Some notes from the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire:
MINIMUM WAGE EMERGES as election-year flashpoint. Treasury Secretary Snow’s remarks on income inequality fuel debate. “We’ll engage with” advocates of an increase, he says, while cautioning against pricing some workers out of labor market. The wage remains $5.15 an hour, a level set in 1997; relative to average wages, it’s at its lowest point since 1949. Commerce Secretary Gutierrez also signals openness to an increase if Congress pursues the issue “thoughtfully…and not emotionally.” With Bush and Republicans politically weakened, Democratic Sen. Kennedy plans push for floor vote this spring on an increase to $7.25. Strategist Carville advises Democrats to block pay raise for Congress until average worker’s wages rise.
TEAM BUSH SCRAMBLES to revive domestic agenda. President’s acknowledgment of political capital spent on war reflects slipping prospects on other fronts. Senate Finance Chairman Grassley predicts uphill fight for even scaled-down version of expanded health savings accounts. A senior Bush adviser sees delay — pushing House-Senate conference until after midterm elections — as best chance for winning immigrant guest-worker program. Both chambers have sidetracked Bush’s proposed Medicare savings; extension of dividend and capital-gains tax cuts remains in doubt. Moderate Republicans, complains Heritage Foundation’s Michael Franc, are “completely untethered” from party leaders. ...
MINOR MEMOS: …“Cheney Invites Helen Thomas on Hunting Trip” following her contentious press conference exchange with Bush, humorist Andy Borowitz reports.