A roundup of news, schedules, and key stories from CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:
4709174As President-elect Obama enters his final week of being president-elect, he faces what could be his most pivotal week so far during the transition. The week is loaded with confirmation hearings (see chart below), none more interesting than Hillary Clinton's tomorrow and none expected to be more bumpy than Eric Holder's on Thursday.
Politico's Glenn Thrush and Amie Parnes preview the Clinton hearings, "Barring a bombshell revelation, all sides expect Clinton to be speedily confirmed as secretary of state. But her rendezvous with the Foreign Relations Committee at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday still offers its share of potential land mines.
"Nobody's fonder of huddling secretly with a close-knit, tight-lipped clutch of advisers than Hillary Clinton. And she's been huddling plenty in recent days, gaming out defenses to possible attacks against her husband while synchronizing her policy positions with Obama to avoid embarrassing public disagreements on Iraq, Iran and Israel.
"'If they hit her on any personal stuff or on the Bill s—t, she'll hit the ball out of the park,' said a longtime adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity. 'She's far more concerned with the substance,' the person said. 'This is the re-emergence of the non-political Hillary. The most discomfort is where she and Obama disagree — the 'you're naive' stuff. She can't show up the president, she can't appear like she's trying to formulate her own foreign policy.'"
On Thursday, Republicans – especially Judiciary Committee ranking member Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa. – have indicated they have tough questions for Attorney General nominee Holder.
"Republicans say they will challenge Eric Holder over Clinton-era pardons, national-security law and his work as a corporate lawyer, but those questions at his confirmation hearings this week aren't likely to derail President-elect Barack Obama's nominee for attorney general," reports the Wall Street Journal's Evan Perez.
"For some senators in both parties, a major concern is the perceived damage done to the Justice Department's reputation under President George W. Bush. ... Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned in 2007 amid political scandal over the firings of prosecutors. The department's own internal investigation following the Gonzales resignation found that hiring and firing decisions became tainted by political considerations.
"The controversy over Mr. Gonzales and criticism that he too readily acceded to the White House are fueling some of the scrutiny of Mr. Holder's record. Most controversial is Mr. Holder's failure to say 'no' to the Clinton White House in the pardons for Mr. Rich and for 16 members of a Puerto Rican nationalist group that was labeled a terrorist organization by U.S. officials."
Also on Mr. Obama's plate this week: the economic crisis. "A request for the remaining $350 billion in financial industry bailout funds could come as early as Monday as the Bush administration and President-elect Barack Obama tag-team uneasy lawmakers for the money," reports the AP's Andrew Taylor.
"A vote in Congress is likely soon, possibly this week, several senators predicted after a briefing from Obama economic adviser Larry Summers on the Wall Street bailout, as well as on Obama's separate plan for roughly $800 billion in spending and tax breaks to spur the economy."
"The Obama team would like to ask for the money even before President-elect Barack Obama takes office but is concerned lawmakers would reject the request, handing Mr. Obama the sticky task of vetoing Congress as one of his first acts in office," write the Wall Street Journal's Deborah Solomon and Greg Hitt.
"Members of Mr. Obama's team, including Treasury Secretary-nominee Timothy Geithner, are working to satisfy lawmakers' concerns by proposing using the funds for new purposes, such as preventing foreclosures, and imposing tougher conditions on recipients, according to people familiar with the negotiations. The political calculations are complicated by the need to navigate around Congress's ire toward the program. Making matters worse is the transition to the new administration, which wants to revamp its predecessor's work."
The New York Times' David M. Herszenhorn adds, "Senate Democrats said that they expected a formal request for the $350 billion to be made by President Bush this week. Both the outgoing and incoming presidents are then expected to take the unusual step of pressing jointly for approval, though lawmakers in both parties are furious over the Bush administration's handling of the bailout and some have pledged to block the money. Securing the remaining $350 billion now would put the money in place for use by the new administration shortly after Mr. Obama is inaugurated, and it would spare him a potentially messy political fight that could interfere with his agenda.
"The request is certain to generate angry debate on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are reeling from last week's projection of a $1.2 trillion budget deficit and will also soon be asked to vote on Mr. Obama's $800 billion recovery package."
Adam Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times look at how Obama plans to sell his economic stimulus plan, writing, "His aides said Mr. Obama had studied the way Franklin D. Roosevelt approached the first 100 days of his presidency, and in particular had seized on the notion of Roosevelt having a 'conversation with the American public' to try to prepare it for a difficult time.
"He has, aides said, even looked at the words Roosevelt used and the tone he struck. Mr. Obama has sought to strike a balance: emphasizing the depth of the problem, to create a sense of political urgency for Congress to act quickly, while not being so pessimistic that he could further destabilize the jittery financial markets or deplete the sense of energy and hope accompanying his election.
"... Mr. Obama's aides said that for the next three weeks, he would pack his schedule with interviews, speeches, news conferences and limited travel to try to rally public support behind the effort. The overall political goal, aides said, was to ensure that Mr. Obama's economic recovery program was approved quickly by a substantial bipartisan vote in Congress, while at the same time playing down public hopes about how quickly it might work."
The Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman reports, "President-elect Barack Obama and congressional leaders plan to move soon to block the estate tax from disappearing in 2010, suggesting the levy might outlive the 'Death Tax Repeal' movement that has tried mightily to kill it.
"The Democratic stance on the estate tax contrasts with Mr. Obama's reluctance to press forward with his campaign pledge to raise income-tax rates on top earners, which he worries could have an adverse economic impact during a recession.
"But Democrats are determined to act quickly to prevent the estate tax's scheduled repeal. Elimination of the levy on big inheritances was approved by Congress under President George W. Bush in 2001, with rollbacks phased in slowly and its full elimination slated to take effect next year. The Senate Finance Committee will move within weeks on legislation to reverse that law, and Mr. Obama is expected to detail his estate-tax preservation proposal in his budget next month, congressional tax writers said."
Today, in addition to private meetings and an interview with Univision, Mr. Obama will meet with Mexican President Felipe Calderon for a private lunch. "Obama transition officials say that Monday's session, to be held at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, is intended to underscore the importance of the relationship between Mexico and the U.S.," reports the Associated Press.
"Calderon's office said Sunday in a statement that he will press for 'better conditions for Mexicans in the United States, based on respect for their rights,' and may express concerns over stepped-up migrant raids. He may also push for expanded guest-worker programs."
Aides to Mr. Obama tell the AP that his first foreign trip as president will be to Canada – date TBA.
And, Mr. Obama and his family will move out of their temporary digs, the Hay-Adams Hotel, into Blair House on Thursday.
Upcoming Obama cabinet confirmation hearings: Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton, Jan. 13; Education Secretary nominee Arne Duncan, Jan. 13; Energy Secretary nominee Steven Chu, Jan. 13; HUD Secretary nominee Shaun Donovan, Jan. 13; OMB Director nominee Peter Orszag, Jan. 13; 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.
BLAGO / BURRIS
"Durbin, who ranks second in Democratic leadership, told the Tribune that a decision by the Senate legal counsel was expected Monday and that Burris, the first African-American elected to statewide office in Illinois, likely would be seated this week," reports the Tribune's Jill Zuckman.
Durbin "said Sunday it was likely that former Illinois Atty. Gen. Roland Burris would be seated as the state's newest senator this week after a legal review of new paperwork regarding the Senate appointment. The review Monday by Senate legal counsel marks the latest twist in the on-again, off-again seating of Burris, who was appointed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich three weeks after the now-impeached Illinois governor was arrested on federal corruption charges that include allegations he attempted to sell the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
"While it appeared the Senate was closer Sunday to seating Burris, there are potential hitches. Senate Democrats spent about 30 minutes discussing Burris' situation in a closed-door meeting Sunday that resulted in Obama's chief economic adviser, Larry Summers, cooling his heels in a Senate hallway waiting to discuss the president-elect's economic recovery package. 'This thing changes by the day,' Durbin said, explaining why he and his colleagues spent such a long time discussing the matter."
Politico's Manu Raju and Patrick O'Connor add, "Last week, Durbin and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that Burris could become the next senator from Illinois if he testified before a state impeachment committee and got a signed certification from Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White — and if the Rules Committee and the full Senate voted to seat him. But after the secretary of state refused to sign his appointment papers Friday — and instead signed another document saying his appointment was valid — the process is again in limbo. ...
"On Monday, Burris' lawyers will meet with the Senate's legal counsel and parliamentarian to discuss whether the secretary of state's unusual certification meets the requirements of Senate Rule II, which calls for all appointments to come with credentials certified by a state's governor and secretary of state."
As for Blagojevich, the Chicago Tribune's Monique Garcia and Rick Pearson report, "A surreal scenario is expected to play out Wednesday in the Illinois Senate: Against a ceremonial backdrop of pomp and circumstance, Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich will preside over the swearing-in of the very same lawmakers whose first order of business will be to consider whether to dump him from office.
"... After Wednesday's swearing-in, the Senate will adopt rules and a timetable. Cullerton said time is of the essence because the trial will keep the Senate from dealing with such pressing problems as the state's budget deficit. Senate planners hope that the trial will begin Jan. 26, and Cullerton pointed to the Clinton trial lasting three weeks as a potential length of Blagojevich's day in political court. A source familiar with the situation said that might be too ambitious a start date. Blagojevich's defense team may ask for weeks or months to prepare, and all of the prosecution and defense witnesses could stretch the trial out longer, the source said."
NY Times' Mark Leibovich on Sunday's inauguration rehearsal, "Someone who looked a little bit like Barack Obama was sworn in as the nation's 44th president at the United States Capitol. The tall black male delivered a brief inaugural address and then headlined an inaugural parade that ended at his new home, the White House.
"In fact, it was not really Barack Obama. It was only a stand-in — Staff Sgt. Derrick Brooks of the Army — who played the incoming president in an inaugural rehearsal that took over large areas around the Capitol and the White House for a few hours. The spectacle felt both momentous and kind of weird. Still, from a distance, it had the look and feel of the real thing: amplified speeches and announcements could be heard several blocks away, honor guards and color guards and processions of dignitaries (or stand-ins thereof) assembled along the western end of the Capitol. The (actual) Marine Band showed up to play 'Hail to the Chief' to honor the (fake) new president."
"At the Capitol, camera flashes winked in the pre-dawn darkness, and sunrise revealed an expanse of folding chairs and ranks of blue porta-potties in place for next week. As the practice got underway, it seemed to go smoothly," report the Washington Post's Michael E. Ruane and Nikita Stewart.
"The swearing-in drill was brief. 'Please, raise your right hand and repeat after me,' said the stand-in for U.S. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.: 'I do solemnly swear.' 'I do solemnly swear,' Brooks/Obama repeated. 'So help me God,' the Roberts stand-in said. 'So help me God,' Brooks answered. Then an announcer said: 'The 44th president of the United States, Barack H. Obama.'"
NY Times' Ashley Parker, "Hollywood Clamors to Be a Part of Obama's Big Day"
NY Times' Stephanie Clifford, "For Inauguration, Google Plans a Party to Cross Party Lines"
The Presidential Inaugural Committee and the Ad Council launched a public service campaign featuring Mr. Obama this morning. "The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) and The Advertising Council launched today a new public service advertising (PSA) campaign aimed at summoning a new spirit of service in America," according to a press release. "The television ad 'Step Forward' and radio PSA 'Chapter' feature President-elect Obama urging Americans to log on to USAService.org to find ways to make an ongoing commitment to serve their communities and their country." "Step Forward script - Obama: 'America's greatness was not crafted in skyscrapers alone. But on the ground by those who could see what needed to be done.
Volunteers who in service stepped forward. Onto the dust of the moon, a levee in the heartland, the marble steps of a dream. You may ask yourself: 'Where's my moon, my levee, my dream?'
Well, it's here...with you. Step forward. Help renew America at USAService.org."
HILLARY CLINTON'S SENATE SEAT / CAROLINE KENNEDY
NY Daily News' Kenneth Lovett, "Caroline Kennedy is 'impressive' at Brooklyn pol confab": "A day after meeting with Gov. Paterson, Kennedy pushed her candidacy for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat with the city and state lawmakers from central Brooklyn. 'She generally impressed everyone in the room,' said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn). 'She was very well-versed on urban issues, but more importantly showed a genuine commitment to affordable housing, black male unemployment and other issues concerning central Brooklyn.'"
MINNESOTA SENATE RACE
Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Pat Doyle and Mike Kaszuba, "Coleman is casting wider net for votes"
Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio won't run for re-election in 2010, making him the fourth Senate Republican to announce they're not running in 2010. The others: Sens. Kit Bond, R-Mo.; Mel Martinez, R-Fla.; and Sam Brownback, R-Kansas. Democrats are salivating at the possibilities in each state – already in Ohio, Missouri and Florida, they have a Democratic senator and in Kansas, while it's a fairly Republican state, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, D-Kansas, is quite popular and could potentially run for Senate.
Columbus Dispatch's Jack Torry, Jonathan Riskind and Joe Hallett, "Voinovich won't run again in 2010"
NY Times' David Johnston and Charlie Savage, "Obama Signals His Reluctance to Look Into Bush Policies": "As a candidate, Mr. Obama broadly condemned some counterterrorism tactics of the Bush administration and its claim that the measures were justified under executive powers. But his administration will face competing demands: pressure from liberals who want wide-ranging criminal investigations, and the need to establish trust among the country's intelligence agencies.
"At the Central Intelligence Agency, in particular, many officers flatly oppose any further review and may protest the prospect of a broad inquiry into their past conduct. In the clearest indication so far of his thinking on the issue, Mr. Obama said on the ABC News program 'This Week With George Stephanopoulos' that there should be prosecutions if 'somebody has blatantly broken the law' but that his legal team was still evaluating interrogation and detention issues and would examine 'past practices.' Mr. Obama added that he also had 'a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.'"
Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, "A Pale Reflection of America": "Eight days before Barack Obama is sworn in, the relative paucity of black journalists at the White House is striking. A mostly white press corps at 1600 Pennsylvania would be cause for concern no matter what the color of the Oval Office occupant. But the advent of the Obama administration seems to underscore that racial progress has been uneven in a business that chronicles that very subject.
"While there are some exceptions, most major news outlets that regularly chronicle the White House do not have a minority reporter on this, Washington's most visible beat."
NY Times' Brad Stone, "The High Security Risk Attached to Obama's Belt"
USA Today's Janice Lloyd, "Obama choice: Labradoodle or a Portuguese water dog"