A battle is shaping up between Sens. Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell.

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — A battle is shaping up between Sens. Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell.

McConnell, the Senate majority leader, and Cruz, the conservative firebrand, are competing for influence among the Senate’s 12 Republican freshmen. The outcome, writes the Hill, will potentially shape the agenda for 2015 and beyond. Cruz has reached out to freshman Republicans in hopes they will join his effort to pressure GOP leaders to pursue what he calls a “bold agenda.” McConnell, meanwhile, has consistently told colleagues the only way they can have an impact is by getting legislation to President Barack Obama’s desk. That means pushing proposals on jobs and the economy that can win Democratic support.

Obamacare a Senate test: On Thursday, the House will vote again to lengthen Obamacare’s definition of a full-time workweek to 40 hours. But the Senate, Politico reports, has work to do before it can hope to get its first anti-Obamacare bill to the president’s desk. McConnell has said the workweek bill is at the top of the GOP’s Obamacare priorities, along with repealing a tax on the medical-device industry. But an immediate slam dunk could be elusive. Backers of the workweek bill say there aren’t yet the 60 votes needed to bring it to the Senate floor.

SOTU preview: President Obama is on the road this week, offering previews of some of the proposals he’ll offer in his Jan. 20 State of the Union address. The tour, as The Wall Street Journal reports, began in Michigan and will head to Arizona and Tennessee. It’s an effort to lay the groundwork for executive actions and legislative policy proposals on issues including housing, manufacturing and higher education. The Journal says Obama’s pitch on the road is a newly aggressive focus on touting positive economic progress. It also serves as a counterweight to the Republican legislative agenda.

Housing pitch: Obama’s tour stops on Thursday in Phoenix, Ariz., where he will announce a 0.5 percentage-point cut in annual mortgage insurance premiums on loans from the Federal Housing Administration. USA Today reports the White House says that Obama will spotlight “how the recovering housing sector has helped restore wealth and economic security to millions of middle-class families.” After Phoenix, Obama will return to Washington but travel again Friday to Tennessee to discuss education and manufacturing.

Walker builds 2016 team: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will launch a new political organization in the coming weeks and has tapped a national political strategist to serve as his campaign manager if he decides to run for president, CNN reports. Walker quietly brought on Rick Wiley, a former Republican National Committee political director and presidential campaign veteran, about a month ago to build a political operation in advance of the 2016 race, sources told CNN. Walker’s moves are the latest in a swirl of recent activity from big-name Republicans eyeing a White House bid, including Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee.


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