They're Back... Congress Returns From Recess

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • HAPPENING THIS WEEK: President Obama will give a speech this week outlining his strategy for taking on the threat posed by ISIS, ABC's JONATHAN KARL reported over the weekend. The president will use the speech to outline the nature of the threat - serious, but not an imminent threat to the homeland - and the strategy for confronting it. It is not expected that he will make any major new announcements such as a decision on Syria air strikes, but he will describe the efforts he is already taking, including air strikes in Iraq and building an international coalition. In other words, the president wants to leave no doubt he does, in fact, have a strategy for taking on ISIS despite his words two weeks ago - "We don't have a strategy yet" - when asked about taking on ISIS in Syria.
  • ON THE AGENDA: Today, after more than a month away from Washington, members of the House and Senate finally return to town - even if there are just a few days of legislative business on the calendar before lawmakers go back into campaign mode ahead of Election Day, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON notes. While the House could consider a continuing resolution later this week to fund the government into the Lame Duck session, today lawmakers will ease back into it as they consider a dozen measures to rename post offices, among other non-controversial business. Congressional Leaders don't meet with President Obama until tomorrow about his ISIS strategy, but this evening, the House Intelligence Committee will receive a classified update from CIA and other agencies.
  • A CAMPAIGN FINANCE BRAWL: A major campaign finance debate begins today as the Senate holds its first test vote on a constitutional amendment that would effectively overturn the Citizens United ruling, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes. In a Politico op-ed last night, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the amendment an "assault on free speech" and disparaged Democrats' desire to devote legislative time to the issue for the two weeks the Senate is back in session. "Their goal is to shut down the voices of their critics at a moment when they fear the loss of their fragile Senate majority. And to achieve it, they're willing to devote roughly half of the remaining legislative days before November to this quixotic anti-speech gambit," McConnell wrote. Senate Democrats will hold a news conference at 3:00 PM Eastern today to discuss the constitutional amendment.


ABC's JEFF ZELENY: It's back-to-school on Capitol Hill, but don't look away too quickly or Congress will be gone. The list of challenges is large, particularly given the escalating military operation against ISIS and the question of whether President Obama will see approval for any new action. But only the extreme Cliff's Notes version of those weighty challenges will be tackled over the next two weeks before lawmakers scurry back to the campaign trail. Once again, there will be threats of a government shutdown, but look for a stopgap spending bill to quietly pass to keep the government running until December. Democrats would love to goad Republicans into looking extreme, but GOP leaders are intent on not doing anything to jeopardize their strong position heading into the final stretch of the midterm election. Yet things don't always go as planned, so prepare for at least a flash of September fireworks.

ABC's RICK KLEIN: This was a political move, with a most political of deadlines in mind and entirely political ramifications at play in the president's decision-making. President Obama's decision not to use executive powers to ease immigration enforcement before the election would be overtly political even if the president hadn't vowed not to let politics intervene on his process for deciding. This is responding to red-state Democrats, and not to elements of the president's base who've been promised action - and it comes with a human cost, of course. It may have been the right political move for Democrats. But it also undercuts any effort by Democrats to claim that their focus is on governing, as opposed to political positioning, over these next two months. (Planned changes - changes that will be labeled "amnesty" - can make for effective messaging, particularly if we know they're coming right after the election.) If you needed more evidence that we're on to politics, as opposed to policy, Senate Democrats start their quite brief return to session debating a constitutional amendment on campaign finance that has zero chance of getting approved.



OBAMA DELAYS IMMIGRATION ACTION UNTIL AFTER ELECTION DAY. With his Democratic Party facing uneasy odds ahead of the fall congressional elections, President Obama has decided to delay any executive action on immigration until after voters hit the polls, ABC's MATT LAROTONDA and JEFF ZELENY report. The decision, confirmed to ABC News to by a senior administration official, abandons a prior pledge to address the surge of undocumented immigrants across the southwest border by the end of summer.

ON ISIS, TED CRUZ TELLS PRESIDENT OBAMA TO 'TAKE THEM OUT'. Sen. Ted Cruz accused President Obama of underestimating and misjudging the threat posed by ISIS, but said he should seek congressional approval before deciding whether to escalate the military campaign against the Islamic extremists. "What we ought to have is a directed, concerted, overwhelming campaign to take them out," Cruz said in an interview with ABC's JEFF ZELENY on "This Week." "The focus should be Iraq, but the real focus should be taking out ISIS. Within Syria, it should not be our objective to try and resolve the civil war." Cruz, a Texas Republican, said the president "has not demonstrated that he's taking ISIS seriously." Even as Cruz delivered a blistering critique of the administration's foreign policy, he conceded that Republicans have their own foreign policy debate unfolding inside their party, which he said makes him more inclined to seek the presidency. "The American people in 2014 and also November 2016 are going to be looking for leaders who want to work to restore America's leadership in the world," Cruz said.

NOTED: SENATE MAJORITY LEADER? CRUZ WON'T SAY. In an interview with ABC News, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, predicted his party would reclaim the Democratic-controlled Senate in November, but he declined to endorse current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as the party leader should there be a transfer of power in the upper chamber of Congress, ABC's BENJAMIN BELL notes. "You know, I am very optimistic. I believe in November Republicans are going to retake the Senate and we're going to retire [Sen.] Harry Reid as majority leader," Cruz told ABC's JEFF ZELENY in New Hampshire Saturday night.

WENDY DAVIS, WHO FOUGHT ABORTION RESTRICTIONS IN TEXAS, REVEALS SHE HAD AN ABORTION. Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, who made national headlines last year after her marathon filibuster against a bill that would have restricted women's access to abortions, made a "difficult decision" when she had an abortion in the 1990s, she told "Good Morning America's" ROBIN ROBERTS in an exclusive interview, according to ABC's GEETIKA RUDRA. Davis had the abortion in 1996 when doctors said her baby girl would be blind, deaf and in a permanent vegetative stage if she survived to term.

DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMAN HITS PRESIDENT OBAMA FOR 'PLAYING IT SAFE' ON IMMIGRATION. President Obama is "playing it safe" on immigration reform by announcing that he will delay executive action until after the midterm elections in November, Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez said Sunday on "This Week," according to ABC's KARI REA. "It's clear that playing it safe is what is going on at the White House and among Democratic circles," Gutierrez, D-Ill., told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "Playing it safe means walking away from our values and our principles."


@MAllison_Moore: NYT: Mitch McConnell's Path to Re-Election Is Looking More Assured … #kysen

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@MarkLandler: Obama has called feuding Afghan candidates, Abdullah & Ghani, 4x each to form govt, including Sat. Abdullah now says talks are stalemated.

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@hookjan: And you thought divisive Republican primaries were over? Check out next Tuesday's fight over NH House seats