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.
BLACKS AND GOP
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.
Democracy for America, founded last year by Howard Dean after his presidential campaign collapsed, is using an ad attacking the AARP senior citizens organization as a fund-raising device.
USA Next, a conservative senior group that endorses President Bush's Social Security initiative while AARP opposes it, produced an Internet advertisement charging that "the real AARP agenda" supports same-sex marriage and does not support U.S. troops. USA Next claims the purpose of the ad was to flush out left-wing supporters of AARP.
In an e-mail to its supporters, Democracy for America declared: "USA Next's advertising campaign manages to be both unpatriotic and outrageously bigoted at the same time. It's time to sign the petition to stop the hate speech now." The e-mail concludes with a button for making contributions.
AMERICA GETS REDDER
A projection by Polidata, a Republican-oriented political mapping and redistricting firm, shows population trends will make Republican-dominated "Red" states more influential in winning presidential elections and determining control of Congress after the 2010 census.
The new study forecasts that "Red" states will pick up a net six electoral votes, with Florida and Texas gaining three each. The "Blue" states carried by John Kerry, according to Polidata, will lose a net six electoral votes, led by New York's loss of two. Under this distribution of electoral votes, George W. Bush could have been elected last November without carrying Ohio.
This projection points to probable Republican control of the White House and the House of Representatives far into the future. It makes more urgent the contention by Howard Dean, the new Democratic national chairman, that his party needs to do much better in "Red" states.