Blagojevich Will Swear In Senators Before Trial

“A surreal scenario is expected to play out Wednesday in the Illinois Senate,” theChicago Tribune reports. 

“Against a ceremonial backdrop of pomp and circumstance,” Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) “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.”

“Blagojevich faces a 13-point article of impeachment alleging he has ‘abused the power of his office’ on matters that include federal corruption charges, his conduct in approving a major expansion of health care without legislative approval and questionable hiring practices.”

House Repubicans Extend Olive Branch

“House Republicans have invited President-elect Barack Obama to speak before the entire GOP conference, hoping to set a different tone to the partisan wars of the last two years in which congressional Democrats battled President Bush,” theWashington Post reports.

Obama is expected to attend the House Democratic retreat in early February.

Medvedev Blames Putin for Economic Woes

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev “took another apparent swipe at Vladimir Putin, rebuking the prime minister’s government for moving too slowly to alleviate the country’s economic crisis,” the Financial Times reports.

“Most Russians had believed Mr Medvedev would play second fiddle to Mr Putin, who named him as his chosen successor ahead of presidential elections last year.”

Bush Plans on Writing a Book

In an interview on Fox News, President Bush confirmed he will write a book once leaving the White House — evne though some say he should wait.

The topic: “You know, I’m not quite exactly sure what it’s going to be, but I’m toying with the idea of maybe describing the toughest decisions I had to make as President, and the context in which I made them.”

The timing: “Well, I’ll say two years and it will be four. I don’t know. I mean, yes, I’d like to get it done. I am a Type A personality that — you know, I require things to do, and I bet once I get going on this book, I’ll be able to get ‘er done.”

Quote of the Day

“When I get out of here, I’m getting off the stage.”

— President Bush, in his final press conference.

Coleman Casts Wider Net Searching for Votes

In his fight to overturn the U.S. Senate recount, Sen. Norm Coleman “has begun pressing some Minnesota counties for documents on hundreds of thousands of ballots that were not previously disputed,” the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

“Coleman’s new strategy comes as some elections officials are expressing skepticism over his campaign’s unproven assumptions that some votes were counted twice and that some absentee ballots were wrongly rejected or accepted.”

Burris’ Lawyers Make Their Case

Lawyers for Roland Burris will be in Washington today “to meet with Senate attorneys and press their case for seating Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s (D) controversial appointee,” The Hill reports.

“A senior Senate Democratic aide said the various legal teams will review documents that Burris has collected in recent days, which he believes meets an 1884 Senate rule requiring all senators to have certificates signed by their states’ governors and secretaries of state.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, “a decision by the Senate’s legal counsel was expected today and that Burris, the first African American elected to statewide office in Illinois, was likely to be seated this week.”

CQ Politics: “For all the political losers in the Roland W. Burris imbroglio, there is at least one clear winner: California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.”

January 11, 2009

Voinovich to Retire

Sources close to Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) tell CNN he will announce Monday afternoon he is retiring from the Senate.

Voinovich plans to serve out his term, which expires in 2010.

He will be the fourth Republican senator to announce he will not run for re-election in 2010, joining Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO), Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS).

How to Manage the Bailout

The following guest post is from Donald F. Kettl, author of The Next Government of the United States: Why Our Institutions Fail Us and How to Fix Them

Why Our Institutions Fail Us and How to Fix ThemDespite a few bumps in the road, Barack Obama’s transition has been one of the smoothest in recent memory, and his appointments have been of uniformly high quality. 

But one mega-issue has gotten little attention: just how is the new administration going to run the bailout, whose cost is $8 trillion (that’s trillion) and rising? The Bush administration hoped at first that flooding the financial system with enough money would right the economy. That hasn’t worked, and the banks that took hundreds of billions of dollars have so far refused to tell the public what they’ve done with it. 

Officials at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have said bluntly that “we don’t have time” to sort out the big questions: how to manage the investments we’re making, how we’ll slide government out on the other end, and what kind of economy we’re trying to rebuild. But with so much money in play, we better find the time. Fast. 

What to do? We need smart, nimble government leaders to oversee the use of the government’s cash, close enough to elected officials to be accountable but independent enough not to sway with the political winds. We need real-time performance reporting, close oversight by the congressional financial services committees, and tough auditing by the Government Accountability Office. 

Pushing the cash out the door is one thing, but Obama needs to make sure we manage this bailout well if we want a strong economy when we come out the other side of the meltdown tunnel.

January 10, 2009

Interview with Obamas Surfaces

Le Monde published a never-before-seen 1996 interview with Barack and Michelle Obama about their marriage — before they had children and just four years after they were married.

Michelle notes there was “a strong possibility that Barack will pursue a career in politics, although it’s not very clear yet. It’s an interesting challenge, the Illinois senate, although we’ve had disagreements on that topic. Once you’re involved in politics, your life becomes public and the people who scrutinize it are not always well-intentioned. I’m rather secretive and I like to surround myself with people I care about and who’s loyalty I trust.”

“When you start in politics, you have to confide in all sorts of people. We may go in that direction, even though I also want to have children, travel, and spend time with my family and friends. It’s not certain that we will succeed. But we’re going to be very busy with a number of different things, and it’s going to be interesting to see what life has to offer to us. We’re ready to take on that adventure for various reasons, for instance, for the opportunities it can open to us.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“It turns out, this isn’t one of the presidencies where you ride off into the sunset.”

— President Bush, quoted by the Associated Press on his legacy.

Minnesotans Want Franken Seated

A new Research 2000 poll in Minnesota finds a majority, 47% to 34%, oppose Sen. Norm Coleman’s (R-MN) lawsuit challenging the recount in his race against Al Franken (D).

In addition, 47% think the U.S. Senate should provisionally seat Franken while 37% want the seat to remain vacant until the lawsuit is settled

Obama Preps for Inaugural Address

The AP notes history “wants something for the ages” in Barack Obama’s Jan. 20 inaugural speech. “Not just pretty words that melt like gumdrops but something that will settle in the nation’s soul and be worth making schoolchildren memorize 100 years from now.”

Peggy Noonan: “It struck me as I watched Barack Obama, in giving a substantive economic speech just 11 days before his inaugural address, that he was trying to clear away a lot of brush, and giving the outlines of his plan in advance so as not to weigh down his inaugural with phrases like ‘solar panels and wind turbines,’ ‘public-private partnership’ and ‘computerized medical records.’ So much of modern rhetoric is boring because so many modern phrases are ugly.”

“The brush-clearing suggests the inaugural itself won’t be programmatic, bureaucratic or factoid-laden but more broadly gauged and reaching at something higher. Will he reach for poetry? I hope so, if poetry is defined as no wasted words on the way to the thought and the thought is worthy and true.”

Baltimore Mayor Charged

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon (D) was charged “with 12 counts of felony theft, perjury, fraud and misconduct in office, becoming the city’s first sitting mayor to be criminally indicted,” the Baltimore Sun reports.

“It is unclear what the indictment will mean for the mayor. She has pledged to remain focused on her job, and many local officials rallied behind her today. But even ceremonial events will take on new dimensions. Many wondered today, for example, whether Dixon will appear with president-elect Barack Obama next week when he makes a planned stop in the city.”

Bush, Obama Seek Remainder of Bailout Money

Bush administration officials, consulting with the Obama transition team, “have prepared a plan to ask lawmakers for the second half of the $700 billion financial rescue package despite intense opposition in Congress,” the Washington Postreports.

“The initiative could create an unusual political scenario straddling the Bush and Obama administrations. If Congress were to vote down the measure, either President Bush or Obama would have to exercise a veto to get the money.”

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