Because you've missed Congress about as much as you've missed a budget from the president ... and because you won't have to miss an immigration framework much longer (we think) ... here's a glimpse of the top stories the ABC News political unit is tracking in the week to come.
|Gang's All Here|
The Senate's "Gang of Eight" is nearing agreement on its much-awaiting comprehensive immigration reform bill, with final details expected to emerge with the return of Congress to Washington next week. The first question will be whether Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., stays on board and keeps the gang from shrinking to seven. (The answer is probably yes, but that doesn't mean he'll support the final bill.) The biggest tricky questions left involve the pathway to citizenship for immigrants who are now here illegally, including how long they'll have to wait to become citizens, and what border-security assurances will need to be in place first. Another big question we'll see clarity on soon is how this matches up with the parallel "gang" at work in the GOP-controlled House; expect that work product in a week or two. If the two measures largely match up, the prospects for a bill becoming law will be brighter. And President Obama has to play things carefully, for now. If he appears too enthusiastic about the House and Senate packages, he risks driving Republicans away.
|Gunning for Action|
President Obama will travel to the emotional core of the nation's gun debate on Monday, with a stop in Connecticut, where he'll urge Congress to enact stricter gun laws in Sandy Hook's wake. The president will be in Hartford, Conn., where state lawmakers just finished work on a package of bills that's being described as giving Connecticut the strictest gun laws in the nation. He made a similar stop to highlight Colorado's new gun laws this past week. The White House knows it needs to change the terms of the gun debate or risk seeing Congress enact nothing -- or next to nothing -- even after the massacre in Connecticut. It's an issue that's seen Obama speak with rare emotion, and he'll need every ounce of that to change the political dynamics in Congress. The Senate's gun bill -- which we know will lack major elements such as an assault-weapons ban -- is expected to be filed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., shortly after Congress returns to work Monday.
|Jesse Jackson Jr.'s Seat|
Mark Sanford won't be winning a seat in Congress this week, but another House vacancy will be filled Tuesday in a special election to fill former Rep. Jesse Jackson's Chicago-based seat. After Tuesday night, Illinois' Second Congressional District will almost certainly be represented by Democratic nominee Robin Kelly, a former state representative who is now Cook County's chief administrative officer. Kelly's elevation to Congress -- she faces Republican Paul McKinley in the extremely blue district -- will shine a spotlight on the politics of gun control. Kelly made her support for stricter gun-control measures a major issue in the Democratic primary, earning her the support (and financial backing) of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The president cited Kelly's support for gun control in issuing his endorsement after the primary, which, of course, is taking place in the president's hometown as Chicago deals with a rash of gun violence.
|Show Me Your Budget|
It will be two months late, and it will make for dense reading on its way to not becoming law, as always. But President Obama's budget proposal, to be released Wednesday, includes an intriguing political gambit. Amid the red ink, Obama is putting in black-and-white the previous offers he's made to Republican leaders around entitlement spending. That's making him the first Democratic president ever to propose effective cuts to Social Security and Medicare, via new methods of calculating cost-of-living increases. These are relatively modest steps, and the White House has made clear they're contingent on Republicans accepting tax increases (good luck with that). But the president is looking for a game-changer in the long-stalled debate over taxing and spending, and Republicans can't just dismiss this proposal out of hand. Meanwhile, voices on the left are just beginning to make their displeasure -- even outright anger -- known to the White House. The president will do his next dinner date with Republican members of Congress on the evening of his budget's release.
Will President Obama's new budget proposal out next week, which includes cuts to Medicare and Social Security, re-set the deficit debate in Washington? Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer will answer those questions and more Sunday on "This Week."
The Republican National Committee holds its spring meeting Wednesday to Friday in Los Angeles, a city that is Ground Zero for the immigration debate that's driving so much discussion around the GOP's identity. Beyond that, this will be the first opportunity for members of the Republican National Committee to react and respond to Chairman Reince Priebus' "autopsy" report on the 2012 elections. Expect heated reaction to the party's efforts to shorten and simplify the primary process, with fewer debates, an earlier convention, and controls to ensure quick resolution of the Republican nomination. It's also the first RNC meeting since two Republican senators endorsed gay marriage, so look for discussion and possibly backlash. There's talk of a new resolution affirming the GOP's commitment to supporting only heterosexual marriage, which may not be the signal the party needs as it tries to reach out to gay and younger voters.