What's really happening in D.C. this week.

A political calendar.
Feb. 27 2006 11:18 AM

Mardi Gras, Washington-Style

What's really happening in politics this week.

(Continued from Page 1)

Wednesday

Tom DeLay's day in court: It isn't time yet for the former majority leader's trial on money-laundering charges. But DeLay, now a backbencher, will, in a sense, be in the dock today when the Supreme Court hears arguments on Texas' 2003 redistricting plan. The DeLay-inspired plan ended Democrats' long reign in the state and gave the Republicans a majority of the congressional delegation. The justices will decide whether the plan qualifies as political gerrymandering. At stake: some much-needed padding of the GOP's narrow majority in the House.

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The Texas case is part of a busy week at the high court. On Tuesday, the justices will hear about Vermont's mandatory limits on political candidates' spending. Campaign-finance reformers hope to chip away at the Supreme Court's Buckley v. Valeo decision, which has so far thwarted all efforts to slow the flood of money into politics.

As an added bonus, you might catch a glimpse at the court on Tuesday of Vickie Lynn Marshall, aka Anna Nicole Smith, whose lawyers will be telling the justices that the former Playboy playmate and reality-TV star is entitled to a share of her late husband's $1.6 billion fortune. In the 1990s, the 26-year-old Smith married Texas oilman J. Howard Marshall a year before he died at age 90.

Victory lap: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, still rosy-cheeked from the Turin Winter Olympics, addresses a joint session of Congress.

Thursday

Be my guest worker: The industrious Senate Judiciary Committee begins action on immigration legislation in hopes of getting a bill to the Senate floor by the end of March. Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., in the first of three such "markup" hearings, will introduce legislation that includes both border-security provisions and a "guest-worker" program. The guest-worker provision, championed by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., is poison to House conservatives, who furiously oppose such programs as "amnesty" for illegal immigrants. House immigration legislation is likely to focus strictly on border enforcement, setting up a potential showdown with the Senate—and presenting Bush with another intraparty feud.

Specter must enjoy stirring up trouble. The immigration session follows another committee hearing on Tuesday looking into the NSA surveillance program. Among those testifying: Former CIA Director James Woolsey, Yale Law School's Harold Koh, and constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein.

Other contentious domestic matters on the congressional agenda for the week: backroom negotiations over a tax-cut package, and committee haggling over various lobbying-reform proposals.

Friday

Duke-stir, shaken: Former Rep, Randy "Duke" Cunningham is scheduled to be sentenced in San Diego. Cunningham, a California Republican, resigned from Congress last year after he admitted trying to take $2.4 million in bribes, including a Rolls-Royce, a yacht, and a 19th-century Louis Philippe commode. On Feb. 24, defense contractor Mitchell Wade pleaded guilty for his role in bribing the lawmaker.

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