3:15 p.m. ET: It's fair to say the Obama transition team has had better days. The incoming administration is navigating troubled waters both foreign and domestic today, as Hillary Clinton parries questions about Bill (of course) in the Senate and Obama officials continued gathering support for the proposed stimulus package and the second half of the financial bailout.
On the Hill, Clinton has been bouncing back and forth between working to articulate her foreign policy vision and trying to explain how her husband's foundation can keep taking foreign donations without creating a conflict of interest. Richard Lugar wants the foundation to avoid taking any new foreign donations, though Clinton at this point doesn't seem that interested in changing an agreement that was painstakingly worked out between her and Obama officials.
As for the economy, Obama himself met with Senate Democrats today to rally support for his plan. Ben Bernanke said today that a stimulus package was a good idea but that other steps would likely be necessary to boost the international financial system. Tim Geithner, meanwhile, might have some old-fashioned "nanny problems," as Republicans raise questions about the immigration status of the Treasury nominee's former housekeeper. It also looks like Geithner failed to pay some Social Security and Medicare taxes in a timely fashion, probably not a good idea since, you know, he's going to be in charge of taxes.
8 a.m. ET: Ten weeks after suffering the loss of the White House and their second consecutive demoralizing congressional election, Republicans are starting to get their voice back. The party has no chairman, no favorite for 2012 and only the barest claim to a seat at the Senate negotiating table. But at least they have found, in the financial bailout and the upcoming stimulus package, a pair of issues around which they can rally.
In a fitting end to his administration, given how much he has frustrated his fellow Republicans the last few years, President Bush yesterday asked Congress for the remaining $350 billion in bailout money on behalf of Barack Obama. In September, the initial financial rescue vote split the GOP (and sent John McCain into a tailspin from which he never recovered). But Republicans' reaction to Monday's request appeared far more unified; John Boehner and Mitch McConnell both came out opposed to spending the remaining money without tight restrictions and far more transparency than there has been so far. They have no responsibility to govern and are under no obligation to help Democrats continue a bailout that has grown increasingly unpopular with the public, so why not watch from the sidelines as the majority party struggles to cope with an economic mess.
Of course, it's not all peaches and cream for Republicans. While the bailout bill may present a clear opportunity to unite around conservative principles, the stimulus package will present a choice for the GOP that they will face frequently over the next four years: Should they join the negotiations, and hope to extract at least a few concessions from Obama and Democrats? Or should they simply stand back and attack? The public at large seems to favor the stimulus plan being discussed, but that doesn't mean the Republican base likes the measure.
The GOP also faces a retirement problem. On Monday, George Voinovich became the fourth Republican to announce his plan to leave the Senate after 2010, giving his party yet another seat to defend. Republicans also won't have the Roland Burris story to kick around anymore, as Senate Democrats have decided to end their two weeks of self-defeating delay by seating the new junior Senator from Illinois. Might this provide the GOP with an electoral bright spot? Party leaders are already talking of making Burris' defeat a priority, though it seems likely that Burris' predecessor is going to provide him plenty of campaign and fundraising help.
And what about New York? The lengthy process of replacing Hillary Clinton continues. David Paterson said yesterday Caroline Kennedy's effort "impressed" him during her interview Saturday, which sounds good for her, though he also said "she didn't eliminate herself in the meeting," which sounds pretty tepid. But at least it's a start.
January 13, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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