Wait – what happened? All of a sudden things are moving in Washington. Don't be too alarmed, it may not last. But it's been a dizzying week in politics, and there's only more good things to come that we're tracking in ABC's political unit in the week ahead…
The first hurdle has been cleared, but there's a whole bunch of laps to go. The gun-control measure got major boosts by clearing a procedural roadblock April 11, and with the announcement a day earlier of a bipartisan deal on background checks. But the group of senators committed to stopping the bill will be able to throw up new obstacles for almost as long as they choose to fight. A big factor will be the continued public pressure from gun-violence victims and their families, who have become the most effective citizen-lobbyists in memory. Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly will be on the Hill in person to help make the case, along with countless others impacted by Newtown and other recent tragedies. Will the NRA and its allies choose to cut its losses at some point – and hope for a better result in the House? Or will the fight slog on through two weeks (or more) of Senate talk?
So the Senate's "Gang of Eight" missed its informal deadline of reaching an agreement this week. But what's great about being a senator is you get to make your own deadlines. All of our reporting suggests that the gang is tantalizingly close to having a final product, with Tuesday circled as the likeliest day for a bill to be introduced. That in itself will mark a major step toward comprehensive immigration reform, though many steps would remain. The good news for the gang is that Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is still very much part of the negotiations. Rubio, who will do an unprecedented round of seven Sunday-show interviews this weekend (including Spanish-language Univision and Telemundo), continues to be viewed as the linchpin to getting something through the Senate.
|REPORTING FOR COLBERT|
The Democratic establishment is rallying behind its candidate in South Carolina, the one with a famous maiden name. A Washington fundraiser Monday for Elizabeth Colbert Busch, who's running against Mark Sanford in the special election for the Charleston-area House seat, will feature boldfaced Democratic names including Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Oh, and the candidate's brother, some guy with a TV show, will be there, too. National and state Democrats would love for this contest to be competitive, and to keep Sanford from coming back to Congress. It would have to start with the money – and some celebrity buzz doesn't hurt. Colbert Busch is also drawing heat for not yet committing to debates with Sanford, the first of which would occur next week.
|TAX DAY TEA|
Tea partiers love tax day. More accurately, they love to hate tax day, and protest tax day. This April 15, one leading tea party group, FreedomWorks, is doing something they haven't tried before. The group has recruited 12 members of Congress to introduce a package of bills, in what's being called a "Fair New Deal." Expect tea party boilerplate around cutting taxes and spending, plus individual liberties. But in an intriguing twist, the group is also promising to fight to "end corporate handouts," an initiative that could leave tea parties in league with Occupy Wall Streeters, a point FreedomWorks organizers concede. The details will be important, but subsidies for business investment and development is pretty tightly tied in with the Republican Party, so this could mark a split between the tea party movement and the GOP.
April 15 is the first day in a series of important furlough dates for government employees impacted by the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester. The majority of the 4,700 Department of Labor employees who received furlough notices start facing some forced, unpaid time off, ABC's Sarah Parnass reports. Next Sunday April 21 is an even bigger date, with FAA and EPA employees among those who will begin to be impacted. The rolling start of furloughs will mean some limitations in government services – and might mark a change in how the public views the sequester. So far, the ripples haven't been felt. But with reports of delayed trials and scaled-back Medicare services, that could change. Just wait until the first series of flight delays connected to budget cuts roll in, or so the White House argument goes.
|SANTORUM TO IOWA|
It's never too early for 2016 talk. Actually, it is too early, but that's not stopping Rick Santorum from spending Monday in Iowa, with a pair of events announced as if they're early-early campaign-style visits. Santorum won the Iowa caucuses (very narrowly and very late) in 2012, and was the last man standing against Mitt Romney in the Republican primary contests. He's made no secret of his possible interest in 2016, and he'd be an immediate favorite among social conservatives if he jumped in the race. There's a sizeable contingent inside the GOP that thinks part of the party's problem is straying from traditional conservative principles, and that contingent has been becoming more vocal even as some members of the GOP have begun to support gay marriage. Does Santorum become their guy?