Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 4, 2015

A Few Winners in a Dysfunctional Year

( Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

( Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s tough to call anyone a winner in a year that was among the least productive in Congressional history and saw a government shutdown in October, but one group stands out: the relative newcomers who have pushed to change the rules.

The group of senators led by Democrats Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Tom Udall of New Mexico, finally prevailed on Majority Leader Harry Reid to make use of the procedural device known as the “nuclear option” to get rid of supermajority requirements for nominations except those to the Supreme Court. That rather seismic shift in Senate history seems likely to have longer-lasting repercussions than any of the legislation that moved through the Senate in 2013, in part because the GOP-led House wants no part of the legislative priorities championed by Democrats.

There were a few other winners this year:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Reid largely comes away from 2013 as a winner, as the outcome of the shutdown worked out fairly well for Democrats — using his strategy — and he was able to corral his caucus behind the big-ticket agenda items of the year, including the procedural changes and an immigration overhaul. He frequently infuriated the GOP by blocking amendments and thanks to the rules change, and time will tell if he and his party will pay a price down the line.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Like her House counterpart on the Budget Committee, Murray comes away as a winner. She continued to increase her national profile having negotiated the budget agreement with Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., that partially stops the sequester. What was suspected more than a year ago when Murray announced she would take the Budget Committee gavel came true, and Murray could factor into any potential future contest for leader of Senate Democrats (if Reid ever leaves, that is).

In a number of cases, senators who might be perceived as losers in a policymaking vacuum look like winners when factoring in a political context. So to use a casino term in a legislative body with a leader from Nevada, we’ll call this the year of the “push.”

Here are a few:

“Wacko Birds”

The Republican senators whom John McCain, R-Ariz., referred to, not so affectionately, as “wacko birds” did not achieve their legislative goals. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, for instance, was unable to accomplish the defunding of Obamacare, and he was blamed by many for the standoff that led to the government shutdown. As a political matter however, Cruz raised his profile among conservatives.

Another member of that group, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, raised his profile with an old-school filibuster contesting the Obama administration’s drone policy, and by making a renewed push on a priority inherited from his father — auditing the Federal Reserve.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La.

Vitter has been on a sometimes quixotic campaign to eliminate the federal employer contribution for members and staff getting health insurance through the new Obamacare exchanges. He sought votes on an amendment to that effect several times, never finding success. Vitter’s teamed up with Citizens United on the effort, however, which could be useful as he’s looking toward a possible gubernatorial campaign.

The “Gang of Eight”

The eight senators who worked together to develop a comprehensive immigration overhaul that includes a path to citizenship managed to get legislation through the Senate with a strong bipartisan majority. Of course, legislative victories in one chamber only go so far and the immigration issue has shown few signs of life in the House. And Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has spent much of the time since trying to refurbish his conservative credentials after the bill faced a backlash on the right.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

The minority leader had an interesting roller coaster of a year. His best moment came in negotiating the agreement to get the government back up and running in October, but it wasn’t long after that the role of minority leader itself lost some clout with McConnell and others unable to persuade Reid not to make use of the “nuclear option.” The result: McConnell now has less importance in agenda-setting. Of course, that comes with a caveat since it would increase the power wielded by McConnell if he achieves his goal of becoming majority leader in 2015. And if you count the fiscal cliff deal on the 2013 legislative scorecard, McConnell’s year improves considerably. That deal robbed the White House of any leverage it had on taxes by making the Bush-era tax cuts permanent for 99 percent of Americans without sacrificing the leverage of the sequester.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.

You might have expected the chairman of the Finance Committee to appear on a “losers” list, since the tax overhaul that Baucus has been pushing in his final Senate term along with House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., hasn’t gained traction, despite a barnstorming tour and a lot of behind the scenes work developing policy proposals. But, that was all before President Barack Obama decided to nominate Baucus as the next ambassador to China.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

Gillibrand had her highest profile year yet, championing the issue of reducing military sexual assault both in the Capitol and to donors and political supporters across the country. Before Gillibrand made the move from the House to the Senate, few senators talked about the rampant and growing problem of military sexual assault or the role of commanders in perpetuating a hostile culture toward victims. Gillibrand introduced a bill to remove prosecution of violent crime from the chain of command and though the legislation never came to the floor and she was unable to garner enough votes to force Reid’s hand, she won plenty of media attention along the way. The flip side, however, was that the New Yorker’s aggressive pressuring of her Democratic colleagues irked those who didn’t back her bill. Gillibrand seemed to be painting opponents of her bill as “anti-victim,” angering Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who was the chief advocate of the Senate Armed Services language, which included adjustments short of changing the command structure.

Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md.

It was a banner year for Mikulski, who assumed the helm of the Appropriations Committee at the beginning of this Congress from the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye. The next few weeks will be a big test of the Baltimore Democrat’s muscle, as appropriators are tasked with coming up with an omnibus spending bill that can pass both the House and the Senate by Jan. 15. Mikulski now has two years worth of top line numbers with which to work, even though they’re lower than she and Democrats would like. The budget deal included cuts to federal worker pensions — just the most recent blow to public employees who are concentrated highly in Mikulski’s Maryland. During the October government shutdown, Mikulski was one of the most passionate defenders of government workers and sources say she and Murray were key to ending the stand-off. This year also saw the largest class of female senators in the chamber’s history, a group within which Mikulski is considered dean. Her regular meetings with female members have fostered discussions and legislation that have demonstrated rare bipartisanship in an otherwise acrimonious year.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

The veteran Republican lawmaker saw a resurgence in 2013, returning to a central role negotiating with Democrats after years of drifting in the wake of his presidential loss in 2008 and primary fight in 2010. McCain was a key member of the bipartisan group that pushed a comprehensive immigration bill through the Senate. Over the summer, he negotiated a deal with Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., to keep Reid (at least for a period) from exercising the nuclear option. McCain met with his former campaign rival Barack Obama multiple times at the White House and his acerbic view toward the far-right wing of his party proved salient when many of his colleagues were turning against the tea party during the October government shutdown. The “Maverick Returns” headlines abounded throughout the year, but maybe McCain isn’t so much an independent as he is nostalgic for the old days of the Senate, when signature legislation could be passed and bipartisan accomplishments were celebrated.

Comments (42)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

author email

  1. Attila

    Dec. 24, 2013
    10:55 a.m.

    Very much looking forward to using the “nuclear option” on our crypto-marxists in the Senate. I wonder how they’ll like the taste?

  2. James

    Dec. 24, 2013
    1:03 p.m.

    Well I for one of many that are glad that they have been so unproductive.
    What they did produce was and abomination and in most cases against the Constitution and against the good of the people. I think that is why Obama was elected for his second term. The people are counting on Congress to not allow anything to be passed. They prefer no government to what we got in 2008. We need a way to recall the congress if they are not functioning to the people liking. We need something like what they have in other governments, “a vote of no confidence.”

    With the administration we now have the only safe guard in our system that is working is that congress is split in two houses and both must pass the legislation; However, Obama has violated that part of our Constitution that it is almost a failure, and the failure is due to the lack of courage on behalf of Congress to do their job. We are rapidly becoming a government for the minority.

  3. DooMm

    Dec. 25, 2013
    10:42 p.m.

    Do you want to find a partner who will exceed your expectations?
    Try___richfriends.com___the largest community for meeting successful or attractive singles for serious relationships. Give it a shot and good luck! ^_^

  4. JMH21

    Dec. 26, 2013
    7:48 a.m.

    The winners in the Senate are those like Joe Manchin and Susan Collins, moderates who understand that you have to work with both sides of the aisle to get something done. Max Baucus understood this and he was hated by the left wing of the Democrat caucus. Orrin Hatch gets it and he gets pilloried by the far right.

    The losers are Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell because they tie the body up in knots. Reid orchestrated Baucus to become the Ambassador to China simply to try and hold on to the Montana seat, not for any love of Max. I used to think the Republican idea of limiting terms of chairmanships was dumb but looking at the average age of the Democrat Chairs I am now starting to think it might be a good idea. And the Ranking Democrats in the House are a collection that would fill an old age home.

  5. Liberalism is Nonsense

    Dec. 29, 2013
    5:45 a.m.

    Although some have been seduced by the fallacy that scientific knowledge growth shrinks our ignorance, most people realize that the ocean of our ignorance grows much faster than the island of our knowledge.

  6. Defend The Constitution

    Dec. 30, 2013
    1:14 a.m.

    To thrive over the long term, we should make use of the customs and practices upon which the oaks of liberty and prosperity grew tall and strong in the first place.

  7. Thomas Aquinas

    Dec. 31, 2013
    6:22 p.m.

    The liberty to follow our moral conscience and choose our own way frees each of us to develop our unique abilities, maximize our contribution to civilization, and thus help unleash civilization’s full potential.

  8. One Thirsty Bear

    Jan. 1, 2014
    7:22 a.m.

    Although inseparable from liberty, the self-reliance and responsibility required to prosper in a free country can be sources of stress and discontent.

  9. Thomas Aquinas

    Jan. 2, 2014
    9:49 p.m.

    Although the threat of coercion is required to prevent lawless behavior, the liberty school recognizes that centralized coercive power should be minimized to prevent its abuse by the ignorant and the wicked.

  10. Anonymous

    July 4, 2015
    6:27 a.m.

    of course like your web-site but you have to take a look at the spelling on quite a few of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I to find it very troublesome to tell the truth nevertheless I will surely come back again.

    http://www.sdorttuiiplmnr.com/

  11. Anonymous

    July 7, 2015
    11:36 a.m.

    I’d have to examine with you here. Which is not one thing I usually do! I take pleasure in reading a post that may make folks think. Additionally, thanks for permitting me to comment!

    http://www.sdorttuiiplmnr.com/

  12. Anonymous

    July 8, 2015
    12:42 a.m.

    I’ve been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this blog. Thank you, I will try and check back more often. How frequently you update your web site?

    http://www.kiwibox.com/mousesleep6/blog/entry/130629793/optyk-pozna-najlepszy-okulista-pozna-sprawd-nasz-salon/?pPage=0

  13. Anonymous

    July 9, 2015
    8:52 a.m.

    I’m still learning from you, but I’m improving myself. I certainly enjoy reading all that is posted on your website.Keep the stories coming. I loved it!

    https://ssl.panoramio.com/user/8746552

  14. Anonymous

    July 18, 2015
    2:51 a.m.

    The other day, while I was at work, my sister stole my iPad and tested to see if it can survive a twenty five foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My iPad is now broken and she has 83 views. I know this is entirely off topic but I had to share it with someone!

    http://mystery.bigmir.net/wiki/index.php?title=What_Is_The_Best_Low_Cost_Auto_Insurance

  15. Anonymous

    July 18, 2015
    8:32 a.m.

    Would you be fascinated about exchanging links?

    http://www.mylaffy.com/blog/view/63272/low-cost-home-and-auto-insurance

  16. Anonymous

    July 21, 2015
    2:10 a.m.

    you’re really a good webmaster. The web site loading speed is amazing. It seems that you’re doing any unique trick. Furthermore, The contents are masterwork. you have done a fantastic job on this topic!

    http://lowcostautoquotes.com/home-insurance.html

  17. Anonymous

    July 21, 2015
    7:15 a.m.

    Hello! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok. I’m absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

    http://lowcostautoquotes.com

  18. Anonymous

    July 24, 2015
    1:07 p.m.

    Appreciate it for this marvellous post, I am glad I found this internet site on yahoo.

    http://split.us

  19. Anonymous

    July 24, 2015
    11:42 p.m.

    Hello there! This is kind of off topic but I need some help from an established blog. Is it very difficult to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about setting up my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Thank you

    https://bestplumbers.com

  20. Anonymous

    July 30, 2015
    7:27 p.m.

    excellent points altogether, you simply gained a brand new reader. What would you recommend about your post that you made a few days ago? Any positive?

    http://brookereviews.com/product/ehealthinsurance-review-why-ehealthinsurance-plan-is-one-of-the-top-health-insurance-plans-in-2015/

  21. Anonymous

    July 30, 2015
    8:13 p.m.

    Awsome info and right to the point. I don’t know if this is in fact the best place to ask but do you guys have any ideea where to hire some professional writers? Thank you :)

    http://brookereviews.com/product/children-learning-reading-program-jim-yang-review-legit-scam/

  22. Anonymous

    July 31, 2015
    2:31 p.m.

    Hey there, You’ve done an excellent job. I will certainly digg it and personally suggest to my friends. I’m sure they will be benefited from this web site.

    http://noclegzoliborz.pl/

  23. Anonymous

    July 31, 2015
    3:22 p.m.

    My partner and I stumbled over here different web address and thought I may as well check things out. I like what I see so now i’m following you. Look forward to checking out your web page yet again.

    http://domweselnywarszawa.eu/

  24. Anonymous

    Aug. 2, 2015
    12:09 p.m.

    hello!,I like your writing very much! share we communicate more about your post on AOL? I need an expert on this area to solve my problem. May be that’s you! Looking forward to see you.

    http://www.consultdustry.com/send-resume/

  25. Anonymous

    Aug. 2, 2015
    2:39 p.m.

    Hello! I just would like to give a huge thumbs up for the great info you have here on this post. I will be coming back to your blog for more soon.

    http://www.consultdustry.com/associates-global-trade-and-international-business-development-agency/

  26. Anonymous

    Aug. 7, 2015
    4:28 a.m.

    Thanks a lot for sharing this with all of us you actually know what you are talking about! Bookmarked. Kindly also visit my site =). We could have a link exchange contract between us!

    http://topcheapinsurance.com

  27. Anonymous

    Aug. 9, 2015
    9:23 p.m.

    I like this web blog very much, Its a rattling nice place to read and receive information.

    http://brookereviews.com/product/6-minutes-to-skinny-review-craig-ballantyne-7-things-you-should-know/

  28. Anonymous

    Aug. 12, 2015
    4:57 p.m.

    It is actually a great and helpful piece of info. I’m happy that you just shared this useful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

    http://topcheapinsurance.com/companies-insurance-united-states.html

  29. Anonymous

    Aug. 12, 2015
    5:39 p.m.

    I like what you guys are up also. Such clever work and reporting! Keep up the excellent works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it’ll improve the value of my website :)

    http://topcheapinsurance.com/companies-insurance-united-states.html

  30. Anonymous

    Aug. 17, 2015
    7:27 p.m.

    I think other web site proprietors should take this website as an model, very clean and great user friendly style and design, let alone the content. You’re an expert in this topic!

    http://myfirstworld.com/JohnnyLawrence

  31. Anonymous

    Aug. 19, 2015
    10:11 a.m.

    I¦ve recently started a website, the info you provide on this website has helped me greatly. Thank you for all of your time & work.

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Weihnachtsgeschenke/1477451642550371?skip_nax_wizard=true&ref_type=logout_gear

  32. Anonymous

    Aug. 24, 2015
    6:25 a.m.

    I have been exploring for a little bit for any high quality articles or blog posts on this kind of house . Exploring in Yahoo I at last stumbled upon this site. Reading this information So i am glad to exhibit that I’ve an incredibly good uncanny feeling I discovered exactly what I needed. I so much unquestionably will make sure to don¦t overlook this website and give it a glance on a relentless basis.

    http://quotesautoinsurance.org/primerica-insurance.html

  33. Anonymous

    Aug. 24, 2015
    8:49 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing excellent informations. Your website is very cool. I’m impressed by the details that you have on this website. It reveals how nicely you understand this subject. Bookmarked this website page, will come back for more articles. You, my friend, ROCK! I found simply the info I already searched all over the place and just could not come across. What an ideal website.

    http://quotesautoinsurance.org/primerica-insurance.html

  34. Anonymous

    Aug. 25, 2015
    8:26 a.m.

    Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read something like this before. So nice to find any person with some original ideas on this subject. realy thank you for beginning this up. this website is something that’s wanted on the internet, somebody with just a little originality. helpful job for bringing one thing new to the web!

    http://www.leb4host.com/story.php?title=httpelfisanta-fr-9#discuss

  35. Anonymous

    Aug. 25, 2015
    2:20 p.m.

    I’m still learning from you, as I’m improving myself. I certainly liked reading all that is posted on your blog.Keep the stories coming. I enjoyed it!

    http://meble-gabinetowe.uchwycone-chwile.pl/stylowe-meble/

  36. Anonymous

    Aug. 25, 2015
    9:17 p.m.

    I am not really excellent with English but I line up this real leisurely to interpret.

    http://topcheapinsurance.com/travelers-home-and-auto-insurance.html

  37. Anonymous

    Aug. 26, 2015
    4:34 a.m.

    Some genuinely great information, Glad I discovered this.

    http://topcheapinsurance.com/travelers-home-and-auto-insurance.html

  38. Anonymous

    Aug. 29, 2015
    6:17 p.m.

    There are actually a lot of details like that to take into consideration. That could be a great level to bring up. I provide the thoughts above as normal inspiration but clearly there are questions like the one you bring up where crucial thing will likely be working in honest good faith. I don?t know if finest practices have emerged round issues like that, but I’m sure that your job is clearly recognized as a good game. Both girls and boys really feel the impression of only a moment’s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.

    https://www.pinterest.com/pin/512143788853778326/

  39. Anonymous

    Sept. 1, 2015
    7:04 p.m.

    I love what you guys tend to be up too. This kind of clever work and exposure! Keep up the awesome works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to my own blogroll.

    http://executivecondominium.info/criterion-ec-cdl/

  40. Anonymous

    Sept. 2, 2015
    1:51 p.m.

    Hey! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

    http://brookereviews.com/product/visual-impact-frequency-training-review-rusty-moore-12-things-you-should-know/

  41. Anonymous

    Sept. 2, 2015
    5:19 p.m.

    Real excellent information can be found on weblog. “Even if happiness forgets you a little bit, never completely forget about it.” by Donald Robert Perry Marquis.

    http://lowcostautoquotes.com/lowest-auto-insurance.html

  42. Anonymous

    Sept. 3, 2015
    12:10 a.m.

    There are definitely lots of particulars like that to take into consideration. That is a nice point to deliver up. I offer the ideas above as normal inspiration however clearly there are questions just like the one you deliver up the place an important thing can be working in sincere good faith. I don?t know if finest practices have emerged round things like that, however I’m certain that your job is clearly recognized as a fair game. Each girls and boys feel the impact of just a second’s pleasure, for the remainder of their lives.

    https://about.me/expertoseo

Sign In

Forgot password?

Or

Subscribe

Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...