Congress Passes $410 Billion Omnibus Spending Bill
Congress approved last night the $410 billion omnibus bill, left over from last fall, sending it to the White House for President Obama's signature today. The Senate voted for cloture by a 62-35 margin, with three Democrats voting No and eight Republicans voting Yes.
Obama's Day Ahead
President Obama will be speaking at 11:20 a.m. from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where he will make an announcement on earmark reform. At 1 p.m. ET he will sign an executive order creating the White House Council on Women and Girls, chaired by Valerie Jarrett, with Michelle Obama and Jill Biden also attending the announcement. At 4 p.m. ET he will hold a closed meeting with the Democratic members of the Senate Budget Committee, and at 5:15 p.m. he will meet with the Democratic members of the House Budget Committee.
Biden's Day Ahead
Vice President Biden is meeting this afternoon with Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Act Implementation and Oversight Board. In the late afternoon he will join President Obama's meetings with the Democratic members of the House and Senate Budget Committee.
Conrad: Obama's Budget Can't Pass In Current Form
Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) told The Hill that President Obama's budget does not currently have sufficient support in Congress to pass, with the cap-and-trade proposal being the biggest sticking point. Said Conrad: "Anybody who thinks it will be easy to get the votes on the budget in the conditions that we face is smoking something."
Report: Steele May Face RNC No-Confidence Vote
Taegan Goddard reports that Republicans insiders say Michael Steele is likely to face a no-confidence vote from RNC members after the March 31 special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's former House seat -- and this vote would happen regardless of the election results.
GOP Sen. Thune Criticizes Steele's Slow Pace
Roll Call reports that Steele is also coming under increasing criticism from Republican Senators, who are annoyed at the non-progress in staff hiring and the lack of messaging at the RNC. "We don't have the luxury of time. I know they're trying to get staffed up over there, so they're working it," said Sen. John Thune (R-SD). "It needs to happen soon. Two-year election cycles go very, very quickly."
CQ: Republicans' Biggest Enemy On Earmarks Is...Themselves
CQ points out that Republicans have struggled to gain credibility in their opposition to the omnibus bill in large part because they have criticized earmark spending -- at the same time as many of their own members have included earmarks, and are standing by the practice. "In my opinion I would be doing my constituents a disservice if I didn't request earmarks," said Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), who added that the alternative is "letting a 23-year-old bureaucrat" decide where the money goes.
NYT: Obama Has Opportunity To Turn Lower Courts Left
The New York Times examines the pending opportunities of President Obama to reshape the country's appeals courts, with the most notable example being the Richmond-based Fourth Circuit. The court currently has a 6-5 majority of Republican-appointed judges, and has gone in an activist conservative direction on such issues as the Miranda rule, affirmative action and detention of terror suspects -- and it has four vacancies to be filled.