It's a new era in Washington, but somehow it feels like an old era – members of Congress have skipped town, President Obama is calling for a new tone, and House Speaker John Boehner is still House Speaker John Boehner. The lights are back on, and Healthcare.gov is still running, whether the Obama administration really wants that or not. Cory Booker is coming to the Senate, so it's just as well that Ted Cruz says he doesn't care about making friends. Speaking of rising stars, there's this woman who hasn't been seen on the political stage in, oh, five years or so … perhaps you've heard of her … ran for president herself back in the day…
Here's a glimpse of some of the stories your ABC News political team will be tracking in the week ahead:
|RETURN TO NORMALCY|
Congratulations, Washington: You didn't destroy the economy. That might be all that was accomplished, though, in the so-called "historic" agreement that only ignores all of history in using that label. Don't believe the bipartisan backslapping: The capital will return to form soon enough, with intractable and divisive issues sending members of Congress back to their partisan corners – or so we assume. President Obama seemed more hopeful, in his post-shutdown call for a new tone, and his non-controversial declaration that Americans "are completely fed up with Washington." Next comes a conference committee charged with resolving budget disagreements inside the space of seven weeks. Add to that the president's promise to push immigration reform and a farm bill before the end of the year, and there will be ample opportunities for Washington to show whether it can change its stripes.
Among the breaks Democrats got these past few weeks was that the government shutdown obscured the abysmal rollout of the insurance exchanges brought to you by the new Obama health care law. The Website's frequent crashes and confusing instructions have proven to be a low-level embarrassment since the exchanges went live Oct. 1 – but that's set to change now that media attention won't be diverted on other political fights. The first (and surely not the last) congressional hearing on the rollout of the insurance exchanges will be held in the House on Thursday, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is so far declining to attend. Sebelius is under pressure from Republicans to resign (she won't), and Jon Stewart's grilling of her encapsulated liberal unease with the Obamacare launch. Sebelius' agency, meanwhile, is under pressure to reveal numbers about how many Americans have actually enrolled in health care to date. Obamacare's success or failure will depend on enrollment come January and beyond, but public perceptions of the law are headed nowhere good.
Move over, Sarah Palin. The tea party has a new champion, an old cause, and a fresh set of deadlines to wield as leverage. Sen. Ted Cruz got nothing that he wanted out of the shutdown fight – except for newfound notoriety in the segment of the Republican Party that thinks Obamacare is worth shutting the government down over. A poll out this past week found that some three-fourths of self-identified tea party Republicans have a favorable view of Cruz, even while Republicans more broadly – and the public at large – have a more negative view of the tea party. Cruz isn't ruling out another shutdown effort come the next round of deadlines, starting when funding for the government runs out all over again in January. Tea partiers see the shutdown strategy as a success worth building off of – something most Republicans in Washington disagree with, very much. With 2016 buzz growing, Cruz will be in Iowa next Friday, for the state Republican Party's annual Reagan Dinner.
The uneasy alliance that is the Republican Party had its bonds tested in a showdown that most in the mainstream of the party thought was a mistake from the start. Now the fight moves to 2014: A constellation of tea-party aligned groups is making clear the desire to play heavily in Republican primaries next year, even (especially?) if that means taking on a Republican incumbent. A few of those groups just added Mississippi to the list of states where they're taking on GOP establishment candidates, with South Carolina and Tennessee probably not far behind. The marquee contest will be efforts to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, and McConnell's partnership with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the deal to reopen the government only widens the target on his back. One tea party group with ties to Ted Cruz endorsed McConnell's primary opponent the day after the government reopened.
|BACK IN ACTION|
Did you miss her? Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday will attend her first public political event in some five years, an event to drum up support among women for Terry McAuliffe's candidacy for governor of Virginia. It's part of a raft of public and private events on behalf of McAuliffe, an old Bill Clinton friend and former Democratic National Committee chairman whom polls suggest is in good shape to win the gubernatorial race next month. It's also part of the rather swift reemergence of Clinton since leaving her post as secretary of state earlier this year. She's been busy collecting awards and giving paid speeches, and has sprinkled some policy addresses into the mix. This, though, is the first time we'll see her in a campaign setting since she worked for President Obama's election back in 2008.