By RICK KLEIN ( @rickklein )
This budget deal will be remembered for something other than the deal itself.
It will be remembered for a message: This was the time that Republican leaders said to their friends, cut it out.
"This is ridiculous," House Speaker John Boehner declared of the opposition brought forward by an array of his erstwhile allies - Club for Growth, Heritage Action, the Koch brothers, and -by implication- senators including Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Tom Coburn, and even Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn.
The agreement set to pass the House today is significant but ultimately minuscule. It buys two years' of budget peace, but in a familiar fashion: by avoiding the tough stuff (taxes, entitlements…).
And yet … this marks a moment the Republican establishment has been longing for. (Serious question: What would the year have been like if Boehner delivered a similar message in, say, January, right after the GOP debacle of 2012?)
By calling out the outside groups that have outsized influence, Boehner's message is that he's planning on governing, not playing games. That he's even able to deliver such a message at this stage of his speakership is remarkable in itself.
Boehner knows his conference, and he knows that he'll get maybe 150 of his Republican colleagues to vote for the budget deal Rep. Paul Ryan cut with Sen. Patty Murray. Toss in a possibly equal number of Democrats, and bipartisanship is breaking out to close out the year.
In the process, Boehner is seeking to quiet a debate that's been raging inside the Republican Party - mostly privately, but sometimes painfully publicly - for three years now, in elections and legislation.
We (think) we know the bipartisan spirit behind this budget deal won't carry over into 2014. Actually, it's not lasting through 2013 - not with the Senate up all night for no great reason outside of payback.
It's Boehner's move that's more likely to have legs - and create memories.
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: A battle between pragmatism and purity - long simmering inside the Republican Party - has now turned into a full boil. But this time, House GOP leaders aren't backing away. There was no mistaking Speaker John Boehner's tone yesterday when he blasted outside conservative groups and questioned their motives. Three pointed words from Boehner, "this is ridiculous," were music to the ears of many of his Republican members who have been tip-toeing around Club for Growth, Heritage and other groups for years. When the House votes on the budget deal today, it's the biggest sign yet that lessons were learned from the government shutdown and the establishment branch of the Republican Party could emerge stronger because of it.
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: It's déjà vu on Staten Island. A report in the New York Post floats the idea that scandal-scarred former GOP congressman Vito Fossella may want his old seat back. "There are significant people who have approached me to run," Fossella tells the Post. "They say I did a good job and should enter the public arena again…The number of inquiries have increased in the past few months." It's a bit of a rewind. It was before Rep. Michael Grimm's current ethical and campaign finance allegations hit him, but Fossella was also floated again in 2010. He denied he was behind the buzz then, but did say in a brief interview with me before he decided not to take on Grimm that he was "very humbled and touched and blessed that I was able to represent the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn all these years." Not exactly a denial, but it's likely this is just another trial balloon that will lead nowhere. Fossella does retain some support and remains popular in the Staten Island and South Brooklyn district, but it's unlikely he will want to re-hash the reasons he left his seat in the first place, even if he is taking on someone who has been hounded by controversies of his own.
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
"Obama-Selfie Photog: Photo Furor 'Says Something About Our Society,'" ABC NEWS DIGITAL report. http://abcn.ws/1aYbE0p
"Space entrepreneur hopes to send a married couple on a mission to Mars," the latest episode of "Power Players." If you're over 50 years old, would enjoy a 500-day-long journey to a faraway land, and have a spouse who shares your sense of adventure, then billionaire space entrepreneur Dennis Tito has a mission for you - that is, if you don't also mind risking your life and being exposed to high levels of radiation. Tito's Inspiration Mars Foundation is working on a goal to launch two astronauts on a flyby mission to Mars as early as 2018. Here on Earth, the Chief Technology Officer for Inspiration Mars, Taber MacCallum, told ABC'S DAVID KERLEY why he believes the ambitious undertaking is important for the United States. "When you talk about the science of how you support people for 500 days, people get really interested and inspired to go into the sciences, to go into technology fields, and that's what America needs," MacCallum said. http://yhoo.it/19jIL2q
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING, unless you work in the Senate. The Senate officially stayed up all night working on confirming some of the president's nominees, a piece of nuclear-option fallout as Republicans insisted on using the clock in retaliation, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ reports. The Senate confirmed Cornelia Pillard as a judge to the D.C. Circuit Court around 1:17 a.m. Senators then quickly got to work on the nomination of Chai Rachel Feldblum to be a Member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This all night session is different from the nearly 22 hour filibuster performed by Ted Cruz earlier this year because senators have not consistently spoken on the floor throughout. But there have been a dutiful few who have had to preside over the Senate overnight, a duty that often falls to the newest of senators. Tweeted one presiding officer: "@ChrisMurphyCT: About to take the 3-5 am shift as presiding officer. Need an amendment to Senate rules allowing Red Bull on dais."
OBAMACARE REPORT CARD. The White House has released its second monthly report card on Obamacare enrollment in state and federal exchanges, documenting a mix of progress and problems in the system since it launched in October. ABC's DEVIN DWYER notes, the numbers offer some good news: a surge in sign-ups in November after a barrage of improvements to HealthCare.gov, and robust online traffic to the insurance portals shows that interest in the products remains strong. But the figures also illustrate some serious problems ahead. There's a huge backlog of consumers who have applied for a plan but not yet picked one, and electronic errors on the computer system's backend may have left tens of thousands of enrollments in limbo. http://abcn.ws/1bxffWw
SEBELIUS ORDERS PROBE - OF HER OWN IMPLEMENTATION OF OBAMACARE. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told Congress that she's ordered a probe into how the Obamacare insurance exchanges became "flawed and failed and frustrating for millions of people" - in a single word, "unacceptable." The embattled Health and Human Services secretary also conceded for the first time publicly that, knowing what she now knows, she would not have launched the website nationwide on Oct. 1. "I would have probably done a slower launch, maybe with fewer people, and done some additional beta testing," she testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "We want to both figure out exactly the chain of events, what went wrong, which is why I've asked the inspector general to help do this investigation," she said of the investigation she has requested. ABC's DEVIN DWYER notes that Sebelius also raised the reported price tag of the Website to $677 million through the end of October. Of that, $319 million has been spent so far, she said. http://abcn.ws/1h0xaXQ
THIS IS A POSITIVE SIGN? "The surge in health insurance enrollment in November lifted the spirits of federal officials Wednesday, but industry experts say the potential for higher enrollments comes from a huge pool of customers who are eligible for subsidies to buy insurance but who have not used the exchanges," per USA TODAY's KELLY KENNEDY. http://usat.ly/1d9bjL3
BACK AGAIN. "Continuing a furious pace of shuttle diplomacy aimed at securing an elusive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal by spring, US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in the Middle East on Thursday on his ninth trip of the year," per the ASSOCIATED PRESS. "In closed-door talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday and Friday, Kerry will be following up on elements of a West Bank security plan, ideas for which he unveiled on his most recent visit to the region just last week, and other points of potential progress. Kerry's latest visit comes amid Palestinian unhappiness with the security plan and few, if any, tangible signs of progress."
BEFORE HE LEFT. Kerry made the case to Congress - in part - on Iran. "Bad news, White House: It looks like the Senate will push ahead with a legislative response to the Iran interim nuclear deal over your strenuous objections," YAHOO! NEWS' OLIVIER KNOX reports. "Good news, White House: The measure will most likely be so watered down that it will give President Barack Obama broad latitude to pursue his high-wire diplomatic effort to ensure Iran does not get a nuclear weapon. And it won't get voted on before January, at the earliest." http://yhoo.it/19jGBjn
SKY HIGHER. By eliminating $65 billion in across-the-board domestic and defense cuts, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 puts an end to the sequester, but to make up for a portion of those savings, the budget deal includes an increase that more than doubles TSA security fees for airline travelers. The budget act changes the fee structure, and more than doubles the fee for a one-way flight to $5.60, making a round-trip flight fee $11.20. The new fee does not include an increase for connecting flights, ABC's NICKI ROSSOLL reports . http://abcn.ws/J6PjHm
ON LEAVE. The chief of staff to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has been dismissed (and is due in court Thursday) due to allegations of child pornography, the senator said Wednesday. ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ reports that law-enforcement agents searched the home of Ryan Loskarn, Alexander's chief of staff. "I was just informed by the United States Senate legal counsel's office that law enforcement agents are conducting a search of the personal residence of Ryan Loskarn," Alexander said in a statement. "I am stunned, surprised and disappointed by what I have learned. … The office is fully cooperating with the investigation." http://abcn.ws/1bxC9gu
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
"Bush to Foster: You will be stronger." The letter to Alabama kicker Cade Foster reads, "Dear Cade (#43), Life has its setbacks. I know! However you will be a stronger human with time. I wish you all the best - Sincerely - another 43. George Bush." Foster wrote in the Instagram caption, "Framing this." http://es.pn/18nBS1z
WHAT WE'RE READING
" Juking the ObamaCare Stats," WALL STREET JOURNAL editorial . http://on.wsj.com/IHk3yO
"Lament of the Plutocrats: Why Wall Street is fed up with the White House - and Republicans too," by POLITICO's BEN WHITE and MAGGIE HABERMAN. http://politi.co/18E1C4B
"Interpreter for Mandela Event Was Hallucinating, Saw Angels," by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS' ALAN CLENDENNING. http://abcn.ws/JhT7qe
@DanaPerino : Sweet note from GWB to AL kicker. Reminds me of when a marine dropped his rifle during a silent drill sunset parade. Everyone gasped (1/2)
@DanaPerino : Marine was terribly embarrassed. Dropped rifle right in front of 43. But guess who 43 sent a note to the next day? That marine (2/2).