The presidents' club has met. Miranda rights have been read. The sequester has been felt. Red lines are being drawn, and maybe drawn again. Now, Washington is about to get dressed up. And soon, voters will be voting in two special elections of particular interest. Your ABC News political unit will be tracking all that and more in the week ahead:
President Obama makes a three-day trip to Mexico and Costa Rica starting Thursday, where he'll meet with the leaders of both countries, deliver a speech to students in Mexico City and attend a working dinner with leaders of Central American countries. His hosts have plenty they want to talk about. On the agenda are drug enforcement, gun trafficking and marijuana legalization efforts on this side of the border, plus a new Venezuelan leader and the pressure for changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba. The visit also comes as immigration reform heats up in this country, an issue with direct implications for our friends and neighbors to the south. This trip will mark a chance for the president to influence a debate in Congress that's off to a slower-than-expected start in Boston's wake.
|One Night Only|
If you're like us, you've always wanted to see Mark Sanford debate Stephen Colbert's sister. You get your one chance Monday night, as Sanford and Elizabeth Colbert Busch spend 75 minutes mixing it up at The Citadel in Charleston a week before the special House election that pits them against each other. The real-life Colbert Busch will be an upgrade as an opponent for Sanford, who's been traveling around the district "debating" a cardboard cutout of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to demonstrate his opponent's reluctance to agree to other debates. That's not the weirdest thing the former South Carolina governor, of Appalachian Trail fame, has done in recent weeks. He also took out a full-page newspaper ad explaining a bizarre trespassing complaint his ex-wife lodged against him -- and published his personal cell phone number, inviting concerned citizens to call him for a more full explanation. Democrats have been obliging him, in quite large numbers.
Voters in Massachusetts will choose their candidates for John Kerry's old Senate seat, with a pair of sitting House members vying for the coveted Democratic nomination in Tuesday's primary. Last Monday's Boston Marathon attack and its hectic, violent aftermath shut down whole communities near the state's population centers and muted campaigning in the race. But the events don't appear to have impacted the political equation. Rep. Ed Markey, who's represented a House district north of Boston since 1976 and has the backing of virtually of the state's Democratic establishment, is favored to beat out the more conservative Rep. Stephen Lynch, of South Boston. Lynch, though, was highly visible in his hometown at early post-attack press conferences featuring elected officials. The Republican candidates include Michael Sullivan, a former U.S. attorney and ATF director; Dan Winslow, a state representative and former judge and legal counsel to then-Gov. Mitt Romney; and Gabriel Gomez, a former Navy SEAL and Harvard MBA who's the son of Colombian immigrants.
Business travelers -- plus members of Congress who typically fly at least twice a week -- got their sequester fix, with fast action to ameliorate automatic budget cuts that were furloughing air-traffic controllers. Whether or not that makes for friendlier skies, the big question will be whether other constituencies impacted by budget cuts get similar help. If the House and Senate can help frequent fliers inconvenienced by delays, what about the long-term unemployed, who are seeing smaller checks as a result of automatic budget cuts? Families that rely on Head Start? Low-income Americans looking for cancer or HIV screenings?
|Hollywood Meets Washington|
Saturday night is the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner, ostensibly a scholarship fundraiser that also doubles as the one night a year that Washington goes all Hollywood. President Obama will deliver remarks -- presumably funny ones, though world and national events may impact the humor level. Conan O'Brien will provide the entertainment, invited back a mere 18 years after his first such act at this dinner. Among those walking the red carpet this year will be Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg, Scarlett Johansson, Shaquille O'Neal, Jon Bon Jovi, Kerry Washington and Connie Britton. Oh, and plenty of senators and Cabinet secretaries and generals will be there, too, if not as well-dressed.