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Federal City Digest

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Forgotten Presidents

Looks as though the Transportation Department's institutional memory is as patchy as one of those roadways getting stimulus funds. Last week, the department announced that President Obama would be the third chief executive to pay the behemoth agency a visit since its 1967 founding, after Ronald Reagan and George Bush the younger.

Not so, wrote a reader who had been there during a quick Richard Nixon visit in 1969.

Now, the chief of the Obama transition effort for the agency informs us there was, in fact, a fifth presidential visit. Writes Mortimer L. Downey, a senior adviser with Parsons Brinckerhoff: "During the Obama transition, I was leading the transition team at the DOT HQ on the day of President George W. Bush's visit. When Secretary [Mary] Peters tried to claim this as a first presidential visit, I pointed out the Carter precedent."

Knowledge of that moment in history then slipped into a crack between administrations. But the schedule for Feb. 24, 1977, at Jimmy Carter's presidential library, Downey writes, shows "the president's presence at DOT . . . including an event with 4000 employees in the Plaza."

Anyone have a Bill Clinton sighting?

WHAT TO WATCH

-- The president addresses the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's 19th annual legislative conference in the morning, before afternoon meetings at the White House with the New Democrat Coalition and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Vice President Biden is in Brussels to meet with NATO allies at the North Atlantic Council about the changing U.S. strategy for Afghanistan.

-- The omnibus battle continues, with the Senate holding votes on amendments to the mammoth appropriations bill, and a chance of a final vote by day's end.

-- It's a busy day on the Hill for Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag as he testifies before the Senate Finance Committee on the president's health-care proposals at 10 a.m. and then appears before the Senate Budget Committee at 2:30 p.m. to talk about the 2010 budget.

-- It's also a big day for Justice Department nominees on the Hill. At 2:30, the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of David Kris to be assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's national security division.

Also in the afternoon, the Senate Judiciary Committee takes up the nominations of Lanny Breuer to be an assistant attorney general in Justice's criminal division, Christine Anne Varney to be assistant attorney general in the antitrust division, and Tony West to be assistant attorney general in the civil division. All the nominees are expected to testify.

-- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps, acting National Telecommunications and Information Administration chief Anna Gomez, and acting Commerce Department Chief of Staff Rick Wade gather at Commerce at 10 a.m. for a public kickoff to the stimulus package's initiative on accelerating broadband deployment in rural and underserved areas.

-- Garance Franke-Ruta federalcity@washpost.com

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