The past week offered a brief respite from many of the battles that have gripped Washington over the last few weeks, and gave the Obama administration, in particular, a chance to catch its breath after getting clobbered by a trio of scandals. President Obama started the week surveying the post-Superstorm Sandy rebuilding efforts along the Jersey shore with Gov. Chris Christie by his side. The president ended it Friday with a pre-emptive strike at House Republicans ahead of a July 1 deadline to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling. In the meantime, conservative firebrand Rep. Michele Bachmann announced she would not be seeking re-election to Congress in 2014 and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee informed the political world about a transition of his own -- a party switch from independent to Democrat. With those sideshows in the rearview mirror, members of Congress return from a week-long recess this Monday for the main event. The ABC News Political Unit will be tracking Congressional efforts to keep the heat on the Internal Revenue Service over its targeting of conservative groups as well as several other stories that will be in the headlines next week:
On Monday, a House Appropriations subcommittee will hear from IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel about what steps the agency has already taken to address the IRS's controversial practices and to hold those responsible accountable. Also at the witness table will be J. Russell George, the Treasury Department's Inspector General. The House Ways and Means committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday featuring representatives from conservative organizations that were targeted by the IRS (some of those groups filed a joint lawsuit against the agency this week). And that's not all. On Thursday, J. Russell George returns to Capitol Hill to appear before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform "about a newly released audit uncovering information about excessive spending at IRS conferences."
|Top Brass to Testify|
Top U.S. military officials, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey and Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno, will appear before a Senate panel on Tuesday to testify about sexual assault in the military. The Senate Armed Services Committee will begin considering legislation on the issue next week. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is one of the senators leading the charge to address military sexual assault with a package of bills that could be included in the National Defense Authorization Act, scheduled for a vote on June 12. Also appearing at Tuesday's hearing are: Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations; Gen. James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps; Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, Chief of Staff of the Air Force; and Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr., Commandant of the Coast Guard, among others.
President Obama heads west next week for a series of fundraisers to benefit the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee – part of his aggressive push to boost his party's prospects heading into the 2014 midterm election cycle. But his most important event will be a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping – the first one-on-one sit-down between the two world leaders since the president's re-election last November. As the AP notes in a preview of the meeting, which will take place at the private Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Obama and Xi are trying to develop the "kind of personal chemistry that has eluded their predecessors for the past several decades." Topics likely on the agenda: Cybersecurity, including recent reports of Chinese hacking of U.S. military assets, the threat posed by North Korea, Iran and Syria, and trade issues.
Most of the action on immigration reform will take place behind the scenes next week. The bi-partisan group of reformers in the House will be hammering out the remaining details of their proposal and could introduce a bill as early as next week, but Capitol Hill insiders say we might have to wait a little longer to see the complete House version. House negotiators will hear from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the Senate's "Gang of Eight," who plans to address a meeting of the Republican Study Committee next Wednesday. Reform advocates like Rubio will also be busy working behind closed doors to stir up support for the Senate version of the immigration bill, which is expected to head to the floor the week of June 10. All of this work comes as the American people remain pessimistic about the prospects for reform. According to the results of a Quinnipiac University poll released on Friday, 71 percent of voters say Democrats and Republican in Congress will not be able to pass an immigration bill compared to just 24 percent who predict it will happen.
There are primary elections for governor of New Jersey next Tuesday, but the results are a foregone conclusion. Gov. Chris Christie will officially capture the Republican nomination and State Sen. Barbara Buono will get the Democratic nod when voters go to the polls in the Garden State. And while the outcome of next week's contests are not in doubt, it symbolically marks the start of the general election campaign that, by all accounts, Christie should win easily. (Notably, that hasn't stopped Christie from spending big bucks to run television ads on the New Jersey airwaves touting his accomplishments and attacking Buono). Meanwhile, in Utah Mitt Romney, who in an interview with the Wall Street Journal this week, says he plans to take a more public role to "help shape national priorities" is hosting a gathering in Park City. Next week's conference will include Sen. Rand Paul, Rep. Paul Ryan, Gov. Chris Christie, business leaders and even some Democrats like outgoing Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and David Axelrod. Speaking of 2012 memories, the Gallup polling organization on Tuesday is set to release the results of its internal review of what went wrong with its surveys in the run up to Election Day 2012. Gallup's polls consistently showed Romney leading Obama in the month before the election.
|Quote of the Week|
"I don't want to go home" – Vice President Joe Biden in Brasilia, Brazil on Friday at the end of his six-day, three-country trip to South America.