March 2nd, 2013
05:59 PM ET
1 year 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. Donna

    The Senate Democrats and Obama must put forth a budget. They haven't done one in 4 years and meanwhile have driven the country $6 TRILLION further into debt. They need to foillow the laws of this nation and be honest with the American people on where they want to take this country financially. I want to see their plan to balance the federal budget in 10 years before this country goes bankrupt paying for all their insanity.

    March 2, 2013 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  2. cbr

    The leadership and members of both the House and Senate, Democrats as well as Republicans have done us all a disservice. They ran off on Friday rather than deal with the financial issue. Why do we elect these people if they cannot do the job? It is time to get serious about these elections and to vote for people who will work every day and who have the expertise to solve the problems.

    Speaker Boehner does not have the means to get the Republican House in order and he and Nancy Pelosi are not working together for bipartisan solutions. Sen. Reid and Sen.McConnell cannot do anything together. Sen. McConnell is still trying to keep President Obama from being elected for a second term. When he speaks no one listens because he really does not say anything that would help the situation. Can we get smart and really push our lawmakers to work for us now. Otherwise, they should not be paid nor should they receive all their perqs. That would include no tickets home.

    March 2, 2013 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
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  4. Tom in Illinois

    The GOP will do nothing.They are still pouting about the election loss.After 30 years of adding to the deficet (trillions of dollars ) Running many wars and ruining the American economy for the poor and middle class,they want it all.Time for the average man to rebel and rid the country of these rats.

    March 2, 2013 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  5. Thaddeus Kozubal

    There's nothing like a non-working Congress to bolster the economy and make the nation feel secure.

    March 2, 2013 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  6. sameeker

    I am getting tired of hearing about Gabby Giffords. There was a child killed in that shooting, but you never hear any more about that because she is a congressman and considered more important then a child.

    March 2, 2013 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  7. eqgold

    How bout a pay cut for congress!

    March 2, 2013 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  8. T

    ....5 Things for DC,,.................Its called..............2014........2014........2014.......2014...2014............when the gop LOSES THE HOUSE.............

    March 2, 2013 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  9. jstephens4

    I don't need to look into my crystal ball to know what is going to happen- there will be much bickering but no action from either Republicans nor Democrats until March 26th at 11:59 pm (at the earliest). The debt ceiling will probably be raised after much of the same unproductive arguing. There will be much discussion about gun control with much whining from the NRA along the way, and there will be no fewer than 2-3 random shootings in the news before anything is done. Little, if anything will be done about immigration. The good news is that many of our elected officials will no doubt enjoy a game of golf or three during the next chaotic few weeks.

    March 2, 2013 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  10. marty

    The only way this Congress will do their job is when their own paycheck is threatened to be withheld, with no retroactive considerations. They want many changes affecting citizens so they should not hesitate to make changes in: Congress pay reduction (47%), pensions (47%) health care (47%). Like they say, every little bit helps and its time for Congress to help!

    March 2, 2013 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  11. are122

    And so we start our 5th year of doom and gloom.

    March 2, 2013 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  12. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    "Lawmakers skipped out of town"... That just about says it all... Cantor and Ryan should be pelted with rotten fruit in the public square. Of course they won't, they will continue to feast on the public teat and condemn anyone else who tries. God help us!

    March 2, 2013 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  13. cdub

    And let the partisan bashing commence.

    March 2, 2013 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  14. Grwohio

    Maybe they should focus on fixing the deficit, instead of pursuing new laws that we cannot enforce

    March 2, 2013 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  15. Rodd

    I think that the congress should have a 10% cut in there pay since they are not doing anything to help American's with the Budget Cuts. I know it is not much, but every dollar counts. They have not done anything for months or years. What a farce.

    March 2, 2013 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  16. craig

    All of these things require Congress to actually DO SOMETHING, so I'm not particularly hopeful. Bush proposed immigration reform, and they couldn't even pass the things that both sides agreed upon. Given the GOP "don't give the President a victory" platform plank, I can't see them doing anything. All the money-related stuff will just get jammed up again, with the Tea Party saying "over my dead body" and nobody willing to shoot them. Guns? Well, that might be interesting theatre, but little else. Nobody has the guts to actually do anything or risk the wrath of the NRA, also known as the National Republican-Owning Association.

    March 2, 2013 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  17. DarkAxel

    IMHO, Obama and congress, along with politicians of both the Democrat and Republican Parties are to blame for all of our budget problems and economic woes. Personally, I think that the American people should depose all of the people in Washington, from the highest elected official to the lowliest political appointee. I also think the purge should rid us of all current political staffers, ban most forms of Congressional lobbying, and usher in a new crop of elected officials and government employees that have no connections to the old political machines or debts to high-dollar special interests or political lobbies.

    I think it is high time we elect people who don't expect to make a career out of running for office. I thin we need to start electing people who realize that service is a sacrifice and not a money-making opportunity. We need to elect some statesmen, not the usual political Wh0r3s.

    March 3, 2013 03:44 am at 3:44 am |
  18. king

    these issues are not so important right now, except immigration reform. if all the illegals start paying taxes, this will illiminate a bunch of the budget deficit. these repubs who are destroying our unions, so that wall street can pay folks 10 dollars an hour, sucking money from mainstreet and our local businesses and industries. because how the hell can minimum wage afford housing and transportatiion, plus taking care of a family. STOP THE REPUBS FROM SUCKING MONEY FROM MAIINSTREET AND GIVING IT TO WALL STREET FOR THEM TO INVEST IN CHINA TO BUILD CHINA MORE POWERFUL THAN US.

    March 3, 2013 06:32 am at 6:32 am |
  19. @RI_Roger

    How can America trust the reporting of this Adminstration by CNN's Jessica Yellin and Dana Bash? Too often they ask the Administration a"soft" question that we get the impression they were "tipped-off" beforehand and the response was prepared.Their reporting doesn't feel spontaneous or inquisative enough to uncover the truth. If CNN is going to regain some stature and credibility, it needs to break a REAL story, not the story the White House wants you to report. PLEASE, for the sake or our country, ask the tough questions and follow-up on them. We need journalist to keep the balance of democracy on the side of the people, not the elected officials.

    March 3, 2013 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  20. rjblock

    Agree but you miss one critical point – that is the creation of a well thought out, meaningful budget that takes into account 'the fine mess they got us into'.

    Besides that I feel the issues you raise plus mine should be THE ONLY things on their agenda until they are solved. They have shown us a total inavility to multi task.

    Finally, I would suggest that for the good of the country – they and their minions should resign en mass

    March 3, 2013 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  21. Rick McDaniel

    More of the same. As long as Obama is in office, his style of dictatorship will rule, and nothing can truly be accomplished, because he has zero willingness to compromise. It's either his way, or nothing at all.

    March 3, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  22. Ray E. (Georgia)

    Aw,so,
    You actually want the Congress, make that the Senate do something? You have got to be kidding !! The Liberal's and Democrats have done so much for us the last 75 years we now have a 16.5 Trilllion Dollar debt And if they give all the illegals citizenship they also will attach themselves to all the social programs and just raise the Debt more. I'm glad you are paying your Taxes, you are paying your taxes, aren't you? Good! The Liberal's need it to continue all those give aways!

    March 3, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  23. plain&simple

    What would happen if congress did nothing for 2 years? We are about to find out!!! This is the republican way to less government and they are perfectly ok with it. Katrina was a perfect example,the reluctantly did something for Sandy. Get used to it,you are totally on your own when republicans are in office. Stop voting them in and you might get some sane,rational people doing a job they believe in. Novel concept....

    March 3, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  24. jkane sfl the gop national disgrace party will be swept out like the trash they are in2014 ?

    Kick the gop out of the house. Problem solved !!!!

    March 3, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
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