The Note: Congress Leaves Town With Unfinished Business

Credit: Tom Williams/Getty Images

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • ALL A-LOAN: Congress has blown another deadline. Before they left for recess, lawmakers in Washington failed to head off an increase in interest rates on certain types of student loans, meaning rates on those loans are going to double today - from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. As FUSION'S EMILY DE RUY points out: "Subsidized Stafford loans are the only type of loan impacted, and the increase will apply to new loans, not existing ones. That means that if you're going to be a junior in college, rates on any subsidized Stafford loans you took out during your freshman and sophomore years won't change. But here's some potentially good news: If Congress reaches an agreement in the future, they can make the rate hike retroactive, meaning the increase could be reversible."
  • IMMIGRATION NATION: The Senate acted last week on the comprehensive immigration reform bill, and lawmakers are back in their states and districts for the July 4 holiday this week hearing from their constituents in town hall meetings and forums. But before leaving for recess, House Speaker John Boehner vowed that "the House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes. We're going to do our own bill through regular order, and it'll be legislation that reflects the will of our majority and the will of the American people." As ABC's JIM AVILA and SERENA MARSHALL point out, it's likely the House will produce several separate bills on border safety, high-skilled workers and employee verification, while the pathway to citizenship remains a major potential sticking point. MARK YOUR CALENDAR: The next key date in the House is July 10 when conservatives meet in the Republican Caucus with Speaker Boehner to decide how to proceed.
  • GABBY GIFFORDS - ROAD WARRIOR: Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, are hitting the road today to bring attention to their push for expanded background checks for gun purchasers - a proposal that failed in the Senate in April. Giffords and Kelly, founders of the super PAC, Americans for Responsible Solutions, are embarking on a seven-day, cross-country tour that kicks off the in Las Vegas today and will take them to key states home to lawmakers they aim to persuade on the background check issue: July 2: Alaska; July 3: North Dakota; July 4: Ohio; July 5: New Hampshire; July 6: Maine; July 7: North Carolina.

PRESIDENTS 44 AND 43 MEET IN AFRICA: This is unprecedented - two U.S. presidents will make a joint public appearance in Africa tomorrow, ABC's JONATHAN KARL reports. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today that former President George W. Bush will join President Obama tomorrow morning at a wreath-laying ceremony at the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to honor the victims of the 1998 bombing. The event will be at 10 a.m. local time, 3 a.m. Eastern First Ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush will also be appearing together - on stage at a conference of African First Ladies hosted by Mrs. Bush. That joint appearance will be moderated by ABC's COKIE ROBERTS.

HAPPENING TODAY: The first family has arrived in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania where the president had a bilateral meeting with President Kikwete and will soon have a joint press conference, ABC's MARY BRUCE notes. Later today, President Obama participates in a CEO roundtable. Afterward, he delivers remarks at a business forum. In the evening, the president and first lady attend an official dinner with President Kikwete.


ABC's RICK KLEIN: Congratulations, students. Your lesson today is how congressional dysfunction sometimes has less to do with partisan disagreements than simple, inexplicable incompetence. The House and Senate are out for the week, and the deadline for figuring out how to keep student-loan rates low passed with barely a mention in Washington. The interest rate on student loans is now twice what it was yesterday, for absolutely no good reason, but lots of bad reasons regarding why Congress can't get its act together. The good news? Congress gets to write its own laws and make its own deadlines. This could all get solved before school starts again in the fall - except, there's apparently no solving the dynamics that allow issues like this to fester this long in the first place.

ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: Here's one debate invitation Vice President Joe Biden is likely to turn down: Biden's appearance at a Virginia Democratic Party Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Richmond, Va. over the weekend on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe has Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican hopeful for governor, crying foul. Biden told the audience that the decision between McAuliffe and Cuccinelli "is about as stark a choice as you could imagine - a choice between the Virginia way and the tea party way," he said, according to the Washington Post. Naturally, the Cuccinelli campaign responded by challenging Biden, himself, to a debate. "Terry McAuliffe and I are in complete agreement that this election is critically important to Virginia's future," Cuccinelli said in a statement. "But if he won't defend his record and articulate his vision through debates, perhaps his surrogate, the vice president will." In fact, the first debate between McAuliffe and Cuccinelli comes later this month when the Virginia Bar Association hosts both candidates for their first one-on-one face-off on July 20.

ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Calling it a "historic commitment" the Republican National Committee and five other GOP committees launched several new initiatives last week aimed at recruiting more female candidates and courting more women to join the party. "We are not a coalition, we are not an outreach group," RNC co-chair Sharon Day said at a press conference announcing the push. "We are the majority of the voters out there, we are 53 percent of the voters and this party understands this." At the event at RNC headquarters ten female members of Congress spoke and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said "as a party we are here to support those who stand up to run and we are going to work hard to get more women to make that decision." Emily's List, a group with the goal of electing female candidates who support abortion rights, is the most direct opponent on the other side of this new initiative. They start recruiting possible candidates from the city council level onwards, supporting female politicians throughout their career, something these new GOP initiatives will try to do as well, but Emily's List has been working on since 2001. Emily's List president Stephanie Schriock actually sent out a memo to "pre-but" the GOP event writing, "Democrats are doing all of the heavy lifting" of working to get more women elected to office. "Achieving gender parity in Congress is a huge undertaking, and it would happen a lot faster if Republicans were doing their fair share when it comes to recruiting and training women," Schriock said. "But the truth is that GOP attempts to bring more women in to the fold are hollow, because the Party platform is to still hostile to policies that actually work for women."


LIFE AS A SYRIAN REFUGEE: A LOOK INSIDE THE WORLD'S SECOND LARGEST REFUGEE CAMP. Well over a million people have fled Syria to escape the war, and as more people continue to seek safety in refugee camps in bordering countries, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says it is a challenge to meet the Syrian refugees' "basic needs" and "ensure their dignity." In an exclusive interview with On The Radar's MARTHA RADDATZ during a visit to the largest Syrian refugee camp in Jordan - now the second largest camp in the world - High Commissioner António Guterres says the Zaatari camp is "a place in the world where human tragedy is more evident than anywhere else." "Here you can see how brutal the conflict has been, how dramatic the situation of the people is, and how difficult it is for us all to be able to support them to ensure their dignity," Guterres said. For more of the interview with Guterres, and to hear what percent of Lebanon's population is now composed of Syrian refugees, check out this episode of On The Radar.


JULIAN ASSANGE: 'NO STOPPING' RELEASE OF ADDITIONAL NSA SECRETS. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said Sunday morning in an exclusive interview with ABC's GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS on "This Week" that there is no stopping the release of additional NSA secrets obtained by Edward Snowden, a former contract employee of the organization. "There is no stopping the publishing process at this stage. Great care has been taken to make sure that Mr. Snowden can't be pressured by any state to stop the publication process. I mean, the United States, by canceling his passport, has left him for the moment marooned in Russia. Is that really a great outcome by the State Department? Is that really what it wanted to do?" Assange said, speaking from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, ABC's KARI REA and BEN BELL report. "I think that every citizen has the right to their citizenship," he continued. "To take someone's principal component of citizenship, their passport, away from them is a disgrace. Mr. Snowden has not been convicted of anything. There are no international warrants out for his arrest. To take a passport from a young man in a difficult situation like that is a disgrace."

NOTED: ASSANGE ON SNOWDEN'S NEXT MOVE - 'ASYLUM IS A RIGHT WE ALL HAVE.' Also on "This Week," Assange told Stephanopoulos that the Wikileaks legal team has "been in contact with Mr. Snowden," and praised the 30-year-old leaker. "He is a hero. He has told the people of the world and the United States that there is mass unlawful interception of their communications, far beyond anything that happened under Nixon. Obama can't just turn around like Nixon did and said, it's OK, if the president does it, if the president authorizes it," he said. The United States has asked other countries to turn down Snowden's requests for asylum. But world leaders have pushed back against that request. On Friday Vice President Joe Biden spoke to the president of Ecuador and asked him not to grant Snowden asylum. Assange called that phone call unacceptable. "Joseph Biden the day before yesterday personally called President Correa, trying to pressure him. That's not acceptable. Asylum is a right that we all have. It's an international right. The United States has been founded largely on accepting political refugees from other countries and has prospered by it. Mr. Snowden has that right. Ideally, he should be able to return to the United States," he said.

WENDY DAVIS CHIDES RICK PERRY OVER TEXAS ABORTION BILL. The Democratic state senator who is leading the fight against significant new restrictions on abortions in Texas said Gov. Rick Perry and other Republicans were hypocritical, claiming to support smaller government but actually trying to increase state intrusion in people's lives. Wendy Davis, the lawmaker who single-handedly overcame and outlasted the Republican majority in the state senate last week, is preparing for another battle on Monday. Armed with her new-found fame in Democratic circles in Texas and across the nation, Davis vowed to fight even harder. "He's awfully fond of talking the talk of small government," Davis told ABC's JEFF ZELENY, escalating an intense quarrel with Perry. "But this [anti-abortion legislation] is big government intrusion, there is no question about it." Davis sat down with ABC News inside the Stage West Theatre in Fort Worth, where she worked her way from being a waitress to a Harvard-educated lawyer to a heroine in the eyes of many Democrats. She offered a window into the secrets of standing and talking for more than 11 straight hours during a legislative filibuster: her dusty running shoes (size 7 Mizuno, narrow); a catheter that allowed her to avoid bathroom breaks ("I came prepared," she explained); and how she felt the spirit of her hero, the late Gov. Ann Richards, during her marathon session in the Capitol in Austin.

NOTED: PEGGY NOONAN ON WENDY DAVIS - STANDING FOR 'INFANTICIDE'. Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, appearing on the "This Week" roundtable on Sunday weighed in on Wendy Davis' filibuster in Texas. "Here's what - in the story of this young woman, she's so spirited. You know, she has such energy and she seems to have such commitment," Noonan said. "But it seems to me - and I think it seems to many Americans - that what she is speaking for and standing for is something we would recognize as infanticide, late-term abortion, the taking of a little child's life. That is really, really serious."

OBAMA URGES AFRICAN YOUTH TO LIVE UP TO MANDELA'S LEGACY. President Obama yesterday urged South Africa's youth to continue the fight for equality and opportunity, as he challenged them to live up to the legacy of ailing civil rights icon Nelson Mandela, ABC's MARY BRUCE reports from Cape Town. "Nelson Mandela showed us that one man's courage can move the world. And he calls on us to make choices that reflect not our fears, but our hopes - in our own lives, and in the lives of our communities and our countries," the president told a crowd of more than 1,000 at the University of Cape Town. Echoing Robert Kennedy's 1966 "Ripple of Hope" speech at the same location, Obama told students that every voice can make a difference. "Think of how many ripples of hope it took to build a wave that would eventually come crashing down like a mighty stream," he said. "If there's any country in the world that shows the power of human beings to affect change, this is the one. You've shown us how a prisoner can become a president. You've shown us how bitter adversaries can reconcile. You've confronted crimes of hatred and intolerance with truth and love, and you wrote into your constitution the human rights that sustain freedom."

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: OBAMA VISITS MANDELA'S ROBBEN ISLAND CELL. With the world's eyes on the ailing Nelson Mandela, President Obama walked in the footsteps of the man he's called his personal hero over the weekend. Touring the prison on Robben Island, Obama stood alone in the stark "7B" cell where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years in captivity and stared out at the blue sky through the barred window. Obama visited the island before, in 2006 when he was a senator, but this weekend he returned for the first time as president and brought along his family. "For me to be able to bring my daughters there and teach them the history of that place and this country, and help them to understand not only how those lessons apply to their own lives but also to their responsibilities in the future as citizens of the world, that's a great privilege and a great honor," Obama said Saturday.

PROP 8 SUPPORTERS LOSE AGAIN. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy yesterday denied an emergency application filed by Proposition 8 sponsors asking the court to halt same-sex weddings until the justices issue a final disposition on their dismissal of a case asking them to overturn a lower-court decision striking down the California marriage law, ABC's DEAN SCHABNER and ARIANE DE VOGUE write. That decision paved the way for same-sex marriages, which had been legal in the state before the passage of Prop 8, to resume. A federal court gave the go-ahead Friday evening, and gay couples immediately began tying the knot. Supporters of Proposition 8, which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman, had said they believed that the 9th Circuit Court acted prematurely in allowing marriages to resume before the Supreme Court had issued its final judgment, which usually comes within 25 days of a ruling. They filed an emergency petition with the Supreme Court Saturday, asking the court to stop the 9th Circuit's "premature move" allowing same sex marriages to go forward.


"KASICH SIGNS BUDGET, KEEPS ABORTION RESTRICTIONS, LEAVES DOOR OPEN FOR MEDICAID EXPANSION," by the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Brandon Blackwell. "Ohio's next two-year budget is a done deal. Gov. John Kasich on Sunday evening signed controversial House Bill 59, a nearly $62 billion plan that attempts to spur economic growth while restricting reproductive rights. The Republican governor used his line-item veto to ditch a provision that would bar the state from expanding Medicaid, but held on to the legislature's tax reform cornerstones and volley against abortion. … Kasich left in place provisions in HB 59 that will strip funds from Planned Parenthood, bar abortion providers from entering into emergency transfer agreements with public hospitals, and force women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound. The budget reprioritizes how federal dollars are distributed among the state's family-planning centers, effectively placing Planned Parenthood at the end of the list, the group says. HB 59 also requires abortion providers to find private hospitals, which are often religious, willing to enter into transfer agreements to comply with the state's requirements. A last-minute addition demands that abortion providers give women seeking abortions information on family planning and adoption services if a heartbeat can be detected through the use of a trans-abdominal ultrasound. It also compels doctors to inform those women "of the probable anatomical and physiological characteristics" of a fetus during various stages of its development."


@sswinkgma: Front page of the Arizona Republic this morning.

@ZekeJMiller: On Rubio, It's Bloomberg vs. Bloomberg via @TIMEPolitics

@JillDLawrence: . @JebBush to GOP: Get on board w #CIR to grow econ, reduce illegal immig & welfare rolls, strengthen border security

@politicalwire: Latinos poised to catch up with whites in California population …

@davelevinthal: Six governors - three GOP, three Dem - have signed bills increasing campaign contribution limits in '13