Monday in politics: The return of gun control, ‘fiscal cliff’ progress, and more

Joel Roberts

Washington returns to work Monday for the first time since Friday's school shooting in Connecticut and a major new issue — or, more accurately,  an old one long deemed too politically hot to touch — may be on the agenda.

While President Obama didn't directly address gun control in his emotional speech Sunday night at a vigil in Newtown, Conn., he did vow to wield "whatever power this office holds" to prevent similar tragedies, a suggestion that his administration might be ready to tackle the politically treacherous topic.

Democratic lawmakers, as well as independent Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, went farther, calling for a ban on military-style assault weapons and the establishment of a national commission on mass shootings.

"I think we could be at a tipping point ... a tipping point where we might actually get something done," said New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer on CBS News' "Face the Nation."

Expect the gun-control rhetoric to heat up in the days and weeks to come; whether that will translate to real movement on the issue remains to be same.

Meanwhile, could there be reason for optimism, or at least less pessimism, in the "fiscal cliff" talks.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner has reportedly offered to accept a tax-rate increase on the wealthiest Americans as part of a deal to avert the steep tax hikes and spending cuts set to kick in at the start of the year.

However, Boehner wants only those earning over $1 million to pay the higher tax rates, while Obama puts the threshold at $250,000.

Still, Boehner's move is a significant step that one policy expert says "fundamentally transforms fiscal cliff negotiations."

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Secretary of State Clinton is recovering at home Monday following the concussion she sustained last week after fainting. Her doctors are advising her to rest and cancel all work events for the next week.

And speculation is continuing about the man expected to replace Clinton as the nation's top diplomat, Sen. John Kerry, as well as another old Washington hand, former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, widely seen as Obama's top pick to be the next secretary of defense.

Also Monday, the State Department is expected to receive the results of the independent review of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Criticism of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's handling of the Benghazi attack ultimately led her to withdraw her name from consideration for the State job and set Kerry up as the favorite.

And then there is this: Members of the Electoral College meet today to cast their votes for president and vice president, part of the process leading up to President Obama's second inaugural on Jan. 21.