Friday, October 14, 2011

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing: Papers Due

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Friday, October 14, 2011

Today In Washington

THE WHITE HOUSE: Obama and Lee Myung-bak are about to arrive in Michigan for a four-hour field trip. After touring the reopened-after-the-auto-bailout GM assembly line in Lake Orion (30 miles north of Detroit), both presidents will make speeches at 1:50 promising that much more work assembling Chevrolet Sonics and Buick Veranos will come to the plant because of the new South Korean free trade agreement. (The deal was finalized — and won 12 votes from the 17-person Michigan delegation — only after U.S. negotiators overcame auto industry complaints that the original language wouldn’t do enough to ease South Korea’s barriers to U.S.-made cars, even at a time of record American sales records for Kias and Hyundais.)

Lee is on the fifth state visit of the Obama’s presidency, but he’s the first leader invited to travel outside Washington. Obama’s 2008 margin of victory in Michigan was 17 percentage points, and it’s an essential part of the electoral vote map he’s drawn for himself next year.

THE HOUSE: Convened at 9 and will begin a weeklong recess before 3, after passing a bill that would block the EPA from regulating ash from coal-fired power plants as hazardous waste. It’s the latest Republican legislative effort to limit environmental regulations. A bill to delay rules to curb toxic air pollution from industrial boilers and incinerators passed with 274 votes yesterday.

THE SENATE: Not in session. Next convenes at 2 on Monday.

‘AN AREA OF POTENTIAL COMMONALITY’: The wave of proposals pouring over the supercommittee’s transom before tonight’s deadline — from non-members of both parties and the special interests they’re trying to help — are a strong sign Washington still holds out a decent measure of hope that the panel will defy the odds and propose a meaningful and bipartisan deficit reduction plan.

But the most meaningful proposal to that end is coming from behind the committee’s closed doors: The six Republicans are setting aside all the ambitious talk about a top-to-bottom rewrite of the tax code and are focused instead on trying to revamp the corporate tax system — because they believe the six Democrats could be talked into a deal that could be marketed to their base as all about closing corporate loopholes. (Besides, revamping the IRS code that affects individuals, in just six weeks, is a nearly impossible task, politically or logistically.) “There is seemingly some common purpose in doing business-entity tax reform,” House GOP Co-Chairman Jeb Hensarling said yesterday, in one of his most telling tea-leaf revelations about the talks. “It’s an area of potential commonality, particularly with what the president has said in the past, and certainly it’s something that a number of members are interested in.”

Publicly, meanwhile, congressional Democrats are pushing hard for raising revenue as a centerpiece of the deficit-reduction drive. The letters from the party’s top members on 16 House committees added up to a chorus for protecting entitlement programs by boosting taxes on big companies and the rich.

DISCONNECTED: Any hope that the “grand bargain” atmosphere might be resurrected around the jobs debate faded to black yesterday during a testy 10-minute phone conversation between Obama and Boehner.

When the president called to congratulate the Speaker for pushing through the trade package, Boehner took exception to Obama’s comment earlier in the day that he had “not seen a lot of ideas come forward from Republicans” that show an interest in job creation. He then ticked off the party’s agenda for boosting the economy — including a willingness to embrace some of Obama’s public works ideas “in a fiscally responsible way” — and ended with a terse, “I want to make sure you have all the facts.” (The conversation’s contents were revealed by Boehner’s office; the White House did not comment.)

It was the first time they had talked in three weeks or so, by the Speaker’s reckoning. (They could have had at least a superficial conversation in person last night — but Boehner kept his perfect record intact by declining his fifth straight invitation to an Obama state dinner.)

The exchange came as John McCain, Rand Paul and Rob Portman rolled out a package aimed at creating jobs by overhauling the nation’s tax laws, cutting business regulations and boosting offshore oil exploration — a prescription very similar to what the House GOP leadership has in mind. The move was something of a surprise, because McConnell had indicated that Senate Republicans would not offer a comprehensive alternative to Obama’s package.

‘TAP’ ROUTINE: Rick Perry is seeking to jump-start his presidential campaign today with an aggressive rollout of his “drill baby, drill” energy policy.

In  the first major policy speech of his campaign, outside Pittsburgh this morning, and in appearances on all four broadcast network morning shows, the Texas governor asserted that his plan would create 1.2 million jobs and could largely be implemented by executive order rather than having to navigate a highly partisan Congress. He called for new oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an increase in drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, ending the EPA’s role in curbing greenhouse gas emissions and clipping other federal regulators’ powers over energy companies. (He would maintain a ban on drilling in the Everglades.)

“The quickest way to give our economy a shot in the arm is to deploy American ingenuity to tap American energy,” he said. “But we can only do that if environmental bureaucrats are told to stand down.”

A MERRY LITTLE MINIBUS: Leaders of the House Republican majority are somewhat reluctantly signing on to the bipartisan Senate strategy for moving several “minibus” appropriations bills toward enactment in the next couple of months — underscoring how the broken-down budget system will once again keep Congress at work into the Christmas season, with our without a debate on a supercommittee deficit reduction bill. They are concluding — for some of the same reasons behind the move by Reid and McConnell — that assembling three or four packages combining contentious bills with politically popular ones will yield a smoother process than spending weeks in behind-the-scenes negotiations on a single “omnibus” wrapping together all the $1.04 trillion in discretionary spending and all the policy provisions from the dozen bills that are supposed to carry the load.

The Senate’s devoting all of next week to trying to pass a $182 billion bill combining the three measures that fund the Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Transportation and HUD departments as well as NASA and the National Science Foundation. Senate appropriators unveiled the text this morning and say they’re confident they can ward off killer amendments and muster a strong bipartisan vote for passage.

WHO'S AFTER LAHOOD? The nation’s airlines, railroads and road builders are thinking about Jim Oberstar today, because the former House Transportation Committee chairman would seem to be the obvious front-runner to become Transportation secretary in a second-term Obama administration. The Minnesota Democrat has maintained a low profile since losing his bid for a 19th term last fall to tea party Republican Chip Cravaack, but in his few public appearances he’s sounded as passionate as ever about the roll of public works as engines of a robust economy. And he will be only 78 in January 2013, when Ray LaHood says he’ll depart — whether Obama wins or not — as the only Republican left in the Cabinet. The incumbent secretary spread that word yesterday, and said that at 65 he has no interest in an other political office (the next Senate race in Illinois isn’t until 2014) but would be open to a big-money corporate or trade association position.

DRAWN TOGETHER: Ron Paul has agreed to meet this fall with Marine LePen, the leader of France’s super-conservative National Front party, his office says, because he “generally meets with foreign politicians and political leaders who request a meeting, particularly when they share his interest in monetary policy and the destructive nature of central banks.” But Paul is more than a back-bench congressman stoking his longstanding disdain for the Federal Reserve. He’s also a candidate for president — and close to the top tier of the Republican field, in some polls. And so a photograph of him with the leader of a party that’s gained prominence because of its anti-immigration, anti-Muslim positions is sure to raise eyebrows on both sides of the Atlantic.

ONLY A WARMUP: The latest fundraising reports underscore how the open seat contest in Virginia is living up to its advance billing as the nation’s premier barn-burner 2012 Senate tossup. Former Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine raised $1.3 million from July through September and has $2.5 million in cash on hand — numbers that are a bit better than those of Republican former senator and former governor George Allen, who says he raised $900,000 in the third quarter and started this month with $1.8 million in the bank. But both candidates have essentially raised the same amount of money: $3.5 million.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: House members Steve Rothman (59) today, fellow New Jersey Democrat Rush Holt (63) tomorrow, and on Sunday, California Republican Gary Miller (also 63) and Indiana Democrat André Carson (37).

— David Hawkings, editor

Become a Facebook fan at Or follow me on Twitter at

Copyright 2011 CQ Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved | Privacy Policy

Thursday, October 13, 2011

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing: Less Love Than Money

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Today In Washington

THE WHITE HOUSE: After a sodden South Lawn welcome ceremony, Obama and his senior aides have spent the morning in meetings with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and his senior team. The two will hold the customary state-visit joint news conference at 12:20.

At 4, Lee will become the first South Korean leader in 13 years to address a joint meeting of Congress, which cleared legislation last night promising $10 billion a year in exports to the country because of liberalized trade terms. (During the speech, Obama will be meeting to discuss his next move on his jobs package with three Democratic governors, Martin O’Malley of Maryland, Christine Gregoire of Washington and Mark Dayton of Minnesota.)

The state dinner gets started at 7. The biggest detail leaked so far is that the after-dinner entertainment will feature the Ahn Trio; Angella (violin), Lucia (piano) and Maria (cello) are sisters born in Seoul but raised in the United States.

THE HOUSE: Convened at 9:30 and before going home by 7 will pass legislation barring federal money from being spent to subsidize any medical insurance plan that pays for abortion services. The measure — which will not be subject to any amendments — is the leading item on the GOP’s anti-abortion agenda and a central part of the party’s plan to pick apart the 2010 health care overhaul law. (Under that law, plans that cover abortion and receive federal funds must keep those funds segregated.)

Lawmakers will also pass the bill to ease EPA regulation of commercial boilers, which arrived on the floor a week ago.

THE SENATE: Convened at 10 with nothing on the agenda beyond the mid-afternoon confirmation of three noncontroversial nominees for federal trial court judgeships: Susan Owens Hickey, a state court judge, for the bench in Arkansas, and Katherine Forest (an antitrust lawyer at the Justice Department) and Alison Nathan (until recently a White House lawyer) for the bench in New York City.

SO MANY NUMBERS: All of Obama’s high-speed sweeps through hotel ballrooms and millionaires’ mansions this summer raised $43 million for his re-election campaign and another $27 million for the Democratic Party.

The combined amount exceeded the $55 million goal the campaign had set for July, August and September — but was $16 million less than Obama raised in April, May and June, campaign manager Jim Messina reported this morning. He boasted, though, that more than 980,000 people have made donations this year and that, in the most recent quarter, 98 percent of the 600,000 donors gave $250 or less, for an average of $56.

Obama’s team had forecast a summertime slip in fundraising mainly because several events were canceled in the middle of the debt ceiling negotiations. But they will have to pick up the pace considerably if they are to meet their goal of raising at least much as the $750 million they brought in three years ago. Either way, the president seems destined to go into the general election with a financial advantage over his Republican opponent.

His re-election prospects got some tepid good news from the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, which found him doing well against both GOP front runners among likely voters — 46 percent to 44 percent against Mitt Romney and 49 percent to 38 percent against Herman Cain. (He bested Rick Perry, 51 percent to 39 percent.) Because of the margin of sampling error, Cain’s surge to 27 percent among GOP voters polled puts him in a statistical tie with Romney, who held steady at 23 percent, his same showing in that poll six weeks ago. Perry’s collapse was measured as a 22-point drop (to 16 percent) since August.

At the same time, the poll still pegged Obama’s approval rating at 44 percent — a really worrisome number, since the closer a president gets to his re-election date, the more that number becomes a reliable predictor of his share of the vote. (Only 39 percent approve of his handling of the economy, and just 17 percent see the country as headed in the right direction.)

TOGETHER AT LAST: Reid and McConnell have put last week’s partisan parliamentary spat behind them long enough to unite in a shared cause: Boosting the Senate’s leverage in negotiating with the House over discretionary spending for the fiscal year that’s now two weeks old. (If the supercommittee strikes out, the appropriations battle will become the only budgetary game at the Capitol for the rest of the year — and so both leaders have an interest in making sure their troops have a strong hand in shaping the $1 trillion in fiscal 2012 funding decisions and the myriad attendant policy shifts. As a matter of both political and procedural reality, that will be tough as long as the Senate has passed only one of the dozen regular appropriations bills, while the House has passed six.)

To that end, the two leaders brushed aside some lingering disagreement over the proper tactics and agreed that, tomorrow, the Senate will start playing catchup by opening debate on a $182 billion domestic spending “minibus” combining the Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science and Transportation-HUD measures. They say they’ll allow freewheeling debate on all manner of amendments to play out for the coming week — there are sure to be bids to change high-speed rail funding, community development grants, subsides to local police forces and the priorities of NASA — but won’t allow the recess that’s scheduled to start Nov. 21 to get under way until the bill is passed.

If their experiment works, look for two more combination platters to be readied for consideration in the first half of November: One combining the controversial Labor-HHS-Education bill with the more broadly popular Homeland Security measure, and the other pairing the contentious State-Foreign Operations bill with the almost-everybody-likes-it Defense bill. (Of course, if senators spend a week each on those, there’s no way the final negotiations with the House will be wrapped up before the second week in December.)

REVENUE REVIEW: Reid and the White House are not giving up on the millionaire surtax as their preferred way to raise revenue this fall — or, failing that, to highlight the populist nature of their budgetary policies from the priorities of the Republicans’ during the next year. (And as a backstop, Chuck Schumer is rolling out a Senate Democratic messaging strategy that seeks to tie the GOP to the tea party movement at every turn.)

For the time being, the Democrats are trying to figure out some legislative magic that would allow them to claim slices of revenue from that surtax as offsets for the various pieces of the Obama jobs bill that they are considering moving as a series of stand-alone measures. But, procedurally, that will be pretty tough to engineer. And so the talk will start soon in the supercommittee — if it hasn’t already behind the panel’s always-locked doors — to contemplate the surtax as a way to get one-third of the way toward the panel’s goal of cutting at least $1.5 trillion from projected deficits in the next decade. (Taxing annual income above $1 million at a 40.6 percent top rate, instead of the current top rate of 35 percent, would generate $453 billion for the Treasury in that time.) Presumably, all six Democrats on the panel will embrace that idea — but will want at least two Republicans to go along so that the panel can claim a measure of bipartisan consensus. If those two votes exist, they probably belong to a pair of occasionally centrist GOP House committee chairmen from particularly hard-hit-by-the-recession Michigan, Dave Camp and Fred Upton.

THE PLOT AND THE BOMB: John McCain said today that the Saudi ambassador assassination plot allegedly engineered from Tehran makes clear how closely Iran must be watched. On CBS’s “Early Show,” the Senate Armed Services ranking member said he was surprised at “how ridiculously inept” the purported plot was, but he said its amateurish nature made him all the more worried about an Iran that acquires nuclear weapons. “This kind of reckless behavior they’ve displayed here could translate into a real serious problem,” he said, and he also lamented that Obama (soon after beating McCain in 2008) did not do more in the early days of his presidency to embrace a street protest movement in Tehran that ultimately foundered.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Second-term Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington (53) and freshman Republican Rep. Vicki Hartzler of Missouri (51).

— David Hawkings, editor

Become a Facebook fan at Or follow me on Twitter at

Copyright 2011 CQ Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved | Privacy Policy

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing: That Was Easy

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Today In Washington

THE HOUSE: Convened at 10 and before 7 will endorse the trade liberalization agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama — then clear legislation maintaining federal aid and retraining programs for workers whose jobs move overseas because of free trade.

THE SENATE: Convened at 10 and has started a dozen hours of debate on the trade deals — so that the three votes clearing the implementation legislation can occur soon after the paperwork arrives from the House tonight. (The weekly caucus lunches are this afternoon.) “If everyone uses their time, it’s quite obvious it’ll be a late, late day. But maybe people will get tired of talking and we can finish this earlier,” Reid said.

THE WHITE HOUSE: Obama is at the Interior Department to speak at an American Latino Heritage Forum, arranged by Secretary Ken Salazar to honor Hispanics who have played prominent roles in American history. The president meets at 2:40 in the Roosevelt Room with the executive committee of the National Association of Evangelicals. His only other scheduled event is at 4:30 with Panetta.

UNCOMMON RESULT: Today looks to be this year’s high-water mark for legislative efficiency and bipartisanship.

Nearly unanimous blocs of Republicans and solid rosters of Democrats will vote in favor of all three trade deals in the House as well as the Senate. The sets of roll calls will occur within a couple of hours of each other — allowing Congress and Obama to lay claim to a quick, collaborative and meaningful move to promote job creation in a way that the rest of the world will notice. And then the occasion will be remembered as the exception that proves the rule: That Washington’s efforts to bolster the economy and put more people to work are almost irreversibly mired in slow-going acrimony that makes the rest of the world wince. (There’s even the sort-of-perverse reason why leaders of neither party are touting the trade accords all that much — which is that they’re wary of boasting they allowed the other side to share in a victory.)

But the circumstances surrounding the trade agenda are essentially unique in today’s capital. The three deals have a bipartisan cast; they were initially cut by the George W. Bush administration but modified at Obama’s insistence — mainly to allow more U.S. auto exports to South Korea, bring more banking transparency to Panama (which has been a tax haven) and get better worker rights in Colombia. Beyond that, Obama and the GOP leaders were able to agree that the three deals (which Republicans like much more than the Democrats do) would move only in tandem with legislation to extend the Trade Adjustment Assistance program (which Democrats like much more than Republicans do) through the end of 2013, albeit at reduced levels.

A solid but not lopsided majority of Democrats — Reid foremost among them — still doesn’t buy the argument that expanded trade is a net winner for the economy. (The White House says together the three agreements will increase U.S. exports to Korea by $10 billion and by a combined $3 billion to the other countries and will create tens of thousands of jobs.) Opposition will be the biggest on the Colombia vote, because so many lawmakers say the country still hasn’t done enough to prevent violence against union activists.

The votes will come on the heals of another rare bipartisan vote in the Senate — the one last night passing the bill to sanction China for its yuan devaluation practices. Sixteen Republicans joined 47 Democratic caucus members in the majority; just five from that caucus joined 30 Republicans in the “no” column.

The deal with South Korea alone is the largest since NAFTA was enacted 16 years ago — and a congressional embrace by tonight has been pushed hard because President Lee Myung-bak is to address a joint meeting of Congress tomorrow.

GIVE PIECES A CHANCE: “I have some optimism we’ll be able to come to agreement on pieces” of the Obama jobs bill, McConnell declared this morning. But he signaled that Republicans would much rather wait (and may well insist on waiting) for six weeks to see those pieces included in the supercommittee’s deficit reduction package — and not take a series of votes on them on the Senate floor. But that is what the president proposed last night after his own package was rebuffed in the Senate, and it’s what Reid said this morning that he plans to arrange.

The political rationale for each side is clear: Democrats want to pressure Republicans as frequently as possible into embracing the more popular pieces of the president’s platform — and Republicans want to avoid being pushed, especially when there’s no agreement at all on how to offset the cost of the federal pump-priming. The Obama proposals that appear to have the broadest measure of GOP support include an extension and expansion of the current payroll tax cut (costing $265 billion over 10 years), an extension of jobless benefits to help the unemployed ($44 billion), new tax credits for businesses that hire veterans and the long-term unemployed, and additional money to help save and create jobs for teachers, police and first responders such as firefighters.

Officially, House and Senate committees have only until Friday to send the supercommittee their recommendations — whether they would move the panel closer to, or further away from, its statutory goal of seeking at least $1.2 trillion in red-ink reduction. But the 12-member panel’s powers are so broad that it can essentially order the regular committees to do some of the work on its behalf in the next six weeks.

PUNITIVE RESPONSE: There were 72 senators on a bill boosting sanctions on Iran even before the Justice Department accused government officials in Tehran of plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. by blowing up one of his favorite Georgetown restaurants. Yesterday’s out-of-a-bad-spy-novel revelations will surely prompt Senate leaders to ask the administration when it would like to see such legislation advance.

The State Department will embrace some bipartisan collaboration from the Capitol as it launches a renewed campaign to isolate Iran — which will start off with the effort Clinton has already launched to get Britain and other reliable U.S. allies to impose their own sanctions. “It’s critically important that we unite the world in the isolation” of Tehran, Biden said this morning during a hastily arranged set of interviews on all three broadcast morning shows. He described the purported plot against envoy Adel Al-Jubeir as “really over the top.”

TRAIL TIPS: (1) “I’m not even sure I’m going to be the nominee yet,” Mitt Romney demurred last night when asked during the Post-Bloomberg debate to sketch out the economic team he’d assemble in the White House. But the view from virtually every mainstream political commentator today is that another commanding debate performance solidified his standing as the Republican to beat — and one less and less likely to be defeated now that a wave of establishment figures is starting to form behind him. Sen. Thad Cochran and former Speaker Denny Hastert are both going to offer their endorsements today.

(2) “Absolutely, positively yes. There’s never been a question about that,” Biden said on NBC’s “Today” show this morning when asked if Obama would ask him to be his running mate next year. And Biden said he was certain to accept the offer. He acknowledged there had been speculation about whether he would be replaced as the Democratic vice presidential candidate, but then said: “The president’s made that clear — and hardly anybody is raising it anymore.” The last time a president dumped his vice president before running for re-election was 1976, when Ford parted ways with Nelson Rockefeller and picked Sen. Bob Dole instead.

(3) Donna Edwards is leading a bid to stop her party’s current plan for redrawing the Maryland congressional map — which would make her bid for a fourth term a little more difficult by shifting a few thousand African-Americans to other suburban Washington districts as part of an ambitious plan to get seven Democrats elected to the state’s eight seats. She and other local black leaders plan to meet with Gov. Martin O’Malley today to press their case that the new map would wrongly dilute minority voting strength in the state. There’s also talk of a Voting Rights Act lawsuit if they don’t get their way. The legislature is supposed to meet next week to draw the map, which would make Republican Roscoe Bartlett an underdog for an 11th term by redrawing his panhandle territory so it takes in parts of heavily Democratic Montgomery County.

(4) Rep. Lloyd Doggett is reporting today that his campaign for a 10th term raised only $375,000 in the third quarter, while his highly touted Democratic primary challenger, state Rep. Joaquin Castro, raised $500,000. But the incumbent says he has $3.3 million in the bank, while Castro has $400,000. The two are competing in a new (still under legal challenge) heavily Hispanic district in the San Antonio area — drawn by the Republicans who run the Texas government to get rid of one of their nemeses and at the same time comply with requirements to boost Latino election prospects. (The district is one of four new seats the state was awarded in reapportionment.)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Two House members forced into Republican primaries against delegation colleagues next year because of redistricting: Ed Royce (60), who now lives in the same California district as Gary Miller, and Steve Austria (53), who’s running in the same Ohio district as Mike Turner.

— David Hawkings, editor

Become a Facebook fan at Or follow me on Twitter at

Copyright 2011 CQ Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved | Privacy Policy

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing: Jobs and Occupations

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Today In Washington

THE SENATE: Convenes at 2 and this evening will take a pair of newsworthy roll calls. The one at 6:15 will reveal there are nowhere near the 60 votes necessary to get Obama’s jobs package out of the legislative starting gate. The other one will pass legislation making it easier to raise tariffs on Chinese goods if Beijing keeps its currency undervalued — a bill that’s going nowhere in the House, where GOP leaders fear enactment would start a trade war.

THE HOUSE: Convenes at noon and is on course to pass legislation easing EPA regulations on commercial boilers this evening, along with half a dozen narrowly drawn and noncontroversial veterans benefit measures. After the day’s roll call votes — clumped together starting at 6:30 — debate will get started on the Colombia, Panama and South Korea trade liberalization deals and on a bill to provide federal aid to the U.S. workers who will lose their jobs as a consequence of those deals.

THE WHITE HOUSE: Obama has just landed in Pittsburgh. At noon he’s convening a meeting of his presidential jobs council, and the 27 corporate and labor leaders will deliver a 50-page report recommending a pan-ideological mix of new spending and regulatory relief to promote job creation. Although he’s keenly aware his own $447 billion jobs bill is a dead letter at the Capitol, he’ll make another appeal for it during a 1:50 speech at an electrical workers union training center.

Air Force One is wheels up for Orlando at 2:40. After fundraisers in a hotel ballroom and then a prominent donor’s mansion, the president is due back on the South Lawn just before midnight.

UNDOING THE PACKAGE: Reid is scrambling today to try to generate a partisan united front in favor of the Obama jobs bill. Even though tonight’s test vote will doom the package to the domestic policy out-basket — with or without all 53 Democratic Caucus votes — the majority leader wants to put the symbolically best face possible on the defeat. He’s not likely to be able to do so. At least three Democratic senators fighting tough battles for re-election in 2012 in states sure to vote Republican for president — Ben Nelson in Nebraska, Joe Manchin in West Virginia and Jon Tester in Montana — are ready to vote no, because the switch to a true millionaires tax as the pay-for did not change their political calculations. (Only one Republican, Scott Brown, is even considering a “yes” vote.)

The Senate’s rebuff will come despite a last-minute plea from Obama’s re-election guru, David Axelrod, who sent a memo to every Democratic lawmaker over the weekend asserting that voters — especially independents — were liking the Obama bill more and more each day, and that he had the poll numbers to prove it.

Already, Democratic leaders in both the Senate and the House are turning away from talk about the Obama prescriptions as a package and are focusing on the relatively big fistful of his individual proposals that do have some bipartisan support. A boost of spending on public works with the help of a national infrastructure bank is No. 1 with a bullet on that list — and is also at the center of the package the president’s jobs council is rolling out this afternoon. It’s calling for a new highway bill to get passed this fall as well as for congressional action to modernize ports and update the electric grid and the nation’s water and sewer lines. And to that end, the White House will announce that it’s speeding up environmental and other regulatory approvals for 14 public works projects across the country — including the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River, a 14-mile rail line in Baltimore and a light-rail project extension near LAX airport.

Which of the president’s job creation proposals will get cherrypicked for success this fall, if any, is now entirely up to the supercommittee — which faces a deadline six weeks from tomorrow for any legislation it wants, so long as the net result is at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction in the next decade. And the 12 members appear to be making some progress behind closed doors in their quest. It’s clear they have engaged in substantive discussions, moved through issues including overhauling entitlement programs and the tax system, searched for common ground, and even created subgroups to further study topics. Several panelists say their talks have moved from simply framing partisan arguments to beginning negotiations.

STANDING FIRM: Reid’s op-ed in today’s Washington Post makes clear he’s giving no quarter in the Senate’s latest parliamentary war. “Republicans used a new stall tactic last week, one that is used infrequently in the history of the Senate. It was an attempt to make cloture meaningless — to say that the road to passage must include a vote-a-rama of unrelated, purely political votes. This is the practice we voted to change. The precedent we set merely returns the Senate to the regular order,” the majority leader wrote. “Now, 60 votes to end debate will mean debate actually ends, as the rules of the Senate intended.”

The sharply worded piece left no room for negotiating with Republicans on even a partial reversal of Reid’s maneuver. But for now it’s unclear how, if at all, McConnell plans to work around or combat the change in the rules — which is more a symbolic than a substantive swipe at the minority’s rights.

COMING IN WITH NUMBERS: Tonight’s GOP presidential debate will not be on any of the mainstream broadcast or cable news channels. Instead, it will be streamed live on the websites of both sponsors, Bloomberg News and the Washington Post, and will air on Bloomberg TV. The 90-minute session, starting at 8, is supposed to be all about the economy. Charlie Rose is the moderator, and he and the eight candidates (along with the Post’s Karen Tumulty and Bloomberg’s Julianna Goldman) will be seated at a big oval wooden seminar table at Dartmouth.

The sponsors of the debate teamed up on a poll, out this morning, in which 68 percent overall (and 54 percent of Republicans) expressed support for raising taxes on households making more than $250,000 as a way to bring down the deficit. Among all those surveyed, a bipartisan 83 percent opposed reducing Social Security benefits and 82 percent said no to cutting Medicare benefits. There was a split, though, on the subject of defense cuts as way to stanch the red ink; 61 percent of Republicans opposed that idea, while 60 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents supported it.

CAIN’S SHIFT: His recent surge in the polls means Herman Cain will get to sit next to front-runner Mitt Romney tonight, while his slump in the polls means Rick Perry will be seated next to Cain. The latest national Gallup poll, out yesterday, put Cain at 18 percent among GOP voters — up from 5 percent in September — while Perry’s support has been cut in half in the past month, to 15 percent. (Romney is at 20 percent now, the same percentage who declare themselves undecided.)

And a Quinnipiac Poll out today shows a similar dynamic in Virginia: Cain and Romney tied at 21 percent, with Perry at 11 percent — down from 25 percent a month ago. The poll shows both the front-runners in a statistical tie with Obama, who carried Virginia in 2008, but the president solidly besting Perry in the state. The poll also found that, as in every other survey this year, there’s a statistical tie in the race for the open Senate seat in Virginia: Democrat Tim Kaine at 45 percent and Republican George Allen at 44 percent.

NO OMNIBUS? Bipartisan support appears to be building among senators for moving their 12 annual spending bills in several “minibus” packages — which they seem to think sounds nicer (and more procedurally manageable) than abandoning the regular order altogether and combining every single discretionary spending and policy decision into a single “omnibus.” (The Senate has passed only one of its annual bills, while the House has passed six.)

The new approach is evolving because Republican conservatives in the House are getting more and more set against wrapping all the spending bills into one — whether that happens before Thanksgiving or after. (A decision on the next move needs to be made before the current CR runs out on Nov. 18.) Such GOP resistance means minority Democratic votes would be needed to advance the used-to-be-routine process through the House, and Boehner & Co. don’t want to take that risk. But they think they could jump-start the process by packaging a measure or two with broad bipartisan appeal (Defense and Military Construction-VA, especially) each with a domestic spending bill or two that’s less popular in the GOP ranks.

ONE IS NOT THE OTHER: The hundred or so “Stop the Machine” anti-war protesters who spent the weekend camped out in Freedom Plaza are threatening to swarm through the House and Senate office buildings this afternoon in an effort to cause some TV-worthy disruptions. These people do not want to be confused with the Occupy D.C. crowd that’s been in McPherson Square for several days in a relatively low-impact version of the Occupy Wall Street movement. That ragtag group, which is getting less ragtag now that the AFL-CIO is helping it — and now that the Democrats are urging them on from just offstage — is planning its own protest on the Capitol Hill grounds for this afternoon.

A NEW GRIDIRON DINNER: The congressional charity football game that had been planned for tomorrow night at RFK Stadium — featuring former NFL players Heath Shuler for the Democrats and Jon Runyan for the GOP — has been postponed. (Organizers are now working toward a Nov. 2 date, but they haven’t found an alternative venue yet.) But the lavish reception in the works for the players and their lobbyist sponsors will go on as planned during what was to have been game time — from 8 until at least 10 at the American Trucking Association headquarters on the Hill.

TRAIL TIPS: (1) There’s a Toledo dateline in the futures of dozens of political writers (and probably some comedy writers, too) now that Sam “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher is in the race for the newly drawn Ohio congressional district that stretches along Lake Erie and into the Cleveland area.  D.C. Republicans recruited him on the assumption he can leverage his standing as a tea party icon — born when John McCain made him his favorite everyman surrogate in 2008 — to make a well-financed and competitive bid in what’s solidly Democratic territory. Assuming he wins the primary against Cleveland GOP chairman Rob Frost, Wurzelbacher will face the winner of one of the hottest incumbent vs. incumbent matchups created by redistricting: Dennis Kucinich vs. Marcy Kaptur.

(2) Elizabeth Warren says she raised $3.2 million for her Democratic Senate bid in Massachusetts in July, August, and September — precisely twice what incumbent Republican Scott Brown says he hauled in during the third quarter. The reports aren’t on file with the FEC yet, but Warren’s campaign says hers will show that 96 percent of the contributions were for $100 or less and that 11,000 of her donors were from the state.

(3) Republicans will get the best news they could hope for out of Hawaii tonight, when Linda Lingle puts an end to some lingering suspense and declares her candidacy for the Senate seat that’s being opened by the retirement of Daniel Akaka. (The announcement will come at a luncheon speech in Honolulu to a sales and marketing group.) But Lingle, who was governor for two terms ending last year, will still be an underdog in the race against either of the potential Democratic nominees, freshman Rep. Mazie Hirono (who has the all-important backing of the state’s other senator, Dan Inouye) or former Rep. Ed Case.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: The Democratic co-chair of the deficit supercommittee, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington (61) and a pair of GOP House members, veteran Sam Johnson of Texas (81) and freshman Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee (49). Three other House Republicans celebrated over the long weekend: Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania (72) and Steve Southerland of Florida (46) yesterday and Alan Nunnelee of Mississippi (53) on Sunday.

— David Hawkings, editor

Become a Facebook fan at Or follow me on Twitter at

Copyright 2011 CQ Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved | Privacy Policy