Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- When Congress returns Monday from its Presidents' Day recess, President Bush's proposed Social Security revision may face its first tests in the Senate Budget Committee.
The committee expects several amendments to the budget concerning Social Security, some favorable and some unfavorable to the president's desires. The outcome of these test votes may give an early picture of the proposal's overall prospects.

 A footnote: Washington's Republican-leaning lobbyists were summoned Thursday to a closed-door Social Security briefing by senior presidential aides Karl Rove and Al Hubbard. The White House is asking for help from the business-oriented lobbyists, who so far have been lukewarm about the issue.

McCAIN IN '08?

 Close friends say it is 50-50 whether Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who will be 72 years old in 2008, will run for the next Republican presidential nomination.

 McCain often has said his near-miss campaign in 2000 was one of a kind and it is unlikely that he ever again could "catch lightning in a bottle." However, political adviser Rick Davis has told him there is no front-runner for the 2008 nomination and all signs are favorable to his candidacy.

 A footnote: Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, McCain's friend and strong 2000 supporter, has not decided about running himself. In the coming weeks, he will be testing the waters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and other presidential primary states.


 Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are quietly collaborating with conservative Republicans in the House to repeal parts of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance act that restrict funding by non-profit groups.

 When Congress adopted McCain-Feingold in 2002, the Black Caucus was split on the issue. Black members of Congress, many of whom represent very poor districts, tend to rely more on funding from non-profit political action committees that are restricted by the act. Rep. William Lacy Clay of Missouri in 2003 expressed regret that he voted for the act and said he cast his vote "under duress" from party leaders.

 A footnote: Prominent House Republicans have been soliciting support for the Bush Social Security proposal from several black members of Congress, who have been pressured by Democratic leaders to stand firm. Rep. Harold Ford of Tennessee last year appeared ready to support personal accounts as part of Social Security revision but backed away then under heavy pressure.


Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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