A roundup of news, schedules, and key stories from CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:
4747129President Barack Obama has another full day of meetings today – with a heavy dose of economic discussions on the schedule. He'll meet with Congressional Democratic and Republican leaders and it wouldn't be a stretch to guess that the Republicans' growing list of complaints with the President's economic stimulus plan will be on the agenda.
"Republicans accused Democrats of abandoning the new president's pledge, ignoring his call for bipartisan comity and shutting them out of the process by writing the $850 billion legislation," reports the Washington Post's Paul Kane.
"The first drafts of the plan would result in more spending on favored Democratic agenda items, such as federal funding of the arts, they said, but would do little to stimulate the ailing economy. The GOP's shrunken numbers, particularly in the Senate, will make it difficult for Republicans to stop the stimulus bill, but the growing GOP doubts mean that Obama's first major initiative could be passed on a largely party-line vote -- little different from the past 16 years of partisan sniping in the Clinton and Bush eras.
"'Yes, we wrote the bill. Yes, we won the election,' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters yesterday, saying Republicans were not being realistic in their expectations. ...
"Republicans have a long list of grievances. Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), who gave Vice President Biden a 17-page list of spending requests, said he opposes the proposed increase in funding for Pell Grants for college students because it would do little to spur short-term economic growth.
"House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) said the plan lacks enough 'fast-acting tax relief,' such as a temporary halt to payroll taxes and more relief for businesses. Sen. John Thune (S.D.) said the nearly $1 trillion price tag would add too much to a federal deficit that is already predicted to top $1.2 trillion for 2009."
4743150In addition to attending the "Economic Daily Briefing" and a meeting about the budget, President Obama will meet with his Treasury Secretary nominee Tim Geithner, who cleared the Senate Finance Committee yesterday and will be voted on by the full Senate soon.
He "told senators that President Obama believed China was 'manipulating' its currency, suggesting a more confrontational stance toward that country than under the Bush administration," reports the New York Times' Jackie Calmes.
"Mr. Geithner's comment was made in writing to the Senate Finance Committee hours before it voted 18 to 5 to recommend that the full Senate confirm him. The statement, which is certain to anger the Chinese government, comes at a particularly sensitive time, with economies in both the United States and China weakening and tensions already rising around the globe over trade.
"The United States, moreover, is increasingly dependent on China to finance its ballooning deficit. An administration official said that Mr. Geithner was only repeating what Mr. Obama had said during the campaign, and pointed out that his statement also emphasized that the president intended to use 'all the diplomatic avenues available to him' to address the currency question.
"It remained unclear whether Mr. Geithner was signaling that Mr. Obama would officially declare later this spring that China was engaging in currency manipulation, when the administration is required by a 20-year-old trade law to report to Congress on exchange rate issues.
"Such a finding would begin a legal process that starts with diplomacy and could end with the imposition of trade barriers like tariffs. The objective would be to persuade China to let the value of its currency, the yuan, freely float — a move that would let its value rise and would increase the cost of its exports."
President Obama will also hold a 70-minute meeting with members of the National Security Council today. Yesterday, Mr. Obama "signed executive orders closing the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, within a year; ending the Central Intelligence Agency's secret prisons; and requiring all interrogations to follow the noncoercive methods of the Army Field Manual," write the New York Times' Scott Shane, Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper.
"Mr. Obama's orders struck a powerful new tone and represented an important first step toward rewriting American rules for dealing with terrorism suspects. But only his decision to halt for now the military trials under way at Guantánamo Bay seemed likely to have immediate practical significance, with other critical policy choices to be resolved by task forces set up within the administration.
"Among the questions that the White House did not resolve on Thursday were these: What should be done with terrorists who cannot be tried in American courts, either because evidence against them was obtained by torture or because intelligence is too sensitive to use in court? Should some interrogation methods remain secret to keep Al Qaeda from training to resist them? How can the United States make sure prisoners transferred to other countries will not be tortured?"
"The surprising - and, for many Democrats shocking - decision to pick the conservative Gillibrand, 42, from Hudson in Columbia County, was disclosed by the governor in calls to party officials and some members of the state's congressional delegation, many of whom said they were unhappy with the selection, sources said," reports the New York Post's Frederic U. Dicker.
"Sources said 'at least five' members of the state's Democratic congressional delegation called Paterson to protest the possibility of Gillibrand's selection. One, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of Nassau County, even threatened a primary challenge. Gillibrand faces a special election in 2010. Democratic activists predicted that [state Attorney General Andrew] Cuomo, son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, would also 'seriously consider' challenging Paterson in a primary next year. ...
"Liberal Democrats have been wary of her because she ran for re-election with the backing of the National Rifle Association, opposed the federal TARP program to rescue banks, and has been less than enthusiastic about gay marriage."
Meantime, the mystery continues surrounding Caroline Kennedy's decision to withdraw from consideration for that Senate seat.
"A nasty war of words erupted Thursday between loyalists to Gov. Paterson and supporters of Caroline Kennedy after she abruptly dropped out of the scramble to succeed Hillary Clinton as New York's junior senator," writes the New York Daily News' Kenneth Lovett.
"The Paterson camp contended Kennedy withdrew her name because of a 'tax problem' and a 'potential nanny issue' - while adding that the governor never really intended to name her because she wasn't ready for 'prime time.' 'She was facing some potentially embarrassing personal issues' that came up in the vetting process, a source close to the governor said. Kennedy cited 'personal reasons' in a one-sentence statement announcing the end of her Senate bid - as her aides denounced the attacks from the Paterson camp."
"Mr. Obama struck an empathetic tone toward Palestinians in Gaza, who he said were suffering greatly after the recently halted Israeli military campaign against Hamas. But he signaled no major shift in American policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
"Mr. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton jointly introduced the emissaries, George J. Mitchell, who will be special envoy for Arab-Israeli affairs, and Richard C. Holbrooke, who will hold the title of special representative and will be responsible for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"Mr. Mitchell, a former Senate majority leader, helped broker a peace agreement in Northern Ireland. Mr. Holbrooke, a longtime diplomat who was the American ambassador to the United Nations, played a central role in drafting the 1995 Dayton peace accords, which ended the war in Bosnia.
"The appointment of such diplomatic heavyweights could pose a challenge to Mrs. Clinton as she seeks to carve out her place as the nation's chief diplomat. Each was once viewed as a potential secretary of state, and Mr. Holbrooke, in particular, will have a wide-ranging portfolio."
Time Magazine's Massimo Calabrese, "Can Clinton and Her Envoys Rebuild U.S. Diplomacy?"
OBAMA AND THE PRESS
"Television network bureau chiefs also protested the exclusion of video cameras from the second oath of office. 'We're in an awkward phase and there will be bumps in the road,' said Christopher Isham, CBS News Washington bureau chief. 'Hopefully they will be speed bumps rather than obstacles.'"
NY Times' Jeff Zeleny, "For the last two months, Robert Gibbs has been attending press secretary school, complete with thick briefing books, dress rehearsals and practiced answers for an array of prospective questions.
"So on Thursday, for his first White House press briefing, Mr. Gibbs came equipped with a handful of jokes, a few morsels of news and a pledge that this presidency would be awash in a spirit of openness.
"But only a few minutes into the session, as the talk turned to President Obama's re-doing his oath of office, a reporter raised this question: 'In the service of transparency, why didn't you show the world this?' 'We did show the world this,' Mr. Gibbs replied, defending the decision not to allow television cameras to capture the second swearing-in ceremony with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who had stepped on a few lines in the constitutional oath and agreed to come to the White House Map Room on Wednesday evening for a second try.
"To defuse the situation, Mr. Gibbs sought to use humor. 'I was there,' the new press secretary said with a smile, using his own presence to suggest that the proceeding had not been done under a cloak of darkness. 'It was far easier to get tickets for this one.'"
Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva, "Barack Obama gets his BlackBerry": "The president wants a BlackBerry, the president gets a BlackBerry. It's no secret that the Secret Service was none too happy about President Barack Obama's fondness for his personal e-mail device.
"That's because the addictive hand-held communicators are popular targets for the worldwide web of password scammers and malicious hackers. More worrisome for those who must protect the president: Mobile phones can be used to track the whereabouts of their users.
"But Obama has struck a deal with his protectors, aides said Thursday. 'A limited group of senior staffers and personal friends' will have access to Obama's e-mail address, according to Robert Gibbs, the new White House press secretary. 'It's a pretty small group of people.'"
Washington Post's Michael D. Shear, "Are You on the Very Special List? Probably Not."
"Several questions about the presidential e-mail, however, were not addressed," writes the New York Times' Jeff Zeleny. "'What's the address?' Major Garrett from Fox News asked Mr. Gibbs. Mark Knoller from CBS Radio News said, 'None-of-your-business.com.'"
"'It was a complete surprise, completely unexpected. And just like the United States prevailed in that, we'll prevail in this.' The two-term Democrat, speaking on a snowy sidewalk outside the office of one of his attorneys, said there was no chance he would resign before the start of his impeachment trial in the state Senate next week. 'I'm going to fight this to the very end,' he said.
Chicagobreakingnews.com, "Gov's lawyers expect removal from office": "Less than two weeks after Gov. Rod Blagojevich vowed to fight 'every step of the way,' his legal team announced [Thursday] that it won't try to block the start of next week's impeachment trial and expects the Senate will vote to kick him out of office.
"'As far as I know, the people in the Senate are more likely than not to convict him, and he will be removed from office,' Blagojevich attorney Edward Genson told the Tribune. 'I don't welcome it, but I expect it.'"
MINNESOTA SENATE RACE
Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Pat Doyle, "Franken's request to dismiss Coleman suit is denied"
Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler, "Obama Intends to Lift Family-Planning 'Gag Rule'": "President Barack Obama will issue an order restoring U.S. funding for international family-planning groups involved with abortion.
"But he chose not to do so on Thursday, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. President Obama was breaking with the tradition set by his recent predecessors to make an abortion-related order on the anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling, another example of his attempt to support liberal policies he believes in while trying to defuse emotional political debates."
NY Times' David D. Kirkpatrick, "A Senate panel on Thursday postponed a vote to confirm President Obama's pick for deputy secretary of defense because the nominee's previous lobbying work violated the new administration's ethics rules.
"Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, did not rule out confirmation of the nominee, William J. Lynn III. Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, noted Thursday that the rules included provisions for waivers in a case of public interest. In a statement, Mr. Levin, Democrat of Michigan, said his committee would wait to see 'whether a waiver will be forthcoming and what the scope of the waiver will be.'
Mr. Obama's ethics rules bar former lobbyists in his administration for two years from working on issues about which they had lobbied or in agencies that they had lobbied. But the administration has acknowledged that two of its nominees violate the code.
"One is Mr. Lynn, picked to oversee military spending, who has been a lobbyist for the military contractor Raytheon. The other is William V. Corr, designated to be deputy secretary of health and human services, who was a lobbyist for the nonprofit Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
"He has pledged to recuse himself from the subject of his lobbying, tobacco policy. But Mr. Lynn, who was a senior Defense Department official under President Bill Clinton before joining Raytheon, cannot feasibly avoid matters involving his former employer. Besides working as a subcontractor on projects across the department, the company produces missiles like the Patriot and works on ground systems for spy satellites."
Washington Post's Shaleigh Murray, "Senate Gets Reacquainted With McCain the Maverick"