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Guns, Immigration And Budget On Washington's Agenda

Blooming magnolia trees are seen along Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House on Saturday. This week, President Obama is speaking out on gun control, and will release his proposal for the nation's budget.
Carolyn Kaster
Blooming magnolia trees are seen along Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House on Saturday. This week, President Obama is speaking out on gun control, and will release his proposal for the nation's budget.

Congress returns from a two-week recess amid reports that a gun deal in the Senate may have gained late momentum; a focus on immigration to include a rally on Capitol Hill; and a budget proposal from President Obama that already has some in his own party fuming.

Here's what's happening on key issues this week:

Obama travels to Connecticut on Monday to keep the focus on gun control in the state where, nearly four months ago, 20 young children and six educators were massacred. Last week, the Connecticut Legislature passed tough new state gun restrictions, a measure signed into law by Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy.

While some states have taken action to toughen and, in some instances, loosen gun restrictions since the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn., Congress remains slowed by its own processes and the competing political pressure of interest groups.

The Washington Post and The New York Times reported Monday that despite opposition from the NRA, "fresh Republican support" could allow a bipartisan agreement on a measure to expand federal background checks for gun buyers. The idea has overwhelming public support in polling, and would close a loophole in current law that requires no such check for sales at gun shows.

The idea was considered an important but relatively middle-of-the-road proposal among post-Newtown calls for a new ban on assault weapons and a bullet limit in ammunition clips. But over time, support in Congress failed to materialize sufficiently to assure much of anything would become law. Now, background checks might form the framework of any deal on Capitol Hill. The Post reports:

"In a move that could draw other Republicans as well as Democrats from conservative states who have not yet backed Obama's agenda, Sen. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.), a key Democratic broker, has spent the past few days crafting the framework of a possible deal with Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.).

"Manchin and Toomey are developing a measure to require background checks for all gun purchases except sales between close family members and some hunters, which addresses concerns of some conservatives."

The Post reports that if the deal comes together, it would be worked into a bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., hopes to bring to the Senate floor as early as this week.

Still, at least a dozen Senate Republicans have threatened to filibuster any new gun control measure.

Both the Senate and House are expected to continue work on immigration bills this week. Most of the focus has been on the Senate, where a bipartisan "Gang of Eight" could be close to presenting its plan for a deal that would include a path to citizenship for some 11 million immigrants now in the country illegally. During the congressional recess, organized labor and business groups indicated they are willing to reach agreement on a "guest-worker program" for immigrants, a key concession.

And organizers say they expect thousands to rally near the Capitol on Wednesday calling for comprehensive changes to the nation's immigration laws.

On Wednesday, Obama will send Congress his proposal for the federal budget for fiscal year 2014. His proposal comes after passage of a Democratic version in the Senate and a Republican version in the House. None of the three options will become law, but instead represent negotiating positions of their authors.

For Obama, the most significant aspect of his plan is probably the one revealed last week, a unilateral offer from Obama to consider reductions in Social Security and Medicare benefits in exchange for new taxes as part of a long-term budget deal. Opposition ranged from the AFL-CIO — which called the alternate measure of inflation Obama is proposing to determine Social Security benefits "fraudulent" — to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who rejected the idea of new tax increases.

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Greg Henderson
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