As President Obama's second inauguration draws near, the Capitol seems oddly quiet. On Thursday, Republican House members retreated to a golf course in Williamsburg, Virginia, for a secret strategy session on how to regain some political mojo.
Democrats, meanwhile, are thinking guns, immigration and the coming battle over raising the debt ceiling. I've met with several freshmen members of California's delegation this week, and overall they seem an impressive bunch, if not still a little green. Doug LaMalfa, a fourth-generation rice farmer still getting his sea legs, asked in the middle of my interview, "Am I doing all right here?"
He was doing fine.
Anyway, the quiet no doubt precedes a coming storm over those big issues I mentioned. But before that: the presidential inaugural on Monday, a celebration with ceremonial oaths of office, a big speech and the Star Spangled Banner sung by Beyoncé.
On the policy front, Democrats seems split on how to move ahead on gun control legislation -- piecemeal or comprehensive. But on immigration there seems to be the outline of a bipartisan agreement shaping up, with Florida Senator Marco Rubio describing a Republican path to legal status for the 11 million undocumented immigrants here. This sounds a lot like what President Obama offered in the past. So what's new? The November election results, that's what, and the overwhelming support the president received from Latinos and Asian voters -- the fastest growing segment of the electorate. And Republican-leaning groups -- agricultural, religious and business interests -- who seem to agree this needs to get done.
On Monday I spoke with San Jose Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the ranking Democrat on the House Immigration subcommittee, about the path forward on immigration. She says that she's "cautiously optimistic" that legislation can be passed.
"In November, the Republican candidate for president, Mr. Romney, got under 30 percent of the vote among Asian voters and under 30 percent among Latino voters," she said. "A lot of analysts have said that if the Republicans can't get right with these fast-growing demographic groups, there's just not going to be another Republican president."
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