|Gun Control, Obama at G8: Politics This Week|
|By RICK KLEIN (@rickklein)||Jun 14, 2013, 7:26 PM|
It was a week of red lines and green lights, and yellow caution signs around the big legislative pushes of the year. Hillary Clinton told us a bit of what "TBD" means to her, Marco Rubio remained TBD on immigration reform, Michael Bloomberg is set to take some New York attitude to Arkansas and Alaska, and Bill Clinton joined Chris Christie to talk about ... well, insurance tables and flood zones, but the picture was worth the bureaucratic humdrum.
So while lawmakers' kids made for some uncomfortable Father's Day conversations, here are some of the stories the ABC News political unit is watching in the week ahead:
President Obama leaves Sunday for a four-day trip to Europe, a visit that will include major speeches in Berlin and Belfast, Northern Ireland. The main purpose of the trip is the G8 summit, in Northern Ireland, where Syria is likely to be the top topic. The crossing of the "red line" regarding chemical weapons puts the president on the same page as some key allies, brightening the prospects of a strong international coalition to support the rebels. But Russia, of course, is on a different page; Obama will be meeting one-on-one with President Vladimir Putin while in Northern Ireland. Also an issue for the trip: the recently disclosed NSA surveillance efforts, which are targeted at non-Americans. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she plans to ask Obama about the NSA programs during their meeting.
President Obama said he lost "round one" on gun control when the Senate fell five votes short of approving near-universal background checks for gun purchases. The next round, then, is upon us. Vice President Joe Biden is hoping to capitalize on momentum from the just-passed six-month anniversary of the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn., with the first White House event on guns since the background checks measure fell short two months ago. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is now lobbying donors and launching a bus tour to pressure "no" votes who are seen as possible switches, but the chances are still remote. Supporters need to flip at least five votes just in the Senate to get a different outcome the next time than they did the last.
There's only one full week of campaigning left in the Massachusetts Senate special election, and the big question is whether and when the GOP cavalry will arrive. Allies of Republican candidate Gabriel Gomez are practically begging outside groups and big donors to open up their checkbooks on behalf of the Latino/Navy SEAL/Harvard MBA/political newcomer. The national troops have arrived in force for 37-year Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., with an all-star roster including President and Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton all making late campaign trips on his behalf. But there's a sense in Republican circles that while it's former Sen. Scott Brown's home state, Massachusetts is probably too much of a climb for a Republican like Gomez. And donors who felt burned by bad investments in 2012 are keeping their wallets a little tighter in a wipeout election's aftermath.
The Senate's slow march through the immigration bill is continuing, and the first week wasn't particularly encouraging for advocates of a comprehensive reform bill. At issue are a range of Republican-backed amendments that would strengthen border security as a condition of any path to legalization for undocumented immigrants. Adopting those amendments are clearly the only realistic way to draw wide Republican support on the order that could force the House to follow suit. House Speaker John Boehner is now saying he expects a final bill by the end of the year, but he's made clear it needs stronger border measures to gain his blessing. In the middle -- still -- is Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who continues to suggest he could oppose the bill he helped write if it doesn't take those concerns into account.
If the post-election memo to Republicans was to stop talking about abortion and rape, well, not everybody read it. The House is poised to vote on the "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," which would ban abortions after 20 weeks, with the only exception for the life of the mother -- not rape or incest victims. The bill stands a 0 percent chance of becoming law, with a Democratic Senate and president, not to mention the constitutional concerns it would raise as long as Roe v. Wade is in effect. But the measure's chief sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., guaranteed the wrong kind of attention for his bill when he said this past week that "the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low." Franks quickly clarified his comment, but the memories of Todd ("legitimate rape") Akin are sufficiently fresh for some Republicans to prompt alarm. Gabriel Gomez, the GOP Senate candidate in Massachusetts, went out of his way to label Franks a "moron" -- several times, actually -- in an interview with ABC News.
And one more for (sort of) fun ...
The third branch of government is set to make big news. As always, though, we don't know quite when. That means Washington's game for the next few Mondays, and probably Thursdays, will involve hitting refresh on SCOTUSblog.com in the morning before moving on to other things -- until a big one hits. Huge cases on gay marriage, affirmative action and voting rights have been decided but await release, with implications to follow. The pair of gay marriage cases -- on California's ban and the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act -- are perhaps the most eagerly anticipated. The court term is expected to end the last week of June.