|Tax Drip, Loan Sharks, Drones: 5 Stories You'll Care About in Politics|
|By RICK KLEIN (@rickklein)||May 24, 2013, 5:30 PM|
This week we learned that a scandal doesn't go away just because you refuse to talk about it. (Sorry, IRS.) We also learned that if you want to be mayor of New York City, maybe the only thing worse than self-portraits is pictures of, say, Pittsburgh. (Welcome to the race, Anthony Weiner.) We're trying to find out if a heckler technically is still a heckler if you make her part of your sales pitch. (Thanks for the food for thought, President Obama). After a week when Washington sort of worked – and worked so hard it must be time for another congressional vacation – we promise not to take the Fifth as the ABC News political unit tracks these stories and more in the week to come:
Week one of congressional hearings on the IRS scandal ended without full answers to big questions. We still don't know who actually ordered the targeting of conservative groups, why it didn't come out before the election, and how exactly President Obama appears to have been kept in the dark. One IRS official who might have some answers, Lois Lerner, took the Fifth – but Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., says she did it wrong and plans to haul her back in front of Congress. There's plenty of political mileage left in this story, and lawmakers will be home for the week to get an earful from constituents on the subject. The next play for Republicans is likely to use IRS snooping as an excuse to go after Obamacare, which includes an expanded role for the IRS itself in administration and enforcement. IRS Official Lois Lerner Placed on Administrative Leave
President Obama visits tornado-damaged Oklahoma on Sunday, an opportunity for him to revive his role as consoler-in-chief. And on Tuesday, he'll be on the Jersey shore to celebrate the first post-Sandy summer, alongside New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., with or without his fleece. Waiting for the president back in Washington is the possibility of an interesting debate over disaster funding. Several members of Oklahoma's congressional delegation were among the most vocal critics of a Sandy funding bill that paralyzed Congress around the New Year, with accusations of pork-barrel spending and an insistence that money for disaster relief be paid for with cuts elsewhere in the budget. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., insists that he'll hold funding for his own state to the same standard, but others aren't fond of the precedent that sets. Oklahoma may not have to ask Congress for additional federal funds – FEMA has some $11 billion in its relief fund – but if and when that money runs dry, look for some uncomfortable statements and votes. Okla. Rep. Tom Cole Says State Needs Help, Not a Funding Battle
Schools are getting out, but there's a rude interruption waiting in the middle of the summer for some seven million college students. The interest rate on federally subsidized Stafford loans is set to double July 1, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, unless Congress acts. Those are a tricky three words; the House actually did act this week to tie loan rates to the market – basically, as ABC's Jeff Zeleny describes it, like an adjustable-rate mortgage. But President Obama is threatening to veto the bill, and he favors a plan that would establish fixed rates. To further complicate matters, liberal lawmakers – including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. – are pushing a proposal to set the loan rate at the extremely low rate the Fed charges banks, south of 1 percent, for at least a year. Nobody wants student loan rates to skyrocket. But everyone has a different plan, and this is looking like the legislative fight of the summer.
President Obama sought to recast the legal framework for the fight against terrorism with a major speech Thursday. The big headline was on drones, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., got an answer to his many questions, though not one he's fully satisfied with, of course. Other Republicans (not from the libertarian side) are responding by saying the president is going soft in the war on terror – even suggesting that we call it something else. Beyond drones, the biggest congressional struggle will be over the president's revived plans to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There will be efforts to fight his planned transfer of prisoners – and good luck convincing any member of Congress that the new detention center should be in his or her district.
The immigration bill cleared its first major hurdle this past week, with a bipartisan vote out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. But now things get complicated. The full Senate dives in starting the week after the Memorial Day break, and the current bill may not have the requisite 60 votes, much less the 70-plus smart observers say it would need to put sufficient pressure on the House. Ah yes, the House – it's still controlled by Republicans who are much more inclined to support the border enforcement provisions than paths to legalized status. House leaders are saying they want to use their own bill as a framework, not the Senate bill, which just means more time for everything, and more chances for momentum to be lost. A week at home for members of Congress could alter some perspectives, as always.