An insider's guide to the upcoming week

Monday, March 10, 2008

This month marks the 25th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's announcement to the country in a prime-time speech that he had "reached a decision which offers a new hope for our children in the 21st century." That hope? Launching federal research into a missile defense program, based both in space and on the ground, that would work toward "eliminating the threat posed by strategic nuclear missiles."

Those Reagan fans at the Heritage Foundation, who are currently running an online quiz titled "What Would Reagan Do?," will celebrate the anniversary of what became known as the "Star Wars" speech tomorrow with a dinner at the Four Seasons. Vice President Cheney is scheduled to speak.

Cheney was a congressman from Wyoming and a member of the House leadership when Reagan made his March 23, 1983, address, and he quickly came to the president's side in defense of the program.

At Cheney's 1989 confirmation hearings to become defense secretary, senators commented, "You have been a long and articulate supporter of the Strategic Defense Initiative," and the nominee agreed that yes, he had. He did hedge a bit, noting how important it was to be able to pay for the "very sound concept" of the initiative.

Now, he will have another chance to speak about reaching for the stars.

Gates and a Golden Anniversary: Speaking of anniversaries, the House Committee on Science and Technology, the government's overseer of scientific research not tied to defense, is celebrating a big one this year: 50 years since it was formed on the heels of Sputnik's trip around the Earth and the launch of the space race.

To celebrate this golden anniversary, members of the committee invited Bill Gates to testify Wednesday on "Competitiveness and Innovation." But the appearance won't necessarily be a cheery remembrance of things past.

Gates, who has come to the Hill just a handful of times, is planning to discuss the need for immigration changes and the need to allow highly skilled foreign-born workers to remain in the United States, according to Microsoft spokeswoman Ginny Terzano.

Gates testified before the Senate last year, stressing the need to improve education as well as immigration procedures for skilled workers and to increase the H-1B visa pool. To coincide with that testimony, he wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post in which he said that the demand for specialized workers has long exceeded the native-born supply and that the issue "has reached a crisis point."

He is likely to sound as urgent a plea this week.

"Unfortunately, the issue still exits. We haven't seen a lot of progress from a year ago," Terzano said.

The House hearing will be just one of Gates's stops in Washington this week. He will also be the keynote speaker at the Northern Virginia Technology Council's "Premier Titans" breakfast at the Capital Hilton on Thursday. However, no one gets to be a titan without good planning skills: The $100-a-person event is already sold out.

Examining NATO: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow on NATO, covering the organization's effectiveness and potential expansion. The supreme allied commander in Europe, Gen. John Craddock, and Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried are among those set to testify.

Since tomorrow is primary day in Mississippi, it is highly unlikely that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who chairs the subcommittee with oversight of NATO, will make it to the hearing. At the last Democratic debate, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) criticized Obama for not holding hearings on NATO and Afghanistan.

Bush on Tour: A week after the worst U.S. job-loss report in five years, President Bush plans to speak on the economy in New York on Friday -- just one of his out-of-town appearances this week. He is also scheduled to stop in Nashville to address the National Religious Broadcasters convention and to attend a Republican National Committee lunch.

By Rachel Dry

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