The Senate will be in session today, while the House will reconvene some time on Tuesday.  Most of the action this week will take place off the floors of the respective houses. The State of the Union Address will suck up most of the political oxygen this week. Most of the remaining points of contention will revolve around committee hearings, presidential nominations, and continued brinkmanship over the budget sequester. Conservatives must also beware of any new House amnesty plan that could possibly be unveiled this week.

State of the Union Address – The media is already building up excitement for Tuesday night’s SOTU address as if it were some groundbreaking event. The reality is that this address comes on the heels of Obama’s inauguration address and a full year of campaigning.  As such, there won’t be much new ground charted in this speech. He will call for more tax hikes, gay marriage, amnesty for illegals, gun control, more stimulus, and more backdoor tax hikes to accommodate the climate control lobby. He will once again dance on the graves of the Sandy Hook victims with a full show of props, as he basks in the glory of this opportunity to ingratiate himself with a tragedy.  He will also pay homage to the Islamist ‘Arab spring’ governments and call for more military and financial aid.

The real test will be for Marco Rubio who is delivering the official GOP response. This is a time for Rubio to lay out a bold contrast and forcefully attack Obama at all the pressure points. Republicans are starving for leadership, and if Rubio seeks to be that leader, this is his chance to walk away from the path of least resistance and engage in hand-to-hand combat. Rubio is also speaking in Spanish, a ploy that is viewed as pandering by many conservatives. It would be nice if he’d use this as an opportunity to attack Obama on his animus towards border security, instead of just pandering with promises of amnesty. It will also be interesting to see how Rand Paul presents his case when he delivers the “Tea Party response.”

Sequester – As part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, the 10-year sequestration, which would cut all discretionary accounts across-the board, is slated to take effect on March 1. The sequester will cut roughly $1 trillion in mainly discretionary spending, with 50 percent of the cuts coming from Defense, even though it only comprises 20 percent of the federal budget.  It is important to remember that a good amount of these cuts are only baseline cuts, especially on the non-defense side. For 2013, the sequester was originally going to be $109 billion, but due to the cancellation for two months, the cuts will total $85 billion.

While all conservatives agree that there is clearly some waste in defense, random across-the-board cuts are unwise. On the other hand, these are the only cuts we will ever make permanent. Conservatives did not support this plan, but we will not allow Obama and the Democrats to use it as a leverage point to force through more tax hikes or eliminate the non-defense part of the sequester. Republicans need to stick together and let the sequester go into effect. Obama is already feeling the pressure from the united Republican stance.

Republicans must reject plans by John McCain and Lindsey Graham to offer any replacements of the sequester. That will only play into Obama’s hands and obviate any leverage we might gain from standing firm.

Note of caution: While Republicans appear to be holding the line on the sequester, conservatives must remind GOP leaders that this only deals with discretionary spending. If we ever have any hope of reforming entitlements and balancing the budget, we must defund Obamacare. Republicans must prepare for an Obamacare funding fight when the current CR, which funds the government, expires on March 28.

Nominations – The Senate will continue consideration of several presidential nominations – Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, John Brennan for Director of the CIA, and Jack Lew for Secretary of Treasury.  The Senate Armed Services Committee could vote as early as Tuesday on Hagel’s nomination. Republicans are standing the strongest against Hagel and are threatening a boycott of the committee vote.  Sensing an opening after Hagel’s dismal performance during the confirmation hearing, most Republicans have announced their opposition.  However, it is still unclear how many will actually join a filibuster, especially in light of McCain’s promise to stand down. On the other hand, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has announced his intention to force a 60-vote threshold when the nomination hits the floor.

On Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee will hold its first hearing on Jack Lew’s nomination to be Secretary of Treasury. Lew was previously Obama’s chief of staff and director of OMB. He is one of the biggest ideologues for redistributive fiscal policy in the entire Obama administration. Yet, Lew invested in a venture capital fund based at the Ugland House in the Cayman Islands – the very type of offshore tax shelters that Obama has been using as straw men for his class warfare. Republicans must vigorously question him on his hypocrisy and failed policies as Obama’s budget director.

Immigration: Last week, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on immigration reform proposals. During that hearing, a group of illegal aliens stood up and shouted “undocumented and unafraid.” This spectacle served as a vivid illustration of the callous disregard for our immigration laws and the vacuous nature of any promise for future enforcement coming from the current crop of politicians. This Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will conduct a hearing, which will actually feature an illegal alien as a witness. Only in America!

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano will also testify before the committee. This will provide Republicans with a prime opportunity to take her to task for abrogating enforcement laws duly passed by Congress and cancelling the 287(g) federal/state cooperative enforcement program.

There is also a possibility the “secretive” bipartisan working group in the House might offer an amnesty plan this week to accompany the Schumer/Rubio proposal in the Senate.  Eric Cantor is also vocally pushing the Dream Act amnesty, which will provide an expedited path to citizenship for several millions illegals between the age of 16 and 35, providing Democrats with new voters and welfare recipients.  Once they become citizens, they will be able to collect some benefits on behalf of their parents and spawn chain migration by petitioning to bring in more family members. The Dream Act will also necessarily raise the cost of higher education in this country by making them eligible for an array of tuition subsidy programs. Conservatives must continue to oppose these backroom deals and demand that Republicans formulate proposals together with fellow members to ensure that all the laws are enforced before unilaterally conceding major policy points to Democrats.

Violence Against Women Act  - The Senate will vote on final passage of the VAWA bill (S.47). We fleshed out some of the issues with it last week. All but 14 Republicans voted to proceed with debate, and the bill will likely pass with overwhelming support this week.  Before voting on final passage, the Senate will dispense with several amendments. Senator Tom Coburn is proposing an important amendment that would strike the provision in the bill which grants Indian tribal courts the authority to convict non-Indians for crimes of domestic violence.  

Ancillary issues this week 

Here is a list of some of the smaller issues that will be considered in the House under suspension, along with the daily schedule for both the House and the Senate.

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