|Gay Marriage, Border Control: Five Stories You'll Care About in Politics|
|By RICK KLEIN (@rickklein)||Jun 21, 2013, 6:07 PM|
We didn't know that the White House promise of transparency would extend to presidential outerwear, so that Berlin speech wasn't a total loss. We didn't know that Hillary Clinton was paying attention to the PAC set up in her name, though we did suspect that she wanted to see a female president in her lifetime. We did know immigration reform was on the march, though we didn't know it was marching in two different directions, on opposite sides of the Capitol. We definitely don't know who's in charge of the House of Representatives, though we do have some suspects.
As for suspected future news, here's a glimpse of some of the stories your ABC News political unit will be tracking in the week ahead:
How about those procrastinators at the high court? This coming week is supposed to be the last week of the court session, and massive cases impacting broad social policy remain incomplete. So we will wait on Monday (and probably Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday, plus maybe beyond) for possibly earth-rattling decisions on gay marriage – both at the state and federal levels – in addition to affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act. Decades of major national legislation impacting the lives and rights of millions of Americans are in the balance – though of course we don't know which days exactly they'll be tipping, or whether the Supreme Court will find a way to issue narrow rulings that duck the sweeping issues of the day.
Voters are voting in Massachusetts on Tuesday, in the special election to fill the seat once held by Secretary of State John Kerry. Republicans have loved the biography of their candidate, Gabriel Gomez, more than they've shown love for his actual candidacy. National GOP donors have proven unwilling or unable to match the outside support on the Democratic side. That leaves veteran Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., the prohibitive front-runner, and a Gomez victory would be a genuine and total shock at this point. That would mean a Democrat continuing to represent the heavily Democratic state, shattering hopes of another Scott Brown-style upset. But if the race is closer than the double-digit margin polls have shown, expect plenty of regrets to emanate from the Bay State about what could have been if national Republicans went all-in for the political newcomer with Latino roots and a central-casting resume.
The first African-American U.S. president makes his first major trip to Africa as president, landing Wednesday for a trip meant to signal American reengagement with the continent. President Obama will visit Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania on the weeklong journey. Nelson Mandela's tenuous health will be a major backdrop of the trip; while no meeting between Obama and Mandela is now expected, the president will visit Mandela's former prison cell on Robben Island. Though Obama has been in Africa for less than 24 hours as president – a quick trip to Ghana, in 2009 – he was treated like the rock star he would later become back in 2006, in a trip where his celebrity as a U.S. senator led to celebrations throughout his travels. Of course, it's more hot weather for Obama, after a week in which his sweltering speech in Berlin was among the highlights (or not so much) of a European trip.
There's distinct momentum around the immigration-reform push – though in opposite directions. Things look good for a 70-plus vote in the Senate, with a vote expected Monday on a tighter (and quite expensive) border-security package negotiated to attract Republican support. In the House, though, efforts to include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants suffered a series of setbacks, most notably with House Speaker John Boehner's pledge to only permit a vote for a bill that a majority of Republicans supports. That puts more pressure on senators to deliver an overwhelming margin of victory for a bill. Thus far, the hard-to-read actions of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., appear to be paying off: Fox News host Bill O'Reilly signed on to the Gang of 8 bill this past week, giving conservative supporters a big measure of cover.
Interest rates on student loans will double July 1, if Congress doesn't act. Ahh, those famous four words… Of course, there's every reason to think Congress will act to prevent that rate hike, since nobody is out there advocating that students should be paying more for their college educations in this era of low interest rates. And yet, a blizzard of competing proposals are circulating, and Senate Democrats are complaining that the White House seems to want an approach closer to House Republicans' than their own. Caught in between are the students. (Students apply for new loans annually, so someone who just finished his or her freshman year would pay rates twice as high during sophomore year.) If Congress can't act by July 1, remember that it's fun to be Congress: Rates can be adjusted retroactively.