee Arne Duncan and Office of Management and Budget Director nominee Peter Orszag.
Upcoming Obama cabinet confirmation hearings: Veterans Affairs Secretary nominee Eric Shinseki, Jan. 14; Agriculture Secretary nominee Tom Vilsack, Jan 14; Attorney General nominee Eric Holder, Jan 15; Interior Secretary nominee Ken Salazar, Jan. 15; UN Secretary nominee Susan Rice, Jan. 15; Treasury Secretary nominee Tim Geithner, Jan. 15. TBA: HUD Transportation Secretary nominee Ray LaHood, Homeland Security Secretary nominee Janet Napolitano, CIA Director nominee Leon Panetta. Defense Secretary Robert Gates does not need to be reconfirmed.
Politico's Chris Frates, "Will Cabinet hearings be love fests?": "As the media stands poised to document every tough question or cutting remark during a flurry of Senate confirmation hearings this week, disappointments are sure to come. In fact, though, some hearings probably ought to come with a warning: Love Fest in Progress. Who might those lucky picks be? The Insiders, that handful of present and former House and Senate members plucked by President-elect Barack Obama to join his Cabinet."
"Among the critics had been Robinson, an early Obama supporter who said yesterday he is now hoping that he will be able to sit down with Warren before either of them gives his opening invocation next week."
Washington Post's Lena H. Sun, "Capacity Crows Will Close Checkpoints": "Security officials will count the number of spectators arriving for the inaugural parade, and when the crowd reaches capacity, they will turn people away. Officials warned that could happen well before the parade begins between 2:30 and 3 p.m."
Washington Post's Michael E. Ruane, "Hottest Topic: How Cold?": "So far, the forecast looks okay: Most agencies are calling for sunny weather, or partly so, with highs in the 30s.
"But there is a weather system way out in the northern Pacific Ocean, according to AccuWeather, which might or might not come this way Monday and might or might not bring snow. "A lot of things could happen between now and then," senior meteorologist Tom Kines said. Indeed, a week is a long way out, weather-wise, and the National Weather Service is only this afternoon issuing its first official forecast briefing to inauguration officials."
Politico's Andrew Glass, "The evolution of the president's party"
BLAGO / BURRIS
Chicago Tribune's Monique Garcia and Jill Zuckman, "Senate lets Burris in"
NY Times' Monica Davey, "Uneasy Times for Blagojevich and His Colleagues in Illinois"
HILLARY CLINTON'S SENATE SEAT / CAROLINE KENNEDY
NY Daily News' Kenneth Lovett, "Gov. Paterson said Caroline Kennedy 'impressed' him in her interview for the U.S. Senate seat, but he's not ready to declare the front-runner just yet. In an exclusive interview with the Daily News, Paterson said he has interviewed 15 people, including Kennedy, whom he met with on Saturday in his office. 'She didn't eliminate herself in the meeting,' he said."
MINNESOTA SENATE RACE
Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Patricia Lopez and Mike Kaszuba, "Al Franken topped off a day of aggressive maneuvers in the continuing U.S. Senate recount battle Monday by asking Gov. Tim Pawlenty to declare him the winner and telling Minnesota courts that they should butt out of the race."
Politico's Josh Kraushaar & Manu Raju, "Voinovich retires, GOP eyes Portman"
Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, "For Senate GOP, 2010 Losses on Top of the 2008 Losses"
NY Times' William Glaberson and Helene Cooper, "President-elect Barack Obama plans to issue an executive order on his first full day in office directing the closing of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, people briefed by Obama transition officials said Monday.
"But experts say it is likely to take many months, perhaps as long as a year, to empty the prison that has drawn international criticism since it received its first prisoners seven years ago this week.
"One transition official said the new administration expected that it would take several months to transfer some of the remaining 248 prisoners to other countries, decide how to try suspects and deal with the many other legal challenges posed by closing the camp."
Washington Post's Cecilia Kang, "Obama Picks Julius Genachowski to Head FCC"
NY Times' Robert Pear, "Anti-Smoking Advocate Is Named to Health Post"
Monday Morning Clacker, "Meghan McCain Sits Down With MMC To Talk Blogs, Bikers, Politics & Why She Only Takes Her High Heels Off To Swim"