The Situation: Monday, May 15
Editor's Note: The Situation Report is a running log of dispatches, quotes, links and behind-the-scenes notes filed by the correspondents and producers of CNN's Washington Bureau. Watch "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer on CNN 4 p.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. ET to 8 p.m. ET weekdays.
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The Morning Grind
Posted: 10:35 a.m. ET
Bush's push for immigration reform
President Bush tonight will call for the deployment of National Guard troops to help secure the Southern border, as he seeks to build support within his own party for a guest worker program and coerce Congress to approve comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year.
The Senate resumes debate this afternoon on the immigration issue after lawmakers failed last month to reach agreement on it. Bush will use a prime time address from the Oval Office to outline his plan that includes deploying the Guard along the U.S.-Mexico border. A senior administration official tells CNN's Ed Henry that less than 10,000 troops would be pressed into service and they would act in a "supportive role" to existing border control agents. The Guard would not be apprehending immigrants illegally crossing the border, but would focus instead on conducting surveillance and building security infrastructure.
Early reaction to the Guard proposal has been mixed and it prompted Mexican President Vicente Fox to call Bush yesterday to express concern about a move to "militarize" the border. Bush reassured the Mexican president that he "considers Mexico an ally and a friend," according to a statement released by Fox's office following the conversation. White House spokeswoman Maria Tamburri said Bush told Fox the proposal being considered "is not a militarization of the border, but support of border patrol capabilities on a temporary basis by National Guard personnel."
"The President reiterated to President Fox his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform," Tamburri said.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) is just one of many Democratic and Republican voices in Congress who argue the Guard is already overextended by its service in Iraq and the Gulf Coast.
"We're stretching them pretty thin now," Leahy said on CNN's 'Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer.' "We're going to make a border patrol out of them?"
But Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) told Blitzer on the same program that such concern amounted to "whining" and "moaning."
"We've got to secure our borders, we hear it from the American people," he said. "We've got millions of people coming across that border -- first and foremost, secure the border whatever it takes. Everything else we've done has failed. We've got to face that. And so we need to bring in, I believe, the National Guard."
Stephen Hadley, Bush's national security advisor, noted that this is not a new idea and the Guard is already working along the border.
"This is something that's actually already being done," Hadley said on 'Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer.' "It's not about militarization of the border. It's about assisting the civilian border patrol in doing their job, providing intelligence, providing support, logistics support and training and these sorts of things."
In tonight's 8 p.m. ET speech, Hadley said Bush would "indicate where he stands and what he believes the way forward is on the issue of immigration." In addition to securing the border and promoting a guest worker program, the President will also talk about internal enforcement, Hadley said.
The President is gambling that his plan to police the border with U.S. troops will be enough to persuade conservative Republicans, mainly in the House, to accept his guest worker program. Many conservatives view this proposal as being too lenient on illegal immigrants. Frist predicted the Senate would approve a bipartisan bill by the end of the month.
"You're going to see the very best of the United States Senate as we have open amendment, open debate, take it to the floor, improve the bill that's on the floor, and we'll have it off before Memorial Day," he said.
But any legislation the Senate passes must then be reconciled with a House bill approved last year that does not include the guest worker program.
Tonight's speech will be Bush's 21st nationally televised prime-time address and a senior administration official tells CNN's Henry it's "crunch time" on getting a compromise on immigration reform.
Prior to his speech on immigration, Bush makes 12 p.m. ET remarks at the Annual Peace Officers' Memorial Service. He stays at the Capitol following his address and returns to the White House at 2:10 p.m. ET. Bush has no public schedule until his speech tonight.
First Lady Laura Bush marks today's deadline to sign up for the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan by attending an 11:05 a.m. ET enrollment event at the Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) is scheduled to discuss the deadline in a 3 p.m. Senate floor speech. He sent out a biting news release yesterday accusing the administration of hurting "millions of seniors and disabled citizens" by failing to extend the deadline and urged Bush to support a Democratic bill to fix it.
"It's shameful that the new Medicare Drug Program did not put the interests of seniors first," he said. "I hope that the administration turns its attention to those seniors who will soon be facing huge gaps in their coverage called the 'doughnut hole' and support our legislation to fix it before it's too late."
Look to an 11 a.m. ET speech by Bush's top political advisor, Karl Rove, to see what he has to say on illegal immigration, the Medicare Prescription Drug Program and the midterm elections. The speech will take place at the American Enterprise Institute.
How well received was Sen. John McCain Saturday at his much hyped commencement speech to Liberty University graduates? The Arizona Senator didn't stick around for the reviews, as he was off to attend a Republican event in Salt Lake City. But the university's chancellor, Dr. Jerry Falwell described it in glowing terms. He said the reception McCain received was "indicative" that "if he continues on the track he's on, he could in fact co-opt the religious conservatives in the country the same way George Bush did, to help win the White House," CNN's Steve Brusk reports from Lynchburg, Virginia.
Arch enemies in the 2000 campaign, Falwell and McCain have since reconciled their differences and the influential Christian political activist has all but endorsed the Arizona Senator for the GOP's presidential nomination. But Falwell left the door open to supporting a handful of other Republicans in 2008 such as Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia), Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) or Frist.
In fact, Falwell said he could back any candidate "as long as he or she espouses the same values that we espouse," and then he added for good measure, "Anybody but Hillary." Falwell is referring to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York), who is the early favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination.
And tonight perhaps we will learn more about the rift between Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and Democratic Congressional Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Illinois) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (New York). Dean is scheduled to appear on 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.'
Grind Extra - Mother's Day Edition
Posted 10:35 a.m. ET
Mothers' Day might be a day old, but don't tell your mother she is one day older. It is not too late to play ... winners and answers will be announced in Tuesday's Grind.
Some politicians give birth to political movements; others actually give birth. In honor of Mothers' Day this Sunday, the Grind would like to pay special tribute to that special breed of elected official who actually have added to their families while serving the people who elected them. We offer our first-ever Mothers' Day Quiz:
1) Who was the first member of Congress to give birth while in office?
2) Name the three senators or representatives who gave birth during the 104th Congress.
3) Who was the only governor to have given birth while in office?
4) Name two elected officials who have given birth to twins while in office.
5) Name a sitting female senator who adopted two children in 2001.
Submit your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Grind reader with the most correct answers will win a very coveted collector's edition hard-cover CNN Reporter's Notebook from the 2004 presidential campaign. In the event of a tie, the prize will go to whichever entry was received in our inbox first. Time Warner employees, their family members, Ted Turner, and members of the Atlanta Thrashers hockey team are welcome to play, but ineligible for the prize. The winner will be announced in Tuesday's Grind. Google if you must, but you're only cheating yourself. Good luck and Happy Mothers' Day!
Political Hot Topics
Posted: 10:35 a.m. ET
MOST DISAPPROVE OF NSA CALL DATABASE: A majority of Americans disapprove of a massive Pentagon database containing the records of billions of phone calls made by ordinary citizens, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. About two-thirds are concerned that the program may signal other, not-yet-disclosed efforts to gather information on the general public. The survey of 809 adults Friday and Saturday shows a nation wrestling with the balance between fighting terrorism and protecting civil liberties. By 51%-43%, those polled disapprove of the program, disclosed Thursday in USA TODAY. The National Security Agency has been collecting phone records from three of the nation's largest telecommunication companies since soon after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. USA Today: NSA secret database report triggers fierce debate in Washington
53 PERCENT THINK THE PROGAM "GOES TOO FAR": According to the latest NEWSWEEK poll, 53 percent of Americans think the NSA's surveillance program "goes too far in invading people's privacy," while 41 percent see it as a necessary tool to combat terrorism... Americans think the White House has overstepped its bounds: 57 percent said that in light of the NSA data-mining news and other executive actions, the Bush-Cheney Administration has "gone too far in expanding presidential power." That compares to 38 percent who think the Administration's actions are appropriate. NEWSWEEK: Poll: Americans Wary of NSA Spying
HADLEY MAKES THE ROUNDS ON SUNDAY SHOWS: As senior Republican and Democratic lawmakers vowed to strongly question the former head of the National Security Agency this week about its surveillance programs, a top adviser to President Bush said Sunday that the programs were lawful and had not invaded the privacy rights of millions of Americans. The adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, the assistant to the president for national security affairs, declined to confirm the details of a telephone surveillance program operated by the N.S.A. that was publicly disclosed on Thursday in an article in USA Today. But Mr. Hadley said that surveillance efforts had been "narrowly designed" and pointed out that the USA Today article had emphasized in its description of the program that it did not involve listening to individual calls. New York Times: Bush Aide Defends Acts by N.S.A.
"LOT OF QUESTIONS WHICH GEN. HAYDEN HAS TO ANSWER": Key Senate Republicans yesterday said confirmation hearings for the man nominated to head the CIA will center on questions about the Bush administration's post-September 11 domestic eavesdropping program, which some lawmakers say is illegal. Hearings are scheduled to begin Thursday for Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who oversaw the domestic surveillance program until last year as director of the National Security Agency. "There's no question that his confirmation is going to depend upon the answers he gives regarding activities of NSA," said Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican and a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican and head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, "There are a lot of questions which General Hayden has to answer." Washington Times: Hayden hearings to be battleground
HOUSE GOP LEADERS BREAKING WITH SENATE: From immigration policy to energy to emergency spending, House Republican leaders are publicly breaking rank with their counterparts in the Senate, fearing that Senate efforts at compromise are jeopardizing the party's standing with conservative voters. The breach in congressional leadership has been especially stark in the past two weeks. As the Senate returns to the immigration issue this week, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said House Republicans will not agree to any plan granting illegal immigrants a path to citizenship that does not require them first to return to their home countries. House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) dismissed Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's proposed $100 rebate for gasoline as "insulting" and "stupid." And House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) declared a Senate-passed, $109 billion bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, hurricane relief and a bevy of home-state pet projects "dead on arrival." Washington Times: Hayden hearings to be battleground
EVANGELICALS BREAKING WITH GOP: Some of President Bush's most influential conservative Christian allies are becoming openly critical of the White House and Republicans in Congress, warning that they will withhold their support in the midterm elections unless Congress does more to oppose same-sex marriage, obscenity and abortion. "There is a growing feeling among conservatives that the only way to cure the problem is for Republicans to lose the Congressional elections this fall," said Richard Viguerie, a conservative direct-mail pioneer. New York Times: Conservative Christians Criticize Republicans
REPUBLICANS "MUST PRODUCE" BEFORE NOVEMBER: There is a broad consensus that Republicans, facing their most dire electoral landscape in a generation, must boast of further accomplishments if they are to have a credible chance of retaining their majority in November. "We have to produce," said Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, whose district extends into the East Bay, making him the only GOP House member with Bay Area constituents. "What have we done on energy that produces more energy? What have we done on immigration that solves the immigration problem? What did we do on the deficit when we let spending get out of control and we ran up the deficit?" Pombo asked. San Francisco Chronicle: GOP in Congress must produce to avoid defeat
VEEP ACTUALLY A "BIG, WARM, FUZZY GUY": Mary Cheney is here to tell you that her father, Vice President Dick Cheney, is not the Darth Vader of the Bush administration but a "big, warm, fuzzy guy." He was the father who said he loved her and wanted her to be happy when she broke the news in high school that she was gay, she said. Years later, he was the adviser she turned to when she nearly quit the 2004 Bush campaign over the president's support for an amendment banning gay marriage. New York Times: Cheney's Daughter Finally Has Her Say
FLOTUS WARNS AGAINST CAMPAIGNING ON GAY MARRIAGE BAN: Some election-year advice to Republicans from a high-ranking source who has the president's ear: Don't use a proposed constitutional amendment against gay marriage as a campaign tool. Just who is that political strategist? Laura Bush. The first lady told "Fox News Sunday" that she thinks the American people want a debate on the issue. But, she said, "I don't think it should be used as a campaign tool, obviously." "It requires a lot of sensitivity to just talk about the issue -- a lot of sensitivity," she said. AP via Yahoo! News: Mrs. Bush: Don't Campaign on Marriage Ban
WHAT'S IN A NAME? With the 2008 race for president now wide open, [Jeb] Bush has what every potential Republican candidate covets: national name recognition, access to his family's powerful fundraising machinery and, as the gathering of Christian supporters illustrated, a sterling reputation among the core of the GOP base. One recent poll reported his approval rating across Florida at 63% -- a strong position in what is the nation's most populous battleground state. And yet the very factor that fosters many of these advantages -- the Bush family name -- is holding this Bush back. With his older brother, President George W. Bush, showing approval ratings that are among the lowest of any modern president, many GOP activists and strategists believe the nation would not elect another Bush, at least not now. Even so, some players in the 2008 campaign appear to find Jeb Bush's political capital too tantalizing to ignore. LA Times: Benefit of a Name Is Relative
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