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« Florida Is A Race To Watch | Blog Home Page | ND Sen Poll: Hoeven Could Beat Dorgan »

The Week Ahead: Snowy Capital, Chilly Partisanship

The Senate worked through one of the biggest snow storms in D.C. history over the weekend, and it will continue cranking during this holiday week -- when members, staff and reporters all are wishing they could fly home. In the meantime, this is what to watch for this week in Washington:

The White House: President Obama's only scheduled public event Monday focuses on government efficiency. He'll also meet with his National Economic Council. On Tuesday, Obama will again meet with bank CEOs, this time representing small and community banks, with an eye on the economy and loosening the credit markets. Obama is due to head out with his family to Hawaii for the holidays, as is their custom. He's expected to return after the New Year.

What remains to be seen is whether health care legislation will be passed by the Senate before his departure. David Axelrod, senior White House strategist, did his best to spin the apparent compromise that should give Democrats 60 votes it needs to get there. "I think that we're going to have some work to do when we come back," he said of the conference committee process that will begin after the holidays.

The Capitol: Should things fall in line and Republicans continue to filibuster, the Senate will take a final vote on health care reform Thursday, the evening of Christmas Eve. After a procedural vote early Monday morning -- 1 a.m. -- Democrats proved they had the necessary 60 votes to end the filibuster and bring the reform bill up for final adoption.

The vote schedule this week is likely to look like this: a second cloture vote Tuesday morning at 7 a.m., a third Wednesday at 1 p.m., and voting on final passage of the bill Thursday at 7 p.m.

The party-line debate and votes has put on display the level of partisanship that still exists in Congress. As a New York Times story put it this morning: "A year that began with hopes of new post-partisanship has indeed produced change: Things have gotten worse."

After Christmas, the majority staffs from the House and Senate will begin negotiations on a conference report -- the next major hurdle for health care reform.

Politics: In the final days of 2009, there may not be much activity on the surface but it's an important week behind the scenes. There's incredible pressure on candidates to keep raising big bucks for the fundraising quarter that ends December 31. And, with all the focus on the holidays, don't be surprised in the weeks ahead to see more retirement announcements from House and potentially even Senate Democrats.

Michael Steele continues to bang the drum on his "Listen To Me" anti-health care campaign, with a conference call today with Dick Armey. And speaking of health care opposition, here's a reminder that one shouldn't make any snap judgments about anyone's political fate: Mike Huckabee drew 1,800 people in Omaha, just across the river from Iowa, for a rally on Sunday meant to pressure Sen. Ben Nelson to vote against the final health care bill. Also, its quotes like this, from an interview on "Hannity" Friday. Speaking of the president, Huckabee said: "I would almost venture to say he's broken more promises than Tiger Woods, and I'm not sure we can give him a mulligan."

** Poll Watch
Obama Job Performance: Approve 49.3 / Disapprove 44.9
Congress Job Performance: Approve 27.4 / Disapprove 65.8
Generic Ballot Test: Republicans +2.3

** In Case You Missed It: Depending upon where exactly in the Washington area you lived, you may have seen as much as 20 inches of snow this weekend in what was the worst December storm ever. How's this for a whopping stat: 25 million pounds of snow needs to be cleared from FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, before tonight's big Monday Night Football matchup between the Redskins and the Giants. The Redskins Blog has the story on getting the field ready.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad