Political week ahead: Five stories to watch

MGN Online
Friday, July 5, 2013 - 1:07pm

The issues of abortion and illegal immigration will be in the spotlight over the next week, but all eyes will be on Texas on Monday for a major player to announce his political plans.

1. Austin or Washington for Perry?

Will Texas Gov. Rick Perry run for re-election next year for an unprecedented fourth full term in office?

We should find out Monday, when Perry is expected to make his intentions known at an event in San Antonio in front of friends and supporters.

Perry was originally planning to announce his plans by the end of June but delayed his decision after he called the state legislature into a special session to try to once again pass a controversial bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill was sidetracked by a filibuster a week and a half ago by Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis that grabbed national headlines.

The conventional wisdom is that Perry is leaning against another term in Austin, as Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a fellow Republican, gears up for running. And if Perry doesn't run for re-election in 2014, the thought is that he would make another bid for the White House, in 2016.

But note that Perry has bucked conventional wisdom in the past.

2. Abortion battle resumes in Texas

Texas state lawmakers on Monday will resume that special session called by Perry, with a state Senate committee holding a hearing on the abortion measure and the full Senate convening the next day. In the state House, Republicans have already passed the bill through committee. It heads to the full chamber Tuesday. Large demonstrations on both sides of the issue are planned starting Monday.

The push in Texas comes after other states have passed such bans in recent years, including Nebraska, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Indiana and Alabama. Arkansas has a ban in place for pregnancies beyond 18 weeks, and North Dakota has the tightest restriction in the country at six weeks, when a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

3. And another one heats up in North Carolina

The abortion issue will also be front and center in North Carolina, when state lawmakers return to Raleigh this week.

The state Senate just passed a series of anti-abortion amendments that were tacked onto a bill that would ban Sharia law. The measures don't include a 20-week provision but would place increased standards on abortion clinics and limit health care coverage for abortions.

The action now moves back to the state House, which has passed the Sharia law bill without the abortion restrictions.

Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has expressed concerns about how the Republican-dominated state Senate rushed the passage of the anti-abortion amendments but has not indicated whether he would sign the bill.

4. Rubio has a decision to make

On the federal level, Sen. Marco Rubio is considering a request by anti-abortion groups to sponsor a bill in the U.S. Senate that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks, an adviser to the Florida Republican confirmed to CNN on Wednesday.

"I can tell you that the pro-life groups are asking Senator Rubio to sponsor the bill in the Senate. He's on a family vacation this week and will decide when he returns to D.C. next week," said the adviser, who asked for anonymity to speak more freely.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said her organization has been leading efforts to recruit Rubio to sponsor the bill in the Senate. "He wants to, and that's good news," she told CNN on Tuesday.

Susan B. Anthony List describes itself as a group "dedicated to electing candidates and pursuing polices that will reduce and ultimately end abortion."

Other anti-abortion groups are also urging Rubio to sponsor the bill. If he does, it would give the measure added media attention, as Rubio is one of the GOP's biggest stars and is considered a possible 2016 Republican presidential contender.

But conservatives have criticized the first-term senator in the past couple of months for his big push for a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform package that includes a pathway to citizenship for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.

The Republican-controlled House passed a similar late-term abortion ban bill last month, with only six Republicans voting against the measure and six Democrats voting for it. The bill prohibits most abortions for women beyond their 20th week of pregnancy.

While the original House bill included an exception for cases in which the health of the mother is in danger, Republicans got strong pushback for not including exceptions for pregnancies that resulted from rape or incest. Republican leaders later added new language to include those exceptions.

The measure is expected to go nowhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and the White House has threatened a veto on the legislation.

5. Congress returns with immigration fight waiting

With the Senate passing a bipartisan immigration reform bill a week and a half ago, the spotlight has shifted to the GOP-dominated House. House Republicans meet behind closed doors Wednesday to discuss their next steps.

Republican leaders in the House say the Senate bill, which includes an eventual pathway to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants, is a nonstarter in their chamber. House Speaker John Boehner insists that lawmakers will craft their own bill or series of bills, separate from the Senate legislation.

The Senate bill, which passed 68-32, included a last-minute, bipartisan amendment, which called for tougher border security measures, to make the overall legislation more acceptable to Republicans.

A bipartisan group is also working on a package in the House, though its proposals differ sharply from the Senate measure by making it harder for undocumented immigrants to get on a path to citizenship.

The same day that House Republicans powwow, former President George W. Bush speaks about immigration at his recently opened presidential library in Texas. The title of the event: "What Immigrants Contribute."

The former Republican president tried but failed to pass immigration reform during his second term in the White House, thanks in part to opposition from members of Congress from his own party.

--CNN's Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

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