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« Obama's No Good Very Bad Week | Blog Home Page | DCCC Releases TV Ad in NY-20 »

Strategy Memo: Budget Week

Good Monday morning, Washington. Today's news is focused on the full rollout of Treasury's plan to address the banking crisis. Treasury Secretary Geithner will discuss the plan shortly with reporters, and later meet with President Obama.

Obama, meanwhile, is kicking off a week focusing on the budget with remarks this morning about how investing in clean energy is a critical component of the plan. Obama is under pressure to make some headway in selling his plan to a Congress and even a public that appears to be growing more skeptical. Not only does he need to rebound after what was considered his toughest week yet as president. But next week he will be traveling to Europe for the G20 Summit.

Congress won't be very busy today on the floor, but lawmakers are gearing up to hold their own hearings on the budget soon. The Senate will also be taking up the AIG bonus tax, a provision that did not get the full support of the White House this weekend.

**President Obama
*Obama told Steve Croft at "60 Minutes" that there have been no conversations about replacing Timothy Geithner. "And if he were to come to me, I'd say, 'Sorry, Buddy. You've still got the job.' But look, he's got a lot of stuff on his plate. And he is doing a terrific job. And I take responsibility for not, I think, having given him as much help as he needs." Obama was also asked if he is "punch drunk." "There's gotta be a little gallows humor to get you through the day," he said. "You know, sometimes my team talks about the fact that if you had said to us a year ago that the least of my problems would be Iraq, which is still a pretty serious problem, I don't think anybody would have believed it."

*Geithner sat down with the Wall Street Journal Sunday to talk about his banking plan, and said the government cannot fix the financial crisis alone. "Our judgment is that the best way to get through this is if we can work with the markets," he said. "We don't want the government to assume all the risk. We want the private sector to work with us."

*The Treasury Secretary also writes an op-ed to explain the Public-Private Investment program, which "will purchase real-estate related loans from banks and securities from the broader markets. Banks will have the ability to sell pools of loans to dedicated funds, and investors will compete to have the ability to participate in those funds and take advantage of the financing provided by the government."

*AP looks at the week ahead: "Obama and his aides plan an aggressive push to deliver a $3.6 trillion budget that contains many of his campaign promises. He plans to speak about the energy portion of his budget at the White House on Monday, highlighting research and development in clean energy." Tuesday he'll hold the prime-time press conference. "The president is back in campaign mode as he stumps for a budget proposal that, so far, has faced opposition from members of both parties."

*Obama supporters fanned out across the country Saturday to sell his budget in an effort organized by "Organizing for America." "Some of the people stopped by the canvassers at a Virginia subway station told CNN it would be easier to build momentum for the new initiative if it were focused on one specific item, such as the effort to reform health care, rather than around the broader agenda."

*As Politico notes, the New York Times was not kind to Obama this weekend. "The sentiment, coming just two months after the president was sworn in, reflects elite opinion in the Washington-New York corridor that Obama is increasingly overwhelmed, and not fully appreciative of the building tsunami of populist outrage."

*Many were disappointed that the president was missing from the Gridiron Dinner, but the VP told some good jokes. In one, he cracked his boss was getting ready for Easter. "He thinks it's about him," Biden said. And of course there was a jab at Sarah Palin, with Gov. Jennifer Graholm saying she "really set back the cause of hot governors."

**Congress
*Budget Cutter: "Armed with new deficit estimates, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad is pressing to cut up to $28 billion, or almost half, of the increased appropriations sought by President Barack Obama for domestic and foreign aid programs in the coming year," Politico reports.

*Bailout Bonuses: "As the White House pulled back from its initial favorable response to the House vote last week, senators have also shown some hesitation about embracing the House's 90-percent income tax on bonuses paid this year," the NYT reports.

*Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), once a pick for the Cabinet, warned Sunday that Obama's budget could bankrupt the nation.

*Outrage watch: Rep. Pete Stark, the second-ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, "has been taking advantage of a tax break for a home in Maryland that he claims as his principal residence," Bloomberg reports. "Stark, 77, confirmed in a telephone interview last week that he and his wife, Deborah, are registered to vote in California's 13th congressional district using the address of her parents in San Lorenzo, about 25 miles southeast of San Francisco. Stark also said both he and his wife have California driver's licenses."

**Campaign Stuff
*AP sizes up the NY-20 race on week out. "It's not that the race will decide U.S. House power; Democrats have a comfortable majority. It's not that the district is a bellwether; Republicans outnumber Democrats. It's not that the outcome will gauge the public's exact sentiment; turnout is always very low in special elections. But Democrats and Republicans plan to use the results anyway as a measure of the popularity of Obama's economic efforts. The outcome also will serve as a barometer for the beleaguered GOP and its new national chairman, Michael Steele."

*Sue Davis of the Wall Street Journal makes a very astute point as she looks at Arlen Specter's challenge heading into the re-election year. "Only those registered as Republicans can vote in the primary, and it is a more conservative electorate after 239,000 Republicans and independents switched affiliations last year to vote in the Democratic presidential primary between Hillary Clinton and Mr. Obama. Most of those party-switchers are moderate Republicans like Mr. Specter, the sort of voters who protected him from conservative challengers in the past."

*Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) says he's been asked to "consider running" against Specter. "But I told them that I am fully exploring a run for Governor," he told PoliticsPA.com.

*Another Democrat, Atty. Gen. Jack Conway, is considering running for the Senate in Kentucky. "I've been saying all along I owe Kentucky voters my best effort at attorney general ... so I'm going to get through the (legislative) session. And I'll say something in the coming weeks," he told a local TV station.

*The Boston Globe reports that Mitt Romney will endorse Meg Whitman in the Republican primary for California governor. Whitman was a top Romney backer in his presidential bid.

*CA Sen: The Governator "has plunged with gusto into a new round of campaigning up and down the state to push the measures, and has now landed encouragement from some very powerful allies - like the popular Democratic president. With a year until primaries begin for the 2010 elections ... political observers say the latest developments have tripped off a new round in the guessing game of what his next step may be," the SF Chronicle reports.