As Clinton’s press team begins without a campaign, and other 2016ers get on the non-campaign campaign trail, here’s a glimpse at some of the stories your ABC News political team is tracking in the week ahead:
It might not be official yet, but the wheels are clearly in motion for Clinton 2016 — and this coming week the behind-the-scenes operation will be notably expanding. On Monday, Clinton’s new communications director – Jennifer Palmieri- begins reporting for duty in New York City. And others who are also expected to be closely involved with Clinton’s likely presidential campaign are making the move to the Big Apple-more specifically Brooklyn–in the coming days as well. Meanwhile, Clinton has two public events on Monday: in the morning, she’ll join a discussion at the Center for American Progress on expanding opportunities in urban areas, and at night she’ll be the featured speaker at the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting award celebration. The former will be co-hosted by AFSCME, and appearing with unions and progressives can’t hurt, especially when some progressives are still pining for Sen. Elizabeth Warren to enter the race.
Get ready for a late one. It only happens once a year — if it happens at all — but the Senate will hold what’s being dubbed a budget “vote-a-rama” toward the end of the week, with dozens of roll-call votes on amendments to the budget resolution. For any senator considering a 2016 presidential run, it’s not a day to miss votes, and the political implications of each measure will be noted by opponents. It’s also an opportunity to offer amendments and score points with activists. This last happened in 2013, with about 100 amendments and over 13 hours of voting that lasted all night. The House will also vote on its separate GOP-backed budget, for which Speaker John Boehner has said there is “overwhelming support.”
We are still in the “invisible” stage of the 2016 presidential primaries, but candidates are making their presence felt on the trail, lining up donors and delivering stump speeches in key states. All eyes are on Monday’s big event with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at Liberty University in Virginia. ABC News has confirmed he will announce his presidential campaign at the event, becoming the first major presidential candidate to officially enter the 2016 race. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who’s flirting with a 2016 run, will make his first trip to New Hampshire this cycle, and he’ll travel to New York City to raise cash. Jeb Bush will also hit the money trail, for fundraisers in Philadelphia and Texas. Rick Santorum will swing through southwest Iowa on Monday and Tuesday, visiting the state’s oldest soda fountain, Penn Drug in Sidney, Iowa. Last time around, he was one of the only candidates who made it to all of Iowa’s 99 counties.
Tuesday brings an important guest to the White House: Afghanistan’s relatively new president, Ashraf Ghani, who has been asking for a slowdown in the drawdown of U.S. forces from his country this year, and more troops left in place for next year’s fighting season. According to the White House, Obama and Ghani will discuss a “range of issues including security, economic development, and U.S. support to the Afghan-led reconciliation process.” It’s the first time the two are meeting since Afghanistan’s election last year. The delegation will be in Washington from Sunday to Wednesday and will also attend a major summit hosted by Secretary John Kerry at Camp David and attend meetings at the Pentagon. There will also be a joint presidential press conference Tuesday at the White House. The administration has held meetings this week on whether to delay this year’s planned halving of the 10,000 troops that remain in Afghanistan. Reports have indicated the administration is leaning toward a slowdown.
The deadline for a political deal between Iran and the P5 +1 isn’t until March 31, but expect the negotiations — described as make or break — as well as the leaks to continue this week. The deal would likely require Iran to halt production of all weapons-grade nuclear material for another 10 years (they have already stopped doing so under an interim agreement) and to submit to an intense inspection and verification process. Reports about the latest negotiations say the draft agreement would force Iran to cut the hardware it could use to enrich uranium by about 40 percent. Whether more details leak, expect Republicans to echo what we have been hearing: that “no deal is better than a bad deal.” But it’s unlikely Congress could enact sanctions this week before a deal is done, as the president’s veto threat looms, and his opponents on this issue don’t seem to have enough votes to override him. Stay tuned.
This post has been updated. ABC News’ Chris Good, Justin Fishel, Luis Martinez, Devin Dwyer, Liz Kreutz, Arlette Saenz, and John Parkinson contributed to this report.