What a week in politics! On Thursday the Senate passed a historic comprehensive immigration reform bill. On Wednesday the Supreme Court also made history killing the Defense of Marriage Act and paving the way for California's gay couples to marry. On Tuesday Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Ed Markey got a promotion to the U.S. Senate after 37 years in the House, beating Republican opponent Gabriel Gomez to fill Secretary of State John Kerry's old seat. And, as far as we know, NSA leaker Edward Snowden is still cooling his heels in the Moscow airport.
What will next week hold?
The Senate acted this week on the comprehensive immigration reform bill, but as lawmakers head back to their states and district for the July 4 recess, the looming question is what wavering members of the U.S. House of Representatives will hear from their constituents in town hall meetings and forums and whether they'll be in the mood to make a deal on immigration when they get back to Washington. But note the comments of House Speaker John Boehner, who said yesterday, "The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes. We're going to do our own bill through regular order, and it'll be legislation that reflects the will of our majority and the will of the American people." The House's immigration "Gang of 7" will be working on the details, and as ABC's Jim Avila and Serena Marshall point out, it's likely the House will produce several separate bills on border safety, high-skilled workers and employee verification, while the pathway to citizenship remains a major potential sticking point. Mark your calendar: The next key date in the House is July 10 when conservatives meet in the Republican Caucus with Speaker Boehner to decide how to proceed.
Surprise, surprise -- Congress is about to miss another deadline. Before they left for recess, lawmakers in Washington failed to reach a compromise on heading off an increase in interest rates on new subsidized Stafford loans, meaning interest rates on those loans are going to double on Monday. Rates will bump up from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. As Fusion's Emily De Ruy points out: "Subsidized Stafford loans are the only type of loan impacted, and the increase will apply to new loans, not existing ones. That means that if you're going to be a junior in college, rates on any subsidized Stafford loans you took out during your freshman and sophomore years won't change. But here's some potentially good news: If Congress reaches an agreement in the future, they can make it retroactive, meaning the increase could be reversible. … The White House and Democrats would like to pass a one-year extension of the 3.4 percent rate and re-examine the issue next year when they are set to consider the Higher Education Act, which governs federal student aid programs. … Whether Republicans will be receptive to such a bill is another matter."
|Texas Two Step|
Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced the Texas state legislature would come back for a special session starting this Monday after efforts to pass abortion restrictions failed this week in the wake of a dramatic filibuster by Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis that lasted more than 12 hours. "Texans value life, and want to protect women and the unborn," Perry said in a statement calling lawmakers back to the state capitol Monday. "We will not allow the breakdown of decorum and decency to prevent us from doing what the people of this state hired us to do." ABC's Arlette Saenz notes that the initial bill would have banned most abortions after the 20-week gestation mark and, critics said, resulted in the closure of nearly all clinics performing abortions in the state. Meanwhile, Perry and Davis now find themselves locked in a war of words over controversial comments the Republican governor made about her during a speech yesterday at the National Right to Life convention in Dallas. Look for more sparks to fly when the Texas state legislature reconvenes next week.
President Obama arrived in South Africa on Friday and the big question mark hanging over the next few days of his trip is whether he will visit the ailing 94-year-old South African leader Nelson Mandela. "I don't need a photo-op," Obama said aboard Air Force One en route to Johannesburg on Friday. "And the last thing I want to do is to be in any way obtrusive at a time when the family is concerned about Nelson Mandela's condition." The AP notes: "Obama and Mandela have met just once, a hastily arranged meeting in a Washington hotel room in 2005 when Obama was a U.S. senator. … Since then, the two have spoken occasionally by telephone, including after the 2008 election, when Mandela called Obama to congratulate him on his victory."
Instead, Obama will not visit the hospital to meet with ailing civil rights icon Nelson Mandela, the White House announced Saturday.
"Out of deference to Nelson Mandela's peace and comfort and the family's wishes, [the president and first lady] will not be visiting the hospital," the White House said.
The president and first lady will, however, meet privately with members of the Mandela family "to offer their thoughts and prayers at this difficult time."
Also on Saturday, Obama will meet with President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. On Sunday, he visits Robben Island, the former prison where Mandela was held and delivers remarks in Cape Town. On Monday, he travels to Tanzania and holds a news conference with President Jakaya Kikwete.
|Gabby Giffords - Road Warrior|
Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, will hit the road next week to bring attention to their push for expanded background checks for gun purchasers -- a proposal that failed in the Senate in April. Giffords and Kelly, founders of the super PAC, Americans for Responsible Solutions, are about to embark on a seven-day, cross-country tour that will kick off the in Nevada on Monday and include stops in Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota and Ohio. "Gabby and I are excited to hit the road this summer and meet so many of the great Americans who are standing with us to fight for common-sense solutions to prevent gun violence and protect our rights," Kelly said in a statement announcing the tour. The schedule for the tour, which will take them to key states home to lawmakers they aim to persuade on the background check issue, is as follows: July 2: Alaska; July 3: North Dakota; July 4: Ohio; July 5: New Hampshire; July 6: Maine; July 7: North Carolina.