The 36th Kennedy Center Honors Gala
Updated: February 6, 2014 6:31AM
WASHINGTON — Aside from disasters, accidents and the emergence of the next Edward Snowden, events and deadlines that will drive the news this year already are on the calendar.
President Barack Obama returns Sunday from his Hawaii vacation and on Tuesday at the White House will deliver remarks aimed at pushing GOP lawmakers to extend long-term unemployment benefits that expired last month.
Here are 14 other events to watch from my 2014 “future file”:
Obamacare on the mend
Healthcare.gov is fixed. People who never had health insurance before now have it, beginning Jan. 1. The White House is starting the year with a campaign to resell the Affordable Care Act, hoping the success stories and additional benefits can drown out the sting of the botched rollout and keep pumping enrollments into the system, especially young folks.
There is still rough terrain to navigate with anti-Obamacare Republicans and from angry individuals who found their policies were not renewed because of the new law and shocked to see costs rise with replacement plans.
In a few weeks we’ll have a sense if GOP lawmakers, emboldened because of the disastrous launch — and facing midterm elections — will use the looming deadline for Congress to appropriate funds for the current fiscal year to cripple parts of the program. The interim bipartisan budget deal negotiated last year expires Jan. 15.
2. National security speech
Obama left for vacation with 46 recommendations to study from his review panel to revamp the National Security Agency. He said at his Dec. 20 press conference, “I’m going to make a pretty definitive statement about all of this in January where I’ll be able to say, ‘Here are the recommendations that we think make sense’.”
3. Obama presidential library and foundation
This one has been in the works for months, with Chicago having a big stake in the outcome. Papers to create Obama’s legacy entity, led by pal Marty Nesbitt and re-election campaign deputy chief Julianna Smoot, are expected to be filed early in the year. This will formalize a process to determine a location, spur massive fundraising and evaluate proposals.
4. Michelle Obama turn 50
Her 50th birthday is Jan. 17, and invitations have been sent for a Jan. 18 party at the White House. At a recent visit to the Children’s National Medical Center, a young person asked her how she would celebrate. “Fifty and fabulous. January 17th. . . . It might involve some dancing. A little Dougie,” she said.
5. State of the Union again
“I think 2014 needs to be a year of action,” Obama said at that press conference. Aides have been saying for some time the president will make “income inequality” a centerpiece of his domestic agenda; that includes extending jobless benefits and raising the minimum wage. Other items on the “action” list may be done with executive actions to sidestep Congress. Obama has not been able to broker deals with the GOP-run House, but with the looming November elections, the House may take up piecemeal immigration bills.
Debt ceiling rerun
On or about Feb. 7 — potentially later, depending on cash flow — Congress must act again to raise the debt ceiling; this could trigger another showdown between the White House and congressional Republicans.
7. Governors in the spotlight
The National Governors Association annual winter meeting runs Feb. 22-25 in D.C. The big national spotlight and feeding frenzy will be on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association and potential 2016 presidential candidate. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, up for re-election this year, usually attends and is likely to work in fundraising chores, either for himself or on behalf of the Democratic Governors Association.
The Illinois primary
Nationally, Illinois has one of the earliest primaries in the 2014 cycle, and contests are heating up. The biggest state primary race is the four-way battle for the GOP governor nomination.
Primary day is March 18, but the starting gate opens March 3 with early voting. Quinn is not facing much of a primary; neither is Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. The biggest congressional contest is in central Illinois, where freshman Rep. Rodney Davis faces a challenge from the right in the 13th district.
9. Obamacare deadline
While enrollment on the new marketplaces opened Oct. 1, the really important date is March 31. That’s when a person who has the ability to pay for health insurance must buy it or face a penalty fee — and be stuck with no coverage. The White House will mount an intensive effort for enrollment. Republicans have a tough call: Will they tell people to pay the penalty rather then enroll? Coverage for March enrollees start in May.
Israel/Palestinian Authority peace talks
Secretary of State John Kerry was in Israel again this week in a quest for an Israeli/Palestinian Authority peace deal before the deadline, targeted at April.
At the end of November, Iran and the U.S., Great Britain, Germany, France, Russia and China — with input from the European Union — made an interim six-month deal to freeze some of Iran’s nuclear program. That agreement will be up midyear. A bipartisan group of Iran hawks in Congress, including Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., at the end of 2013 starting pushing for tougher sanctions against Iran to keep up the pressure, putting them at odds with the Obama White House.
Jobs, jobs, jobs
The midterms will be fought on many fronts, with Democrats guarding their flank over job creation. The jobless rate has been slowly decreasing. The last unemployment report before the November election will be released Oct. 3. If the number is bad, advantage Republicans.
Obama has a huge stake in the Nov. 4 midterms, complicated by 2016 presidential politics that will be long in play. In Illinois, the marquee race will be for governor.
14. Rahm on the run
Throughout 2014, Mayor Rahm Emanuel will try to scare off any formidable 2015 rival. The race actually starts in 2014, and if a real contender surfaces, those stories may trump midterm coverage. The last day to file petitions for the 2015 mayoral race is Nov. 24.