It's all in the open now – and no, Mr. Speaker, we're not kidding you. The budget deal reached against most odds may be forgotten long before the fight inside the Republican Party is resolved.
It was a week of selfies and sign language. Chris Christie found himself stuck in some traffic of his own making. Sarah Palin is watching, Mike Huckabee is thinking, and John Cornyn joined his colleagues in sweating out 2014. If you're coloring at home, you can now make Ted Cruz as blue as you want.
Here's a look at some of the stories your ABC News political team will be tracking in the week ahead:
|NOT DONE YET|
Don't be fooled by the breakout of bipartisanship in the House. The budget deal still has to go through the Senate, where Democrats are searching for votes in a chamber that's simply broken – even grading on the current Washington curve. The politics of the budget deal are different for Senate Republicans, who are in the minority, than House Republicans, who control the place and therefore have some responsibility to govern. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needs to find five Republican votes to overcome the planned GOP filibuster, and he can't even start that shopping until senators clear the decks of a series of nominations. On that front, all-night sessions are the new normal -- Republican retaliation for the so-called "nuclear option" designed to break GOP filibusters of presidential nominees. Since that move, things have only gotten worse.
The Republican civil war didn't start this week, and it won't end with the budget vote that brought it into the open. Tea party groups are promising retribution against members of Congress that they see as having violated conservative principles. House members are headed to their districts just in time to hear what their constituents think of the deal that just got struck. It happens to fall in the midst of prime recruiting season for challengers – a fresh chance for tea-party groups to show their muscle, after House Speaker John Boehner bluntly called out their motives and methods. "We'll be watching," declared Sarah Palin, in opposing the budget deal struck by Paul Ryan. Game on.
|DEADLINES AND DELIVERY|
Yes, Obamacare enrollment ticked up last month. No, it's not where it was projected to be. Yes, the Website is working better. No, the administration can't guarantee that it can handle a crush of procrastinating shoppers that could hit it over the next week-plus. Get ready for talk of a new deadline: Dec. 23 – the date by which you have to enroll in a health plan if you want your coverage to start Jan. 1. Even that, though, will be hard to achieve: The administration is seeking to pressure insurance companies to make good on that promise, but the companies are warning that it could make things more complicated. The pace of enrollments needs to pick up for the health care law to be judged a success, though a flood of new applicants will be harder to process.
– Iran. Syria. North Korea. Iraq. Afghanistan. Name the hot spot, and we're at or near a tipping point when it comes to US foreign policy. Secretary of State John Kerry is hopscotching across regions again, looking for breakthroughs and putting out fires that seem to be popping up with alarming regularity. Meanwhile, President Obama's NSA eavesdropping panel delivers its recommendations, in a report that will be as eagerly read in foreign capitals as in Washington. Plus, new information is emerging about the fake sign-language interpreter who stood just feet from the president during Nelson Mandela's memorial service in South Africa. Kerry sits down with ABC's Martha Raddatz this weekend in Vietnam, in an interview that will air on "This Week."
|WHERE IN THE WORLD IS SCOTT BROWN?|
Actually, we know exactly where he'll be next Thursday night – at a holiday fundraiser for the New Hampshire Republican Party. Yes, New Hampshire – again. Brown has been spending a whole bunch of time in the state he's long had a vacation home in, as he ponders a Senate run in the state neighboring the one he represented for three years down in Washington. He's got plenty of time to make up his mind – the filing deadline for the Republican primary isn't until June – which will give him ample opportunity to remember what state he's in, for starters. He might even have time to get New Hampshire license plates on his famous pickup truck.