WASHINGTON-Though the new session of Congress doesn't officially begin until Tuesday, Washington was a-buzz Monday.
The Obamas arrive in D.C.
Sunday night the first-family-to-be stepped off a plane and into their new lives in Washington, D.C., with the Obama girls Sasha and Malia beginning school Monday at Sidwell Friends, a private school in the area.
President-elect Barack Obama jumped immediately into his agenda to complete a massive economic stimulus package, which some have estimated to cost as much as $850 billion, including $300 billion in tax cuts. He met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to go over the plan and expedite its passage through both chambers. Originally Obama had hoped that he would be able to sign the legislation as soon as he took office, but congressional leaders estimate the bill won't be ready until late January or early February.
Also on his way to Washington . . .
Roland Burris, whom scandal-laden Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed to take Obama's U.S. Senate seat, traveled from Chicago to Washington Monday, despite Senate Democratic leaders saying he would not be sworn in Tuesday with other senators. Burris insisted Monday that he is the junior senator from Illinois and expects to be seated.
"Am I tainted?" he said to reporters. "[Blagojevich] signed some bills, are those bills illegal?"
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appears open to negotiations with Burris.
The next chair of the GOP
After Obama named Virginia. Gov. Tim Kaine to chair the Democratic National Committee Monday, the candidates to chair the Republican National Committee had a tête-à-tête in Washington. All six contenders participated in the first RNC chairmanship debate, hosted by Americans for Tax Reform, where bloggers voted on the questions posed, like who their favorite president is (all said Ronald Reagan), how many guns they own, and how to reach young voters.
Committee members will elect the new chair Jan. 28, a choice that will determine the strategy for the GOP's rebound in upcoming elections. Incumbent chair Mike Duncan is running again; his opponents include Michael Steele from Maryland, Katon Dawson from South Carolina, Ken Blackwell from Ohio, Saul Anuzis from Michigan, and Chip Saltsman from Tennessee.
All the candidates provided a roadmap for getting Republicans out of the "wilderness."
"We need to learn to talk to people a little better than we have," said Steele, recommending a more grassroots approach to campaigning.
"The RNC can no longer be a social club," said Blackwell.
Duncan said Republicans need to have more of a presence on the internet.
Saltsman said that young people should be recognized as the "heart and soul of this party." He has been in a cloud of controversy after distributing a Christmas CD with a song titled "Barack the Magic Negro," though some have said the flap has helped his chances to be elected chair.
The next head of the CIA
Democratic officials also leaked that the president-elect will name Leon Panetta to be the next director of the CIA, though he has no intelligence background, according to the Associated Press. Panetta served as White House chief of staff under President Clinton from 1994 to 1997.
On the other side of the world
President Bush welcomed Salva Kiir, Sudan's vice president and a former rebel leader in the country, to the White House, where they discussed the country's peace agreement reached four years ago, though unrest continues. Bush promised to airlift vehicles and equipment to the scarred Darfur region. Kiir may run to replace the current president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, who has been charged with genocide.
On the Hill, House members held a hearing on broker Bernard Madoff's fraud, where $50 billion of his investors' money disappeared through a Ponzi scheme despite tip-offs of inconsistencies in his portfolio to the Securities and Exchange Commission. SEC Inspector General David Kotz will be looking into whether the SEC shirked its duty. He testified to lawmakers that his staff would look for holes in the regulatory process.