Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
Good morning, Capitolists! February is budget season on Capitol Hill, which is sort of like Oscar season, except the stars are Cabinet secretaries and the fashions are by Men's Warehouse instead of Armani. Other than that, we've got all the cameras, the limos, the drama and the comedy that you can handle.
Here's what to look for in Washington today:
* Up in the Air.
President Obama speaks to 59 jittery, anxious and, in some cases, angry Senate Democrats today at their annual issues conference. Grab your popcorn and watch the whole thing live on C-SPAN2 at 10 a.m.
* The Messengers.
Do not bother looking for a parking spot in Washington for your security detail today. Capitol Hill is lousy with Cabinet secretaries heading to hearings about their pieces of the $3.8 trillion budget for next year. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and OMB Director Peter Orszag will all be testifying.
* Inglorious Basterds.
The hard-working patriots at AIG's infamous Financial Products division will be rewarded for doing a heck-of-a-job this year with $100 million in bonuses today. The White House's pay czar calls the payouts "outrageous" but legal, and the Wall Street Journal has the story
on why he may be right.
* The Hurt Locker.
One person who has not fallen under Orszag's charm spell is Sen. Judd Gregg, the top Republican on the Budget Committee. After a mini-lecture from Orszag about the purpose of TARP yesterday, Gregg fired back, "No, no, no! You don't appear to understand the law. . . . You ought to at least have the integrity to be forthright about it." He also told him, "TARP is not a piggy bank!" Watch the full smackdown at ABCNews.com.
. Two (Democratically led) House committees will examine ways to undo or work around the Supreme Court's blockbuster Citizens United v. FEC
ruling, in which five of the nine justices said corporations can spend freely in federal elections. The name for one of the hearings tells you what Dems think of the decision: "The future of campaign finance in the age of Supreme Court activism." * Precious
. And finally, the field is set for the 2010 battle for President Obama's old Senate seat, with Republican primary voters picking Rep. Mark Kirk during yesterday's elections and Democrats voting for Alexi Giannoulias, a man party operatives call (and this is not a joke) "Sexy Alexi." PD's own Lynn Sweet has the outlook for the must-watch race HERE