March 2nd, 2013
05:59 PM ET
2 years ago

5 things: What's next for Washington?

(CNN) - Lawmakers skipped out of Washington last week as the forced spending cuts were set to take effect, but when they return to town, they'll find those and a list of other priorities on their plates.

Here are five things Congress and the White House can expect to confront in the coming weeks.

1. Immigration

Of all the issues Congress could tackle, immigration is seen as one of the most likely areas for progress. Both sides see a potential political benefit in hammering out a deal, and both sides are voluntarily at the negotiating table trying to work one out.

"Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months and I will sign it right away," Obama said in his State of the Union address just over a month ago.

The Republican response to his speech was delivered that night by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, one member of the bi-partisan Gang of Eight working behind the scenes to craft legislation. Rubio said immigration reform would be good for the economy.

"We need a responsible, permanent solution to the problem of those who are here illegally," he said. "But first, we must follow through on the broken promises of the past to secure our borders and enforce our laws."

The bipartisan effort nearly hit a snag when details of an Obama administration draft immigration proposal was published, but Obama phoned lawmakers and met with two Republicans in that Gang of Eight – Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham – at the White House in mid-February.

2. Gun violence

In January, one didn't have to look far to see the personification of gun violence: lawmakers and the first lady invited victims as guests to the State of the Union, and the president referenced them in his remarks.

"Gabby Giffords deserves a vote," he said. "The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote."

Now, the focus turns to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where several proposals will soon be considered – including background check measure being negotiated by Sens. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, and Tom Coburn, a Republican, which is considered most likely to move through Congress.

The committee will also see an assault weapons ban, a gun trafficking measure, tighter background check requirements and school safety proposals. Obama has said that all should be brought up for a vote on the floor.

Proponents of gun control or other legislative measures they say would reduce gun violence have kept the issue in the spotlight since the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

And then there's the influence of groups like the National Rifle Association and the new pro-gun control super PAC Independence USA funded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg – groups that could pump money into campaigns, like Bloomberg's did in a recent congressional primary.

3. Government shutdown?

First the fiscal cliff, then the forced federal spending cuts, and now yet another government financial deadline? Set your calendars for March 27, when the current continuing resolution funding the government is set to expire.

House Speaker John Boehner said Friday that Republicans would propose a new CR "to fund the government past March 27th. And I'm hopeful that we won't have to deal with the threat of a government shutdown while we're dealing with the sequester at the same time."

But could a shutdown really happen? Neither side wants that to happen, and insiders say Obama has urged congressional leaders to handle this deadline before the time runs out.

4. Debt ceiling

So Congress gets their act together and avoids a government shutdown. That should put financial crises in the rear-view mirror, right?

Wrong. There's the government's debt limit, which the country hit in late December. In January, lawmakers approved an extension they called "No Budget, No Pay" which raised the federal debt limit through May 19 and mandated each house of Congress pass a budget for the next fiscal year.

Congress could postpone addressing the issue until as late as July or August, leaving the Treasury to again employ emergency measures (remember the trillion dollar coin?) to keep the government books afloat.

The debt ceiling increase could be yet another occasion for political drama. After all, it was the debt ceiling showdown in the summer of 2011 which led to the forced budget cuts which took effect on Friday.

5. Battle over Brennan

The Senate has recently confirmed two of Obama's cabinet nominees – Jack Lew for Treasury and Chuck Hagel for Defense – but his pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency could continue to hit hurdles on his road to the Senate floor.

John Brennan's vote in the Senate Intelligence Committee was delayed last week and is now expected to happen on Tuesday.

He faces questions from members on both sides of the aisle. Democrats questioned him over the government's controversial interrogation and detention programs, as well as targeting of suspected terrorists. Republicans asked about leaks of secret information about counterterrorism activities and threatened to hold up his nomination as they sought more information on the Benghazi, Libya consulate attack which killed four Americans including a U.S. ambassador in September.

– CNN's Dana Bash and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.


Filed under: Congress • Deficit • Gun control • Gun rights • Immigration • John Brennan • President Obama
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. paofpa

    Another view at a Crystal Ball

    Washington should understand that the NASDAQ and the S&P500 are just not big enough for the required 401Ks without turning them into one big PONZI scheme. Try looking at a “Gray Hair Disability Act”.

    Comment, Alter and Pass it on

    March 3, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  2. brainiac3397

    I say a new clause be added to what a government shutdown means. If we reach a shutdown, all senators and representatives have their benefits and pay suspended but are required to continue working till the shutdown is over(and no back-pay).

    March 3, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  3. GI Joe

    The president HAS put forth a budget every year. It's just that the republicans filibustered it and never let it be voted on, or they lobbied and got most or everyone to vote against it.

    It's funny how they overwhelmingly went against EVERTHING for 4 years, yet voted FOR the sequestor. Smells fishy to me.

    March 3, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
1 2