Ready, Set, Recess!
PHOTO: Immigration Reform Protest

Credit: Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • CONGRESS CAN RECESS, 'BUT THEY CAN'T HIDE': Those are the words one Tea Party-affiliated group called FreedomWorks used in a warning shot to members of Congress as they headed back to their home districts for the long August recess. FreedomWorks is encouraging activists to confront lawmakers at town hall meetings this month and ask them to support defunding Obamacare. FreedomWorks is part of a coalition of groups, including the Tea Party Patriots, the Family Research Council, the Heritage Foundation and the Club for Growth, which plan to hold events and turn up the heat on elected officials. "If in the next 60 days, hundreds of thousands or millions of Americans stand up and demand their elected officials do the right thing, that will change this public policy debate in Washington," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., said Thursday at a Capitol Hill rally to kick-off the month of action.
  • FIRE FROM THE LEFT: But liberal groups, such as Organizing for Action, Americans United for Change and Protect Your Care, are not sitting this fight out - they are planning their own counter-offensive in states across the country. Immigration reform will also be a hot topic during recess with "persuadable" members likely to face pressure from both sides of the immigration reform debate before they return to Washington in September.
  • BACKSTORY: "With a divided Congress on track to hold one of its least productive sessions in decades, August has taken on heightened importance as an opening to reach recalcitrant members," reports the Washington Post's Matea Gold. "'If you're going to get anything to move, you have to appeal to the lawmakers back at home,' said veteran Republican communications strategist Ron Bonjean. 'The smart outside groups have always used the recess to get their message through," he added. "It's just that now, the efforts are much more intense because of the gridlock in Washington.' Obama has urged his backers to spend the month speaking out on issues such as gun control, climate change and health care, part of an 'Action August' effort spearheaded by Organizing for Action, the advocacy group that grew out of his reelection campaign."


ABC's RICK KLEIN: The battle for recess is joined … but is it possible to win fights waged like this anymore? It will be an ugly month-plus at home for members of Congress, with immigration, Obamacare, and a few budget showdowns on your August town-hall agenda. That's just it - there's an agenda for this town-hall meetings, at least if the outside groups and the national committees and the party leadership in Congress have anything to say about it. It's not that recess is scripted so much that it's become spectator sport - a consequence of the maybe-mostly organic town hall that came do define the health care fight and helped with the birth of the tea party. We'll still have the capacity to be surprised, and we'll still have the temptation to overplay the meaning of confrontations back home. But there's little hope that time at home will push members of Congress to act - in any direction - when they couldn't do it back in Washington.

ABC's JEFF ZELENY: August often has a way of surprising and shaking Washington with an external event out of anyone's control. This is a month where the capital is scheduled to rest a bit, but the terror threats in the air are a sober reminder that's really not possible. Congress is away and President Obama is scheduled to start his vacation by the end of the week in Martha's Vineyard. The White House is taking an all-is-normal posture, with the president even dropping by Jay Leno. But quiet conversations with members of Congress and aides in both parties, as well as inside the administration, suggest these latest threats are specific enough to be taken very seriously.

ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg will wade deeper into political waters tonight when he makes his first public remarks about immigration reform since founding his own political action committee earlier this year. Zuckerberg's group,, has made immigration reform the number one issue on its agenda even while drawing criticism from some liberal Democrats for controversial television ads it funded. The 29-year-old Zuckerberg will speak on tonight at a San Francisco movie screening of a film about undocumented immigrants. Attendees are expected to include "Silicon Valley tech stars along with dozens of Asian and Latino youths brought to this country as children - the Dreamers," according to the San Francisco Chronicle. But billionaires like Zuckerberg should beware: Money isn't everything when it comes to championing a cause. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who started groups in support of immigration reform and gun control, faced criticism for some of his efforts over the weekend. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., pinned some of the blame for the failed push for comprehensive background checks directly on Bloomberg. Leahy, in an interview that aired on C-SPAN on Sunday, said Bloomberg's tactics actually damaged lawmakers' chances of convincing senators to come on board with the gun legislation.

ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Quinnipiac University is out with a new type of poll today surveying the "hottest politicians." In the poll of voter attitudes toward the country's major political figures the "hottest" are New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The third place on spot on their "Thermometer of voter attitudes" is Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, although the poll notes 51 percent of voters don't know enough about her to rate her. Christie, at 53.1 degrees on their "thermometer," Clinton, at 52.1 degrees, and Warren, at 49.2 degrees, are "hotter" than President Barack Obama, at 47.6 degrees. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand matches the president with 47.6 degrees, although 75 percent of voters don't know enough about her to rate her. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas scores 46.8 degrees, with 60 percent not knowing enough to cast their temperature rating. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida rates 46.5 degrees and Vice President Joseph Biden comes in at 46.2 degrees. Although Gov. Christie is the hottest leader in the eyes of all American voters, he comes in eighth among Republican voters, with 59.8 degrees. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the GOP's 2012 vice presidential candidate, generates the most heat among Republican voters with 68.7 degrees. "Christie's great strength is among independent voters, who give him 50.6 degrees of love, and Democrats, who give him 53.2 degrees," Brown said. "His rating on the Thermometer scale is a good indication of what may face him should he travel the 2016 campaign trail. His tougher problem may be winning the GOP nomination because in most states only registered Republicans are able to vote in party primaries. For example, Christie is much hotter than Sen. Rand Paul among all voters, but trails him by a bit among Republicans." See all the ratings here:


GAME ON IN THE BLUEGRASS STATE. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell faced off against his Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan-Grimes, and a tea party primary challenger Matt Bevin at the annual Fancy Farm picnic in Kentucky this weekend, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP reports. Staying true to the 133-year tradition of the Fancy Farm picnic's roast-style speeches and outspoken crowds, McConnell, who faces a serious challenge in his bid to extend his already 30-year Senate tenure, took off the gloves, attacking Lundergan-Grimes' father Jerry Lundergan for donating nearly $5,000 to Anthony Weiner's scandal-plagued New York City mayoral campaign. "Like the loyal Democrat that he is, he's taking orders from the Obama campaign about how to run his daughters campaign," McConnell said to equal parts cheers and jeers from the audience. "They told him to make a pitch on the Internet for the women's vote and he sent a check to Anthony Weiner." But McConnell's pitch for voters to send him back to Washington was more about President Obama than it was about either of his challengers. "I've brought Kentucky's voice to Washington and the Obama crowd doesn't like it," McConnell said. "We're not just choosing who's going to represent Kentucky in the U.S. Senate, we're going to decide who's going to run the Senate.

-CHALLENGERS' CORNER: At Fancy Farm, Alison Lundergan-Grimes, Kentucky's secretary of state and a well-connected relative newcomer to national politics, sought to make McConnell's long tenure a liability. "I know Sen. McConnell believes I'm not right for this job because unlike him I haven't been in Washington, D.C., for 30 years," Grimes said. "But do I really need to apologize for having more government experience than Rand Paul?" she asked, referencing the state's junior U.S. senator and tea party favorite. (Grimes and several Democratic speakers called out Paul for his absence at the day's events).Matt Bevin, who has the support of the Tea Party wing of the Republican party that is becoming increasingly irritated with McConnell, chided McConnell for skipping his speech by leaving the event early. "Mitch McConnell has amazingly disappeared," Bevin said before leading a chant of "Where's Mitch?" "Mitch McConnell doesn't want people to hear that they have an alternative," Bevin said. "I don't intend to run to the right of Mitch McConnell, I don't intend to run to the left of Mitch McConnell," he said. "I intend to run straight over the top of Mitch McConnell and right to the U.S. Senate."

WHITE HOUSE: NEW PRESIDENT MEANS 'OPPORTUNITY' FOR IRAN. Iran has a new president, and the White House is greeting him with cautious optimism, notes ABC's CHRIS GOOD. President Hassan Rouhani was sworn in on Sunday, officially succeeding Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the outgoing Iranian president who was term-limited this year. Rouhani won the country's last presidential election by a landslide in June. A moderate cleric and former nuclear negotiator, Rouhani has pledged more transparency in Iran's nuclear program and increased trust with other countries. "We note that President Rouhani recognized his election represented a call by the Iranian people for change, and we hope the new Iranian government will heed the will of the voters by making choices that will lead to a better life for the Iranian people," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, in a statement released by the press office, congratulating the people of Iran for participating in the June election. "The inauguration of President Rouhani presents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the international community's deep concerns over Iran's nuclear program," Carney said.

JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: IT 'WOULDN'T SURPRISE ME' IF RUSSIANS, CHINESE HAVE OBTAINED SNOWDEN'S SECRETS. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that he wouldn't be surprised if the Russian and Chinese governments had already acquired classified American information allegedly taken by Edward Snowden while he was working as a government contractor for the National Security Agency, ABC's BEN BELL writes. "No, it wouldn't surprise me, " Dempsey told ABC's MARTHA RADDATZ during an interview for "This Week," saying earlier that that amount of information in Snowden's possession was "obviously significant." Snowden is reported to be carrying 4 laptops with NSA secrets. He was granted one-year asylum this week in Russia after being holed up in a Moscow airport since late June, where he had arrived from Hong Kong. While he was in Hong Kong he revealed himself as the person who had leaked information about NSA surveillance programs to The Guardian and The Washington Post. Asked by Raddatz if it would be feasible for either the Russians or Chinese to obtain the information on one of Snowden's computers without physically possessing it, Dempsey said he was unsure. "I mean, that's one of those technical means that would exceed my knowledge. But I'd certainly be concerned about that," he said.


- LINDSEY GRAHAM GETS ANOTHER PRIMARY CHALLENGE ON THE RIGHT. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., got another challenge from the right over the weekend, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALHSE notes. Nancy Mace, the first woman to graduate from the military college The Citadel, announced her candidacy Saturday in her hometown of Goose Creek, S.C. Mace, 35, said she would not do interviews until after the event, but confirmed to ABC News today that she intends to enter the race. Graham, 58, has been hit by criticism from conservatives in South Carolina and nationally who argue that he is too willing to negotiate with Democrats and compromise on some issues. Graham does have money in the bank ($6.3 million), and that's one big reason, despite some conservative discontent, some people in South Carolina still view him as hard to beat. South Carolina GOP consultant Joel Sawyer said he isn't sure "how many fired up Lindsey Graham supporters are out there." "But is there enough discontent to knock off an incumbent? I think that's a pretty tall order," Sawyer said. "For Graham, the danger zone is going into a run-off situation with one challenger. With two or even three challengers, I think that probably helps Graham."

-MESSINA FOR MONTANA? Will Obama's 2012 campaign manager jump into the Montana Senate race? After several of the Democratic Party's top recruits declined to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Montana Sen. Max Baucus, the party is looking for alternatives in a race that could be critical to whether the Democrats retain the majority in the Senate in 2014. One possibility: Former Obama campaign manager and current Organizing for Action Chairman Jim Messina. The idea of a Messina bid is already gaining some steam. Just take a look at a tweet from former top Obama adviser David Axelrod who appeared to be prodding Messina on Friday: "When is the draft @Messina2012 for U.S. Senate campaign going to begin? No one knows Montana better!"


"THE MAKING OF ALLEN WEST INC.," by the National Journal's Ben Terris and Shane Goldmacher . "The car bearing Allen West to the Capitol pulls over so the former House member can show identification to a security guard. The officer recognizes him instantly and pushes West's ID away. Then he reaches into the passenger-side window and pulls the Army veteran in for a bro-hug. 'We gotta get you back here,' the officer says. 'Oh, I'll be back,' West replies, flashing his slightly gap-toothed smile. 'Tell the fellas.' The truth is, Allen West never really left. During his single term in the House, which ended in January, he carved a path as distinctive as his trademark salt-and-pepper flattop-not just for his bombastic rhetoric but also for being the first black Republican elected from Florida since Reconstruction. Some might slink away from Washington after losing their first reelection battle in one of the nation's best-funded campaigns, and in a district carried by Mitt Romney. Not West, the tea-party outsider who decided he'd hold onto his Capitol Hill basement apartment. … He's still at the Capitol about three days a week to conduct interviews for a new Internet-based television show he hosts-one of West's many ventures. He has a contract to appear frequently on Fox News. He funded a nonprofit (the Allen West Foundation, of course), finished a book manuscript (coming early next year), and raised impressive amounts of campaign cash (leading plenty of people to speculate about his plans for 2016). In the first six months of 2013, his Allen West Guardian Fund, a leadership PAC, pulled in $1.3 million, a figure on par with the upper echelon of his former House colleagues. By losing his spot in Congress, West may have failed upward."


@AmbassadorPower: Honored to sit behind the sign that says "United States" and stand up for American values and interests at the UN.

@EvanMcSan: a rift in organized labor: is obama good at reaching out to unions? …

@JenniferJJacobs: The Family Leader poised to step in if 2015 Iowa Straw Poll not held. …

?@TheFix: House Republicans may be cutting off the party's nose in spite of its face on immigration.

@DanaPerino: Political junkies might enjoy this WP feature on Liz Cheney's Senate run. My Aunt Patty Sue is quoted at the end

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