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Posted at 8:11 AM ET, 01/26/2011

Beyond the State of the Union: What's next?

By Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake

President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night laid out a broad blueprint for his legislative agenda for the rest of the year.

Now comes the hard part, as a divided Congress begins to wrestle not only with the president's speech but also with an electorate that remains nervous and unsure what it wants out of its elected officials.

So, what's next on Capitol Hill? Where do the House and Senate go from here?

The short answer is no one -- really -- knows.

In the Senate, the immediate focus is coming to some sort of resolution on the proposed change in the filibuster rule being championed by New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall (D) and Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley (D).

It's not yet clear whether the reform crowd -- led primarily by Democrats elected in 2006 and 2008 -- will accept a more modest proposal of rule changes championed by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) that leaves the filibuster intact.

Another x-factor in plotting out the immediate future for the Senate agenda is how serious Republicans are in their desire to force a vote on repealing Obama's health care law. South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (R), a favorite of the tea party movement, is preparing a bill to do just that, and, on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pledged that there would be a vote.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) seems disinclined to offer Republicans that platform and the bill would almost certainly never get through the still Democratic-controlled chamber.

On the House side, things are a bit more clear.

The Republican majority passed legislation Tuesday that would return federal spending levels in the 2011 fiscal year to 2008 levels -- handing Budget Committee Chairman (and GOP State of the Union responder) Paul Ryan (Wisc.) leeway to go to the Appropriations Committee and ask them to begin the process of making cuts to meet the 2008 goal.

A vote on that proposal is expected in the middle of next month, although it remains to be seen how the Ryan effort will square with Senate Democrats approach to spending.

Either way, the two sides will need to work out some sort of deal before March 4, the day when the continuing resolution that funds the government expires. If they don't -- and they may well not -- circle early March on your calendar for the first "rubber meets the road" moment of divided control of Congress.

A Talent-less race in Missouri?: It's decision time, and it looks like former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) will not run for his old seat. Sources tell The Fix that Talent is set to announce his decision by the end of the week, and several news outlets report that he won't run.

And if he doesn't run, it adds all kinds of intrigue to the primary to face Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

Former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman is the lone Republican in the race, but she's got no shortage of potential GOP opponents, including Rep. Sam Graves, former state party chairwoman Ann Wagner and former congressional candidate Ed Martin. What that suggests is that many aren't quite ready to embrace her as their next big Senate candidate. And if Talent bows out, these candidates will feel free to enter the race at will.

But that could be changing. Politico's Dave Catanese (who broke the news Tuesday) smartly points out that Sen. Roy Blunt's (R-Mo.) former chief of staff has penned a fundraising letter for Steelman. (Steelman, you may recall, opted against challenging Blunt in a primary last cycle.)

Whether that's a simple return of a favor or a sign of a larger amount of support from Team Blunt remains to be seen. The jury is still out on Steelman as a candidate, especially after she severely wounded the GOP's governor candidate in their 2008 primary. If Blunt jumps on board with Steelman, though, that would discourage other Republicans like Graves and Wagner (who was chairman of Blunt's campaign) and could help Steelman avoid another bruising primary.

No surprises in Kentucky: The field is set for the 2011 governor's race in Kentucky, as the state's filing deadline passed uneventfully on Tuesday.

Gov. Steve Beshear (D) will not face primary opposition in his bid for reelection. Meanwhile, state Senate President David Williams and businessman Phil Moffett -- the tea party candidate in the race -- will face off for the GOP nomination, with Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw entering the race late as a long shot.

In the attorney general's race, 2010 Senate candidate Jack Conway (D) will be seeking reelection against Hopkins County Attorney Todd P'Pool (that is not a typo; that's his last name), who was the only GOP candidate to file.

Filing day is often a wild one in the state. You may recall this time in 2008, when Rep. Ron Lewis (R-Ky.) pulled his name from the race in the closing minutes before the filing deadline, aiming for his chief of staff to file and, hopefully, avoid much opposition. National Republicans and then-state Sen. Brett Guthrie (R) got wind of what was going on, though, and Guthrie wound up winning Lewis's seat.

Kentucky is one of four states hold a governor's race in 2011, along with Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia.

Fixbits

Obama's speech got high marks in a pair of polls conducted last night.

Newly minted Sen. Joe Manchin looks solid in his quest for a full term in 2012, according to a new poll from Democratic-leaning automated pollster Public Policy Polling. He holds a nine-point lead in a hypothetical matchup with Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R).

A poll conducted for Rep. Chris Murphy's (D-Conn.) newly launched Senate campaign shows him leading his primary and beating two potential GOP opponents by double digits. He leads 2010 GOP nominee and former wrestling executive Linda McMahon by 19 points and former Rep. Rob Simmons (R) by 12 points. In the primary, he leads former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz by nine points. (Bysiewicz also released a poll showing her leading the primary.)

Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle (D) appears to have survived a recall attempt.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) hosted a dinner at the governor's mansion with Mitt Romney on Monday.

Duluth Mayor Don Ness and state Sen. Tony Lourey both say they will not challenge freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.). But Daniel Fanning, an aide to Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), is considering a run.

Must-reads

"The Federal Election Commission is as good as dead" -- Rick Hasen, Slate

"Keep primary in March, Ohio GOP chief says" -- Joe Hallett, Columbus Dispatch

"Gingrich offers ideas in Des Moines stop" -- Thomas Beaumont, Des Moines Register

"A Content Analysis of Barack Obama's 2011 State of the Union Address" -- Eric Ostermeier, Smart Politics

By Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake  | January 26, 2011; 8:11 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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