8 a.m. ET: How much clout do Republicans have left in this town? The first and best test of that question should come quickly next month, as congressional Democrats start moving an historically huge, Barack Obama-backed stimulus package under the wary eye of the minority.
On Monday, both Mitch McConnell and John Boehner called for caution, asking Democrats to hold extensive hearings to vet the package, and to ensure that the measure does not become the vehicle for all manner of legislative pet projects. Estimates of the package's size vary, but both Republicans have seized on the nice, round $1 trillion price tag
The GOP's influence over the upcoming stimulus bill rests on two thin reeds. The first is the one or two Republican senators -- depending on the still-unresolved outcome of the Franken-Coleman race in Minnesota -- who prevent Democrats from having a filibuster-proof majority in the chamber. The second is Democrats' unwillingness to push a massive, budget-busting bill through Congress without the cover of at least nominal GOP support. On the latter point, Democrats made soothing noises Monday about "cooperation" with the minority, but will that cooperation last longer than a week or so if Republicans aren't rushing to sign off on a deal? Democrats could then just seek to pick off a few GOP moderates in the Senate, but will the majority be willing to move such a massive, budget-busting bill on such a partisan basis?
Off the Hill, Republicans are still trying to figure out who will lead them out of the wilderness. The race to run the Republican National Committee took a turn for the bizarre a few days ago, when hopeful Chip Saltsman made waves by sending out a CD that included the parody song "Barack the Magic Negro." In a twist, the controversy may even help Saltsman, as some in the GOP rally to his side and against the media.
As for the current Republican-in-chief, more members of his own party now seem willing to break from him. The RNC may consider a resolution explicitly criticizing the bailouts backed by the Bush administration. And many Bush veterans are now looking back on the last eight years to see what went right and what went wrong (mostly the latter). For some Bush aides, it was Hurricane Katrina that really doomed them.
December 30, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
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