updated 2/4/2009 12:55:25 PM ET 2009-02-04T17:55:25

Happy Tuesday!

Hello everybody, and welcome to the Shuster "Daily Briefing"  for February 3, 2009. I'm writing to you this afternoon from the NBC/MSNBC "mother ship" at 30 Rock in New York.  I've been asked to sub for Keith Olbermann tonight and tomorrow on Countdown which airs at 8 p.m. EST. That means I will not be hosting "1600" for the next two days. However, my good friend and colleague Savannah Guthrie will be taking my place.

Savannah is terrific. And, after chatting with the "1600" team and looking at the show rundowns and guests, the show this evening is going to be outstanding!  

The big story, across the board today, is Tom Daschle's withdrawal from consideration for Secretary of Health and Human Services.

I first realized Daschle was headed for major problems today when I was chatting at 8:30 a.m. this morning on the Bill Press radio show with New Mexico Democratic Sen. Tom Udall.

The freshman Senator indicated he was "unsure" whether he would support Daschle's nomination and said it went beyond the "tax issues." When pressed, Udall said the Senate was examining flights Daschle took on a corporate jet to various vacation spots. The flights were paid for by EduCap Inc., a non profit lender that has faced IRS scrutiny and separate congressional investigations into potential abuses of its status as a charity. The Wall Street Journal wrote about it today.

It looks like Daschle never even got as far as reading the Wall Street Journal story or talking with members of the Senate about those issues. Instead, Daschle told friends that he decided to withdraw after reading this morning's New York Times. Here's the big front page story from Peter Baker.

Here is the New York Times editorial asking Daschle to withdraw.

Savannah is going to start the show tonight with the latest reporting on Daschle's decision to quit, how he made it, and who he contacted at the White House. Our colleague Andrea Mitchell was reporting earlier today that Daschle was "very emotional." Daschle's withdrawal leaves a gaping hole in President Obama's efforts to craft and then pass health care reform. It's a major setback, no matter how you slice it.

Later tonight, Savannah is going to talk with Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.

Sen. Snowe and Sen. Susan Collins are considered the two moderate GOP Senators most likely to join democrats on any particular legislation. Given that the democrats have 58 seats and need 60 to break any GOP filibuster, you can imagine how much power Collins and Snowe may wield, especially in this week's fight over the economic stimulus plan. Yes, as the stimulus bill looks to add infrastructure spending, this would seem to be a great time to have a highway construction business in Maine.

Later in the show, Democratic Senator Jack Reed from Rhode Island is scheduled to come on and talk about the Senate debate and where things are headed.

Also, CNBC's John Harwood will be on the program tonight.  He has some terrific observations on the pledges that have already been made by Eric Holder, the new U.S. Attorney General.

By the way, we mentioned yesterday that NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg was bitten by a groundhog. Now, there is video and you will see it in tonight's "Briefing Room" segment. According to one observer:

"From the video you can see, the mayor repeatedly trying to coax Chuck out of his little house with a piece of corn, snatching it back from the rodent in an attempt to lure him outside... Anyway, the mayor's antics led to the groundhog biting the mayor's finger through His Honor's glove though it apparently wasn't a wicked, to-the-bone kind of bite."

Also, in "Muckraker of the Day," you will hear about the efforts a few years ago of New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg to abolish the commerce department. Today, he was nominated by President Obama to lead that department.

Thanks in advance for watching tonight's 6 p.m. show (and Countdown at 8 p.m.!)

Our "Quote of the Day" is from Bo Schembechler one of the great coaches/educators of all time; a man I had the pleasure of watching on many occasions and meeting on a few.

"When your team is winning, be ready to be tough, because winning can make you soft. On the other hand, when your team is losing, stick by them. Keep believing."

"1600" airs at 6 p.m. in Washington/New York/Ann Arbor; 5 p.m. in Chicago; 4 p.m. in Denver; and 3 p.m. in Costa Mesa, Ca.



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