After a long weekend in Toronto at the G-8 and G-20 summits, President Obama is out of the public eye today. In addition to his usual intelligence, economic and staff briefings, he'll meet at 3:15 with what the White House calls "grassroots leaders" to discuss immigration legislation.
Tuesday: he'll meet with bipartisan Senate leaders to discuss energy/climate legislation. He'll also welcome Saudi King Abdullah to the White House.
Wednesday: Obama travels to Wisconsin for another of his "White House to Main Street"events designed to focus on jobs and the economy.
Friday: we'll get the big June unemployment report. The jobless rate is expected to remain at 9.7%.
The Death of Senator Byrd
The week is off to a sad start, with the dawn announcement that Sen. Robert Byrd, (D-W.Va.) has passed away. While hardly unexpected - Byrd was 92 and in failing health - his death still comes as a bit of a shock, as the passing of such a momentous figure usually does.
And what a figure he was. The longest-serving member of Congress in American history. Elected to the Senate nine times. A parliamentary titan who will go down in the history books as one of the most consequential of Senators. Flags over the Capitol and White House were quickly lowered to half-staff, and tributes from both sides of the aisle poured in.
In a statement this morning, President Obama said: "The people of West Virginia have lost a true champion, the United States Senate has lost a venerable institution, and America has lost a voice of principle and reason with the passing of Robert C. Byrd." The President added "Senator Byrd’s story was uniquely American. He was born into wrenching poverty, but educated himself to become an authoritative scholar, respected leader, and unparalleled champion of our Constitution. He scaled the summit of power, but his mind never strayed from the people of his beloved West Virginia. He had the courage to stand firm in his principles, but also the courage to change over time."
Vice-President Biden was equally eloquent. Speaking in Kentucky, he remembered what Byrd did for him back in 1972 - after the tragic accident that took the life of Biden's wife and daughter. Byrd, he said, was "a guy who was there when I was a 29-year-old kid being sworn into the United States Senate shortly thereafter; a guy who stood in the rain, in a pouring rain, freezing rain outside a church as I buried my daughter and my wife before I got sworn in, Robert C. Byrd. He passed away today. He was the -- we lost the dean of the United States Senate, but also the state of West Virginia lost its most fierce advocate and, as I said, I lost a dear friend."
Arrangements haven't been made public yet, but the President and Vice-President will certainly participate.
Kagan Hearings Underway
Although Elena Kagan is expected to be confirmed for the Supreme Court, don't think her hearings, which began today, will lack for drama. Kagan has never been a judge and therefore has no record for Republicans to pick apart. So instead they'll say this lack of a paper trail shows she doesn't have the experience to sit on the high court. They'll also paint her as - gasp - a liberal and say she'll inject her personal views into her judicial rulings.
Kagan and her White House handlers know all of this, of course, and have spent weeks practicing answers to a wide range of anticipated questions. At the end of the day, he advice given to the solicitor general and former dean of the Harvard Law School is simple: answer the Senate's questions respectfully - while saying as little as possible.
Speaking of confirmation hearings, even Republicans predict Gen. David Petraeus - Obama's choice to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal as commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan - will be quickly and easily confirmed. Senate Armed Services Committee hearings begin tomorrow.
- Paul Brandus at the White House