Washington Week In Preview

President Bush Plays Hardball

What’s really happening in Washington this week.


Pace yourself, Senator: Nine-hundred forty-six days until Election Day 2008, and John McCain is already sprinting. The Republican senator from Arizona, a highly likely candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, will appear today in College Station, Texas, with George H.W. Bush at his presidential library. The appearance with the elder Bush (Texas will be in play in the Republican presidential primary for the first time since 1996) is the latest sign President Bush’s team is rallying around McCain for 2008 as the best chance to keep the White House from going Democratic. After returning to Washington, where his immigration legislation is on the Senate floor, McCain has events in New Hampshire on Friday and Saturday. Then, he keynotes the Polk County Lincoln-Reagan Dinner in Florida Saturday night, followed by—burp—the Broward County, Florida, Lincoln-Reagan dinner on Sunday.

Not a belly itcher: It has been an arduous several days for the president: two days in Cancun followed by a weekend on his ranch in Texas. But today, he gets right down to the people’s business. He throws out the first pitch on Opening Day in Cincinnati, where the Reds are playing the Chicago Cubs. And that’s not all, sports fans! On Thursday he hosts NCAA champions from a variety of sports at the White House.


How do you say “pander” in Spanish? With the Senate’s immigration debate ongoing, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce picked a good time to hold its annual legislative conference in Washington. Today, the group will hear from Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., a presidential prospect; Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; Reps. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill, Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., Joe Baca, Lincoln Diaz-Balart; and the omnipresent McCain. Wednesday, the group hears from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., Surgeon General Richard Carmona, and Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif.

Yo-Yo Ma plays Capitol Hill: The world renowned cellist gives a (verbal) performance before the House Government Reform committee, which is holding a hearing titled “A Symphony in F-minus: The Impact of Visa Processing Delays on the Arts, Education and
American Innovation.” The next day, the House takes up a measure to end a particularly discordant note of the 2004 campaign. The “527 Reform Act,” by Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn. *, would close a loophole by regulating these groups, which spent tens of millions of dollars on ads.


It Only Looks Dead: President Bush returns to his moribund domestic agenda with a discussion about health savings accounts on a visit to Bridgeport, Conn., today. For those hoping Bush would go the whole week without a “Global War on Terror” speech, no such luck: This week’s installment comes Thursday in Charlotte, N.C.

Hog Heaven: Citizens Against Government Waste releases its 2006 “Congressional Pig Book.” Last year’s report found 13,997 pork projects totally $27.3 billion in 13 spending bills. The House, meanwhile, will try today to pass its very fragile version of a 2007 budget, which could easily fall apart if moderate Republicans don’t obey the leadership’s orders.


An April Snow-Fall? Treasury Secretary John Snow will testify about his department’s 2007 budget request before a Senate subcommittee, a day after doing the same before a House committee. But the big question is whether Snow will be around to spend any of that money. The former railroad executive is rumored to be on his way out. But others are likely to go first, perhaps as early as this week. New White House staff chief Josh Bolten, who takes over on April 15, is said to be considering personnel changes in the White House’s congressional relations, economics, and communications staffs.

Mum’s the Word: Attorney General Gonzales, increasingly famous for his ability to say absolutely nothing under oath, will try to live up to that reputation with an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, which is taking a stab at “Justice Department Oversight.”

Correction, April 3, 2006:This piece originally identified Christopher Shays as a congressman from Pennsylvania. In fact, he represents Connecticut. (Return to corrected sentence.)