By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum seems to be popping up everywhere these days. Today, Santorum is in Austin, Tex. to rally support for legislation banning abortions after 20 weeks, which is making its way through the Texas state legislature during a special session. Santorum will be joined by Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, members of the Texas House and Senate, pastors and representatives from anti-abortion rights groups. It's just the latest in a string of national appearances the former Pennsylvania senator (and potential future presidential contender) has been making this year through his Patriot Voices PAC. Over the last few months, he's inserted himself into debates about the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, the Congressional fight over gun control, the investigation into the Boston bombings and even the United Nations Disabilities Treaty - to name just a few. "When I look at the Republican Party these days and who the quote 'leaders' are, I'm not particularly comfortable that they're reflecting the values of conservatives," Santorum said in an interview yesterday with ABC News. "I try to pick my spots where my voice is needed."
ABC'S CHRIS GOOD: Without really doing anything, Hillary Clinton has managed to become the seemingly inevitable Democratic presidential nominee a second time. This week, ABC's Jeff Zeleny reported on yet another development in the Hillary-for-2016 movement-that the pro-Clinton super PAC "Ready for Hillary" (not affiliated with Clinton herself) will be staffed by top Obama strategists-and as ABC's Rick Klein has pointed out, the 2016 race is basically underway. When Clinton ran in 2007, she was seen as an all-but-certain nominee, and her campaign sought to capitalize on the air of inevitability she enjoyed. It was an oft-repeated, but seemingly very accurate, theme surrounding her run. That aura was supposed to be an advantage for Clinton in '08, but it could be considered the opposite, insofar as supposed inevitability caused some primary voters to get tired of her-in other words, Clinton's frontrunner status lent her candidacy a fatalism that made her less exciting (at a time when voters were ready to gamble a bit on change) and made the notion of voting for her seem less like a choice. Three years before the 2016 election, it's hard to see how anything has changed.
COMING IN AUGUST: EMILY'S LIST TAKES CAMPAIGN TO ELECT A WOMAN PRESIDENT TO IOWA. In another sign that the next presidential election season is starting earlier than ever, this summer the national political organization, Emily's List, is bringing its campaign to elect a woman president to a state with outsize influence on that process: Iowa. ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE reports that the group, which is devoted to electing pro-abortion rights Democratic women to office, is planning to hold a town hall meeting in Des Moines on Aug. 9 tied to its "Madam President" effort, which aims to put a woman in the White House in 2016. Timed to coincide with the kick-off of the Iowa State Fair, traditionally a must-stop on the presidential campaign circuit, the event promises a "discussion featuring women candidates and political operatives, the introduction of new data and polling and a question and answer session with the audience." The panel will include Emily's List President Stephanie Schriock and will be moderated by long-time Iowa political journalist O. Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa. Additional participants will be announced ahead of the event. "Our polling shows that Iowa voters are absolutely ready to elect our first woman president and now is the time to capitalize on that energy and enthusiasm," Schriock said. "Emily's List is eager to lead this discussion in the state that is the first step to the White House - and offer a clear contrast to the Republican 2016 hopefuls who'll be hawking their backwards agenda at the Iowa State Fair." http://abcn.ws/12G7vek
NOTED: Even as Democratic activists get a head start on the 2016 presidential cycle in Iowa this summer, they will have company. An influential Christian conservative group, the Family Leader, is planning a summit that will take place on Aug. 10 on the Iowa State University campus in Ames featuring potential Republican presidential contenders like Sen. Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum. Donald Trump is also scheduled to speak and other top GOP leaders are likely to attend the Family Leadership Summit and drop by the Iowa State Fair.
CHUCK SCHUMER RAILS AGAINST 'POORLY TRAINED' FOREIGN AIRLINE PILOTS. Sen. Chuck Schumer wants other countries to train their pilots just as extensively as American airlines have to, ABC's CHRIS GOOD reports. "There is no reason that American passenger should be put at risk by poorly trained pilots in other countries," Schumer, D-N.Y., said during a press conference at the U.S. Senate yesterday with Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y. After the Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco on Saturday, Schumer pointed to a trend of planes crashing due to lack of airspeed and new requirements, slated to take effect in October, that pilots undergo extensive training to prevent and deal with stalls. "It's a troubling pattern of pilot error and an inadequate response to stalling," Schumer said. "What's even more troubling is that we have new, tighter safety standards on pilot trainings for situations like stalling that are already written and passed, but are waiting to be finalized." After Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed near Buffalo, N.Y., in February 2009, Schumer shepherded new airline-safety regulations through the Senate. They passed in 2011, and the Federal Aviation Administration is slated to finalize some of the new regulations in October, including training for stalls, Schumer said. Now, the senator not only wants the FAA to "expedite" the implementation of those rules, but for other countries whose airlines fly to the U.S. to adopt them as well. http://abcn.ws/189JMLJ
PRESIDENT OBAMA HONORS THE ARTS … AND 'STAR WARS'. Awarding the national medals for arts and humanities, President Obama yesterday highlighted the cultural importance of the literary work of Joan Didion, the rhythm and blues of Allen Toussaint, and, of course, the cool special effects of "Star Wars," ABC's MARY BRUCE reports. Recalling the first time he saw "Star Wars," the president joked how Medal of Arts recipient filmmaker George Lucas transformed special effects to "make it look like those planes in space are actually flying." "I remember when I first saw 'Star Wars,'" he said, chuckling. "There's a whole generation that thinks special effects always look like they do today. But it used to be you'd see, like, the string on the little model spaceships." "I'm being led astray," he told the audience at the formal White House ceremony. With his remarks back on track, the president praised the 24 honorees for their outstanding contributions to the nation's arts and humanities. http://abcn.ws/10NBNy7
STUDENT-LOAN FIX FAILS IN SENATE. Interest rates on subsidized student loans have doubled, but Congress has shown no signs that it will send a fix to the president's desk any time soon after it failed to pass a bill yesterday, ABC's CHRIS GOOD notes. Republicans and Democrats have yet to reach agreement on what to do about the higher new student loan rates, which kicked in last week as lawmakers spent their 4th of July recess barbecuing, attending parades, and meeting with constituents in their home states and districts. Stafford loans' original interest rate was 6.8 percent, but in recent years the government subsidized those rates for low-income students, holding them to 3.4 percent. Now they've returned to 6.8 percent. Yesterday, Senate Democrats failed to advance a one-year, retroactive fix that would keep rates at 3.4 percent on loans made from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014. The procedural vote was 51-49 in favor of moving the Democrat-supported bill forward. It needed 60 votes to advance. http://abcn.ws/1brejU1
A NATIONAL PARK ON THE MOON? Two Democratic congresswomen are over the moon for the creation of a new national park-literally. Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, and Donna Edwards, D-Md., filed a bill this week which would establish a new national park on the surface of the moon at the site of the Apollo lunar landings, ABC's GARRETT BRUNO writes. Concerned about potential damage to the historic areas, the congresswomen write in the bill that "as commercial enterprises and foreign nations acquire the ability to land on the Moon it is necessary to protect the Apollo lunar landing sites for posterity." "I realize that it can sound far-fetched to say that we're going to have a National Park on the Moon," Edwards wrote in a statement. "I don't think that there is anything far-fetched about protecting and preserving such irreplaceable items and such a hallowed place." The bill, deemed the "Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act," was submitted through the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, of which Edwards is the ranking Democrat. Johnson is the top Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Space. http://abcn.ws/15fQKZp
BUSH 41 VISITING WHITE HOUSE MONDAY. President Obama and former President George H.W. Bush are joining forces Monday to highlight their commitment to volunteerism and community service, according to ABC's MARY BRUCE. The 41st president is returning to the White House to celebrate a major milestone of the Point of Light Award, which he established in 1990. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will host the former president, former first lady Barbara Bush, and members of the Bush family at the White House to celebrate the 5000th Point of Light Award. http://abcn.ws/153uIsQ
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX
PLANNED PARENTHOOD RALLIES AGAINST ABORTION RESTRICTIONS (AND MARCO RUBIO). Planned Parenthood will hold a "Stand with Women" rally this morning at Upper Senate Park in Washington, DC. According to a release from the group, "As states like Texas and North Carolina continue to advance dangerous legislation to limit access to safe and legal abortion and Senator Marco Rubio is reportedly poised to introduce a nationwide 20-week abortion ban, hundreds of Planned Parenthood staff and supporters will rally on Capitol Hill." Participants include Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Senator Al Franken (D-MN); Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT); Dr. Jamila Perritt, Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, DC; and Kaori Sueyoshi, a student at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
@JesseFFerguson: Governor Bob McDonnell's potential statement on family values: "please give everything of value to my family. Thanks."
@robertcostaNRO: Apocalypse now: Ted Cruz just called regulators "locusts" at a DC breakfast.