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Today, Smiles; Next Week, Who Knows?

The faces from across the land stretch across our Mall, past the church of the presidents and the White House, all the way past the Canadian Embassy on Pennsylvania Avenue up to the Capitol on this day we celebrate our national democracy.

And it is the Capitol about which I'm going to write. While incoming president Barack Obama readies for the enormous burdens he will shoulder after placing his hand on the Bible Abraham Lincoln used for his inauguration, he must be considering --and planning for -- the relationships he will manage with the House and Senate. For those reared in parliamentary democracies, it's very difficult to believe that a Democratic president might be challenged by fellow Democrats on the Hill or helped much by Republicans.

But the congressional Democrats are already flexing their muscles. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told the Hill newspaper that, “I don’t work for Barack Obama -- I work with him." Reid signaled that the Senate at least would not cede power to the executive branch as he said happened during the Bush administration. Reid is not alone -- senior Democrats in both houses have already criticized Obama policy plans and nominees.

Defense issues -- especially spending -- will be particularly challenging for Obama on the Hill. Liberal Democrats have signaled several times that they expect defense spending cuts, although Obama seems inclined -- for this coming budget at least -- to maintain defense spending levels at the levels proposed by the Bush administration. Buzz readers will remember the story we broke about Rep. Barney Frankcalling for a 25 percent cut to Pentagon spending.

The head of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, Rep. John Murtha (D-Penn.) said money for weapons will have to come from spending originally slated to fund substantial increases in Army personnel. But many other Democrats -- especially those on the House Armed Services Committee, strongly support Marine and Army personnel increases.

So savor today's moments and ready for the very hard work to come.

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