Last year was one of disharmony in Washington, to say the least. Democrats and Republicans fought with each other and with themselves, immigration overhaul stalled, and the federal government shut down for the first time in 17 years.
It was a year history will certainly remember, but one lawmakers likely want to forget. Good news for them: It's almost gone and the time has come to look ahead to 2014. Here are five burning political questions we have about next year.
Which lawmakers and candidates will emerge as party leaders? Last year saw a mix of the new and the already familiar in politics. Household names like Hillary Clinton, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush dominated the discussion about 2016, but newer faces on both sides of the aisle like Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Elizabeth Warren found their way into the headlines and cemented themselves in the political conversation. Will we see additional members of Congress rise up and establish themselves as leaders? And out in the country, who will emerge as the must-watch candidates? And can any Democrats establish themselves as a (hypothetical) strong primary challenge to a (hypothetical) Clinton candidacy in 2016?
Will the GOP be able to win back a majority in the Senate? Next year will see series of competitive midterm races and, on the Senate side, Democrats will be defending seats in numerous red states, including Louisiana, Montana and West Virginia. The combination of the map and the fact that historically midterms tend to favor the party not in power should give the GOP the edge, but Democrats are enthusiastic about the candidates they've recruited in states where Republicans are defending seats or where Democrats are retiring.
Will the tea party movement continue to show its strength, or will mainstream Republicans be able to take the reins of the party? The battle continues to rage but with an increased level of vitriol between the two factions. The House of Representatives adjourned for the year with tensions at an all-time high after the House passed a modest bipartisan budget deal that was notably unpopular with tea party members and outside conservative groups. House Speaker John Boehner lashed out at these groups in a news conference, and conservative groups saw the passage of this budget as a betrayal. A fight is very much on, but which side will emerge victorious after the midterm elections?
How many people will enroll in Obamacare by the March deadline and what will be the mix of ages and health status? This specific question is key to the broader one: will Obamacare work? Can it succeed? Can it be popular? How many people enroll and, within that number, how many are young and/or healthy determines the rate for premiums in the years to come.
Will we see any movement on immigration overhaul? Never say never, but no one's holding his or her breath on this one.