Better Tidings for New Year

J. David Ake/AP Photo

By RICK KLEIN ( @rickklein )

It's almost time to deck the halls - which will be empty by the end of the week around here, anyway. But the news is around clearing the decks.

On one level, nothing really changed. In fact, nothing's even done yet. The budget deal, set for final passage Tuesday in the Senate when/if the shopping for Republican votes is done, is just about the least lawmakers could do.

Except something's happening. That's a change in itself, and a new tone for the end of 2013 that just might still be heard in 2014.

For the White House, the deal it played little role in achieving gives an opening to talk about something else - anything else.

If there is to be a pre-midterm agenda - immigration, tax reform, income inequality, or what have you - it needs to start this way. (There is still, though, the debt ceiling, waiting for spring…)

On the Hill, no, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Chairman Patty Murray are not fast friends set to lead their respective parties to a new era of achievements. But two lawmakers with vast credibility on their party flanks have a model for movement.

As for the outside - maybe just as important -party leadership is backing Ryan and Murray against all comers. House Speaker John Boehner may never tell off the tea party and the outside groups again. But the fact that he did it once (or twice) will be what's remembered come the new year.

Welcome to the last work week of 2013 for official Washington, where 2014 questions get answered a little early, and something just might get done.


  • THE AFTERGLOW. "Having negotiated a big budget deal, House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D., Wash.) think the next area for bipartisan agreement could be on a tax overhaul," THE WALL STREET JOURNAL's MELANIE TROTTMAN reports. Ryan: "Watch the Ways and Means Committee in the first quarter of next year." Murray: "I would agree with the chairman that we do need to do tax reform."
  • THE NOT-SO-FAST. "We don't want nothing out of this debt limit," Paul Ryan said on "Fox News Sunday." "We are going to decide what it is we can accomplish out of this debt-limit fight."
  • NEWT'S TAKE, post-shutdown. "I think it's clear that it didn't work. And in that sense they learned a lesson. I think this was mediocre policy and brilliant politics," former House speaker Newt Gingrich told ABC's JONATHAN KARL, on the "This Week" roundtable.
  • NEXT UP, IMMIGRATION. More Gingrich: "I think the House Republicans will probably move five or six separate, smaller bills, adding up to a large change. I think the president has indicated already that he would accept that kind of approach. And I think they'll do that in the spring."
  • MARK YOUR CALENDARS. GOP strategist Ana Navarro, on the roundtable: "Most definitely, I think the window for immigration reform reopens late spring/early summer. It doesn't get done then, it doesn't get done."
  • OR, DON'T. "After the Senate reconvenes in January, observers say, the coming year is unlikely to yield significant legislative action," writes THE WASHINGTON POST's REID WILSON. 'Democrats will probably advance measures intended to draw political contrasts with Republicans - including a proposal to raise the minimum wage and a number of smaller bills that they say would boost jobs and strengthen the economy. None of those measures are likely to win Republican votes or spur action in the GOP-controlled House."
  • 2013 REALITIES. "The Senate's final week in session this year promises to be memorable not for legislative business like the pending budget and defense bills but for something far less inspired: the vast amount of time it spends doing nothing in particular," THE NEW YORK TIMES' JEREMY W. PETERS reports. "Not counting brief, pro forma sessions, the House was in session for 942 hours, an average of about 28 hours each week it conducted business in Washington. That is far lower than the nearly 1,700 hours it was in session in 2007, the 1,350 hours in 2005 or even the 1,200 in 2011. By a similar measure, the Senate was near its recorded lows for days on the floor. Senators have spent 99 days casting votes this year, close to the recent low point for a nonelection year in 1991, when there were 95 voting days."
  • SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, being John McCain: "When I'm down at the old soldiers' home and I'm sitting in my rocking chair I'll say, 'Boy, 2013 was a banner year.' "
  • 2014 REALITIES - and Obamacare's legacy . "Afraid of squandering this unforeseen gift, Republicans are treading lightly, hoping they can freeze the electorate's mood for the next 11 months, a tall order given the pace of news. Little is scheduled to happen next year, legislatively speaking," writes TIME's JAY NEWTON-SMALL.
  • KERRY ON 'THIS WEEK.' Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking exclusively to ABC's MARTHA RADDATZ for "This Week," compared the reported arrest and execution of the uncle of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to the actions taken by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and said they were an "ominous sign of the instability" in North Korea. "It really reminded me of a video that we saw of Saddam Hussein doing the same thing, having people plucked out of an audience, and people sitting there sweating, and nobody daring to move or do anything," Kerry said during an interview in Vietnam over the weekend.
  • ON ROBERT LEVINSON. Kerry insisted that the United States had not abandoned former FBI agent Robert Levinson - the 65-year-old American who went missing in Iran seven years ago - and said he was personally involved in the effort to locate him. "There hasn't been progress in the sense that we don't have him back. But to suggest that we have abandoned him or anybody has abandoned him is simply incorrect and not helpful," Kerry said, per ABC's BENJAMIN BELL. "The fact is, that I have personally raised the issue not only at the highest level that I have been involved with, but also through other intermediaries. So we don't have any meeting with anybody who has something to do with Iran or an approach to Iran where we don't talk to them about how we might be able to find not just Levinson, but we have two other Americans that we're deeply concerned about."


ABC's JEFF ZELENY: The criticism may be loud, but there's little question the Senate will pass the bipartisan budget deal this week. Democrats need at least five Republicans to help overcome a filibuster threat with 60 votes. Those five are likely to be: Burr, Collins, Flake, Murkowski and McCain. While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will vote against the deal, make no mistake that he and most other Republicans want it to pass. It takes away a giant headache looming next year: a new government shutdown. Democrats aren't thrilled with the bill either, particularly because unemployment insurance isn't included, but they're all expected to support it. Two other items of business also remain: the defense spending bill, which is likely to be approved, and the farm bill, which will be punted.


'THIS WEEK REWIND': John Kerry on North Korea and Iran.

DON'T MISS: Discussing Dasani, New York's "invisible child," with New York Times reporter Andrea Elliott, on "This Week."


2014 BIND. "Republican primary candidates are caught in an Obamacare fix," JAMES HOHMANN and KYLE CHENEY report for POLITICO. "Even the slightest hint that a GOP contender might support anything besides all-out repeal of the health care law is drawing attacks from the right. So, increasingly, in races across the country, proposals to fix the existing law or retain any of it are being ruled out by Republicans eager to further burnish their conservative credentials."

HILLARY, THE MIDTERMS. "Ready for Hillary, the group organizing supporters nationwide for a potential Clinton presidential campaign, says it will ask its members to support candidates endorsed by Clinton in the 2014 midterm elections, and to push her policy agenda over the next two years," writes USA TODAY's MARTHA T. MOORE.

HILLARY, THE DATA PROJECT. "The network of super PACs functioning as a sort of wink-and-nod Clinton campaign-in-waiting are at the center of the data tug-of-war. The hub, Ready for Hillary, is working on data initiatives that are unprecedented for a candidate-specific super PAC - let alone one planning for a presidential campaign that's still two years off," POLITICO's KENNETH P. VOGEL reports .

BACK TO HEALTH CARE. Your Monday dose of Darrell Issa: "Breitbart News has obtained a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report on the Obamacare Navigators that will be released Monday. It has found that Obamacare Navigators have been giving Americans misinformation and, in some cases, actively encouraging enrollees to commit fraud in order to raise their subsidies. To complicate matters further, there is no way for Americans to find out whether their Navigators are properly certified," BREITBART's TONY LEE reports.

DID WE SAY THE YEAR IS ENDING SOON? "After weeks of legal wrangling, a recount of the closest statewide election in Virginia history begins Monday. By the end of the week, Virginians should know who will serve as their next attorney general - unless the loser chooses to prolong the fight," BEN PERSHING writes for THE WASHINGTON POST.

ANOTHER VOTE? "Virginia AG contest: New election is one remedy," op-ed by CHARLES J. COOPER in the RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH.


"Kerry Returns to Vietnam Waterways on Climate Change Mission," by ABC's MATTHEW LAROTONDA.


FROM THE DEMOCRATIC SENATORIAL CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE : "The DSCC had its best off-year November in the history of the committee, raising $5.1 million. The DSCC has dramatically outraised the NRSC this cycle. The DSCC has raised a whopping $48.6 million already this year, while the NRSC has reported raising just $29.5 million. The DSCC has more than $12 million on hand compared to just $5 million for the NRSC according to the most recent reports. The DSCC ended November just $5 million in debt."


" Washington 'Centrists' Don't Want Obama to Target Inequality. They're Pushing Bad Politics - And Bad Economics," by NEERA TANDEN for THE NEW REPUBLIC. "President Obama is advocating for the idea that when the top 10 percent of earners take home 50 percent of the country's wealth, it's reasonable to ask that the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share to ensure that all Americans have a shot at economic success. There's another politician who raised taxes on the wealthy by raising the top marginal rate who was handily reelected President: Bill Clinton."

"Machiavelli With Malaprops: A quarter-century of covering Harry Reid," by JON RALSTON, for POLITICO.

"The Most Expensive Senate Race of the Cycle - So Far," by ROLL CALL'S KYLE TRYGSTAD. "About halfway through the midterm election cycle, North Carolina is on pace to host the most expensive Senate race of 2014. But the Tar Heel State shouldn't necessarily get too comfortable in the top spot. Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan's re-election battle in the state is one of at least four Senate contests where outside spending has already eclipsed the $2 million mark. The others include the re-election races of Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky."

"Early start to TV ads war in midterm elections," by THE BOSTON GLOBE's MATT VISER. "The beginning of the 2014 midterm election season and the launch of the most controversial aspects of the Affordable Care Act coincide on the political calendar, and several states are already awash in spending by outside groups. Republicans are trying to use the controversy over the botched launch of President Obama's health care law to lay the groundwork early and attempt to sway crucial female voters away from incumbent Senate Democrats in key states."


@SenJohnMcCain : Inspiring opportunity to speak to the Ukrainian ppl today at Maidan - America stands w/ you! From #euromaidan stage:

@joelmsiegel: Quinn on her mayoral run: "I'm very annoyed and disappointed that my plan wasn't God's plan" @anniekarni interview

@SimonWDC : My recent piece on why we're much closer to #CIR deal than many realize.…. Sides are close, deal can get done in 2014.

@GMA: Pope Francis is shrugging off the "Marxist" label that some ultra-conservatives might apply to him:

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