Monday, March 19, 2012

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing: Return of the Ryan Show

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Monday, March 19, 2012

Today In Washington

THE WHITE HOUSE: Obama will head around the corner to the W Hotel for the 109th fundraiser of his re-election campaign at 5, a few hours after reporting a $45 million haul last month. That approaches his total ($52 million) for the previous four months combined, but it’s nonetheless below the $56 million he raised four Februaries ago, at the height of his drive for the Democratic nomination — and a sign he’s nowhere close to on course for raking in the $1 billion his GOP critics keep talking about. The president’s new FEC filing also shows that, while the dinners and concerts for top-dollar givers get all the press, about 340,000 people gave $250 or less last month, and $59 is the average donation so far this cycle.

Obama’s in a senior staff meeting now and has a 3:45 meeting in the Oval with Clinton.

THE HOUSE: Convenes at 4 to pass two minor measures, one to make Israeli exporters eligible for a special business visa and the other to shield countries from lawsuits connected to their loans of art to American museums. (There would be an exception for Nazi plunder.) The votes are set for 6:30.

THE SENATE: Convenes at 2 for speechmaking only; the first vote will be tomorrow morning on the small-business securities deregulation package.

RESOLUTION TIME: Paul Ryan is promising that the budget he’ll unveil tomorrow morning “tackles our generation’s defining challenges and doesn’t hide from tough decisions” — meaning House Republicans are going to stick by their bold proposals for remaking Medicare, curbing Medicaid and cutting taxes, too.

Their straightforward gamble is that the GOP base, and the all-important lion’s share of  independents, will reward the House majority for sticking by the courage of its convictions and being bold (especially in an election year) in taking on a debt that threatens to swamp and swallow the country in the next decade. And the Democrats are so eager to take that bet that — 24 hours before the chairman puts out any paper, and two days before the Budget Committee vote — the DCCC this morning launched an advertising and grass-roots campaign (complete with robo-calls that can connect recipients to their congressman’s office) targeting 41 politically vulnerable House Republicans for choosing “millionaires over Medicare.”

The budget, to be sure, still faces some nettlesome but not debilitating criticism from some tea party freshmen and others on the fiscal far right — who don’t think it’s bold enough on either entitlement curbs or discretionary spending restraint — but that minor rebellion is expected to be put down with relative ease by Kevin McCarthy’s majority whip organization. At that point, look for the document to get through the House without a single Democratic vote — even tough the Medicare reinvention language is similar to the premium-support program that Ryan cooked up last year with a prominent liberal Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon. But the House budget has no future as a formal driver of policy, because the Senate won’t even take it up. (The only number with any real teeth in the coming months is the top line for Appropriations, which will be $19 billion — or 2 percent — below what senators plan to spend — and not lower as the most conservative Republicans are still talking about.) That said, the budget will stand as the fiscal platform of the GOP majority as it campaigns to hold power in the House for a second straight Congress.

NOT DIGGING IT: The gyrations over the House budget and the continued pressure being applied by the most conservative Republicans (freshmen and veterans alike) mean there will be no vote in the House on a real highway bill (either the Senate’s or something else) either this week or next. Instead, the GOP has resigned to yet another stopgap measure, maybe lasting a month, that would prevent a shutdown of road construction projects when the current interim law lapses at the end of March — and provide Boehner with a couple of weeks of breathing room once Congress returns from its spring break in the third week of April. The delay is extremely annoying to state and local governments, which wanted to use the early spring to get shovels in the ground on their shovel-ready projects. But Boehner and his whip operation are far from sure they have the votes for the two-year, $109 billion bill the Senate passed last week — and are still talking about making another run at the Speaker’s five-year, $260 billion alternative.

ONE HE CAN WIN: A confident-sounding Mitt Romney turned aside all talk about Rick Santorum while campaigning in Illinois this morning and instead road-tested some of the lines he hopes to use in the fall. While the economy is on the upswing, he said at a diner in Springfield, the current administration’s policies are slowing the pace of the recovery — and as president the former investment banker would have the chips to move things along quickly. “There are dramatic differences between me and President Obama,” Romney said. “I’m not an economic lightweight. President Obama is.”

The jab came as the newest survey in Illinois, by Public Policy Polling,  showed the ex-governor surging one day before the state’s primary — and holding a commanding 45 percent to 30 percent lead over Santorum. If there’s a similar blowout when the actual voting happens, it will mark something of a breakthrough for Romney, who time and again has seen his overwhelming organizational and financial advantages translated into underwhelming victories. His ability to get such a big lead in delegates without closing the deal is one reason a good number of party elders have yet to get in his camp:  Haley Barbour, the former Mississippi governor and onetime potential presidential candidate, said yesterday that his primary vote went to Newt Gingrich.

SMOOTH HANDOFF: Don’t expect to see any whiz-bang graphics or hear any over-produced theme music on “Washington Journal” two weeks from today, the first weekday morning in the 33-year-history of C-SPAN when Brian Lamb won’t be in charge. The network, which revolutionized public affairs programming in the 1970s, remains a bedrock of the best journalistic values to this day — in part because it has the luxury (as a nonprofit) of making change deliberately and non-theatrically at a time when most media organizations feel compelled to draw attention to routine cosmetic reinventions. And Lamb’s co-successors, Rob Kennedy and Susan Swain, have both been at C-SPAN since the 1980s and have been cultivators of its deliberate culture since becoming co-chief operating officers six years ago. Under the new organizational structure, which is being announced today, familiar on-air presence Swain will oversee content and marketing, while Kennedy will oversee business, engineering and IT. Lamb, 70, will become executive chairman and will continue to host “Q&A,” his Sunday night interview show. (The three C-SPAN channels operate on a $60 million annual budget that comes from a 6-cents-a-month charge that cable and satellite providers pay for each subscriber.)

TRAIL TIPS: (Illinois) The closing momentum looks to be with Don Manzullo in the year’s first redistricting-made GOP primary between two sitting congressmen. If the former Small Business Committee chairman defeats freshman Adam Kinzinger tomorrow in a solidly Republican district that wraps around the outer edges of the Chicago metro area, it will be a significant upset — a victory for age (Manzullo is 67, Kinzinger 34) and insider experience at a time when House Republicans have been looking to remake themselves as the party of the fresh-faced and anti-establishment. The problem for Kinzinger, it appears, is that Cantor and other leaders in the caucus have been so eager to help one of their fair-haired tea party heros (a big radio Super PAC ad buy over the weekend included) that they’ve made him look like the insider — and allowed Manzullo to position himself for his 11th term as the candidate less beholden to the party bosses at the Capitol.

(Indiana) Two new polls financed by groups seeking to oust Dick Lugar (Citizens United and the campaign of Rep. Joe Donnelly, the Democratic recruit for the race) show the exact same numbers seven weeks before the Republican primary: The incumbent Indiana senator at 45 percent, well below the outright majority a 36-year veteran and icon of state politics should enjoy, 39 percent for tea-party-backed state Treasurer Richard Mourdock and a sizebale 16 percent still up for grabs. The numbers are a clear sign that Lugar’s enormous fundraising advantage has been insufficient to sweep away the solidifying narrative that he has become woefully detached from the state — both in his interests (foreign policy over farming) and his logistics (no true Hoosier residence to call home). In a similar poll in October, Lugar was up by 12 points.

(New York) The Democratic organization in Queens yesterday endorsed Grace Meng, a 36-year-old state legislator from Flushing, for the House seat Gary Ackerman is unexpectedly leaving open. Along with the redrawn district’s demographics — more than three of every eight voters is Asian American — the endorsement gives her the initial edge in the June 26 primary in which her main rival will be another member of the Assembly from Queens, 43-year-old Rory Lancman. The winner will be a prohibitive favorite in the fall. The state has never sent an Asian American to Congress; Meng’s father, Jimmy, broke that racial barrier in the state Assembly a decade ago.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Today, second-termer Mike Coffman of Colorado (57); yesterday, 14th-termer Howard Coble (81), a fellow House Republican.

— David Hawkings, editor

Become a Facebook fan at Or follow me on Twitter @davidhawkings.

More congressional campaign coverage is on Roll Call’s At the Races politics blog.

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