The Fight is On

J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

By SHUSHANNAH WALSHE ( @shushwalshe )

Terms like Civil War have been thrown around now for a while, but the fight between establishment Republicans and the Tea Party is very real and both sides are ready to throw down. Speaker John Boehner has stayed away from directly criticizing those in his caucus who have tried to undermine him, but not anymore.

For two days in a row Boehner criticized tea partiers and other outside conservative groups critical of the budget deal. On Thursday he lashed out saying they are "misleading" their followers and have "lost all credibility." Rep. Paul Ryan, the House Budget Chairman, is also hitting back telling ABC "you have to make some common ground decisions to get things done."

So, what does the other side think? "It's just another example of D.C. elitism. They think they know what's best for the rest of the country and they want us to just sit down and shut up," Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, told ABC News Thursday.

And in two op-eds today at Breitbart both Rand Paul and Sarah Palin are fighting back with Paul, a possible 2016 candidate, calling it a "charade" and Palin warning "we'll be watching." As for Ryan he isn't worried about how the deal may affect his presidential prospects. Much more on The Fight in today's Note:


  • IT'S ON. Paul Ryan, the House Budget chairman and architect of the bipartisan budget deal, dismissed criticism from Tea Party groups and conservative activists who suggested his political ambitions would be tainted by the bill that passed the House on Thursday night by a wide majority. "People always say, 'Well this could hurt you with your future ambitions,'" Ryan told ABC's JEFF ZELENY. "If I'm not good at this job, why should I ask somebody for another job?" Ryan, who has been one of the party's leading voices of conservative fiscal policy and was the GOP vice presidential nominee last year, forcefully defended the budget accord. He said it was short-sighted for other potential Republican presidential candidates to assail the agreement, "My job is not to cloud my judgment with personal ambition. My job is to do my job and that is things like this," Ryan told ABC News. "If I have to stop myself from doing what I think is right to become president, then I don't want to be president." In an interview, Ryan raised his presidential ambitions without being prompted or directly questioned about them. When asked whether he was seriously considering being a candidate in 2016 or beyond, he declared, "I will think about it. It's in the back of my mind."
  • NO MORE SHUTDOWNS. Passing the budget agreement, Ryan told ABC's JEFF ZELENY, was the biggest sign yet that Republicans have learned at least one political lesson from the government shutdown: No more shutdowns next year. "We don't think government shutdowns are a good idea," Ryan said. "What this budget does, this agreement, it prevents a possible shutdown in January and then it prevents another possible shutdown in October." The budget accord, which Ryan reached after long negotiations with Patty Murray, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, could well emerge as the biggest achievement of a Congressional year filled with rancor. He pushed back against criticism from some conservatives that he compromised too much on the deal. "You're not always going to get what you want every time in divided government," Ryan said. "You know you have to, you have to make some common ground decisions to get things done."
  • "I DON'T CARE WHAT THEY DO". Years of growing friction between the Republican Party leaders and its Tea Party faction has erupted into what one conservative said today was "full-scale civil war." House Speaker John Boehner, whose strategies have been repeatedly thwarted by Tea Party revolts in recent years, was blunt Thursday when asked whether he thought the ultra-conservatives should get in line. "I don't care what they do," Boehner replied. The speaker then lashed out at Tea Party activists. "Well, frankly, I think they're misleading their followers," House Speaker John Boehner told reporters. "I think they're pushing our members in places where they don't want to be. And frankly, I just think that they've lost all credibility," Boehner said. ABC's ABBY PHILLIP notes, Boehner's frustration is perhaps matched by the fury among tea party conservatives who believe they have been betrayed by conservative leaders in Washington. "It's just another example of D.C. elitism. They think they know what's best for the rest of the country and they want us to just sit down and shut up," Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, told ABC News. and WATCH Boehner's comments here in an ABC News Digital Special Report:
  • TEA PARTY RESPONSE: "It's just another example of D.C. elitism. They think they know what's best for the rest of the country and they want us to just sit down and shut up," Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, told ABC NEWS' ABBY PHILLIP. Wednesday brought a double dose of betrayal from Republican leadership, in the tea party's view. "It's sad that this conflict has broken out into full-scale civil war, but this moment has been festering for years," wrote Daniel Horowitz, the policy director of the Madison Project, a conservative group that has sought candidates to challenge Republican incumbents in primaries, in a statement. "There can be no reconciliation between those who seek power for power's sake and those who seek to serve in order to restore our Republic."
  • NO DRAMA, NOT EXACTLY: The House voted to pass the bipartisan budget agreement, 332-94, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON reports. While Boehner's defense of the deal has ruffled feathers at the edge of his conference, just 62 Republicans ended up voting in opposition to the bill. Thirty-two Democrats, many of whom felt spurned that the deal excluded an extension to unemployment benefits, voted against the deal as well. The deal was supported by 169 Republicans and 163 Democrats - a healthy majority within each party's ranks in the House. The bill now heads to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated he will bring theS deal to the floor for a vote next week.
  • RAND PAUL CALLS IT "SURRENDER". "The House budget deal offered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is a charade. And it is worse than the status quo, which is already an unacceptable level of spending and debt…This is not a budget "deal." It is a surrender. It is a cave in. It is a shame," SEN. RAND PAUL tells BREITBART.
  • PALIN TOO, READ MY LIPSTICK: NO NEW TAXES. "No one can argue with the fact that Paul Ryan's compromise budget bill raises taxes and increases spending…2014 is just around the corner. If any member of Congress thinks raising taxes and increasing wasteful spending is a winning strategy to run on, then by all means they should vote for the Ryan budget. We'll be watching," SARAH PALIN says to BREITBART.
  • WHITE HOUSE WEIGHS IN, "A POSITIVE STEP FORWARD": "The bipartisan agreement passed by the House today represents a positive step forward for the nation and our economy. The President called on Congress to work together on a budget that grows our economy faster, creates more jobs and makes the investments needed to strengthen the middle class, rather than continue reckless across the board cuts that stifle growth. This bill does not include everything the President called for. But it marks an important moment of bipartisan cooperation and shows Washington can and should stop governing by crisis and both sides can work together to get things done."
  • JOHN BOEHNER IS MAD AS HELL, AND HE'S NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE. What explains the Republican establishment's newfound bravery when it comes to tangling with the tea party? Two big things, according to THE WASHINGTON POST'S CHRIS CILLIZZA 1) The tea party is at historic lows in terms of public opinion. In new Gallup polling, just 30 percent of people view the movement favorably; even one in three self-identified conservatives say the dislike the tea party. Condemning unpopular things is, you guessed it, popular. 2) There's safety in numbers. McConnell threw the first stone. But now that other prominent figures within the party are coming forward to say, essentially, enough is enough, it's now become less politically risky to add your voice to that chorus.
  • MORE ON THAT DEAL. The House on Thursday approved a bipartisan budget accord and a Pentagon policy bill that would strengthen protections for victims of sexual assault, THE NEW YORK TIMES' JONATHAN WEISMAN and JEREMY W. PETERS report. But as it wrapped up its business for the year, it left unfinished a major piece of domestic policy - the farm bill - making it likely that Congress will not deal with it until January. Republicans and Democrats hope the budget pact… will act as a truce in the spending battles that have paralyzed Congress for nearly three years, and leaders in both parties sought to marginalize hard-line conservatives opposed to any compromise. The defense measure would, in addition to strengthening protections for military victims of sexual assault, leave open the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, over President Obama's objections. The provisions to stem the growing number of sexual assault cases in the military are the most expansive in years. They would include new rules to prevent commanding officers from overturning sexual assault verdicts. But an agreement remained elusive on the farm bill, the subject of continuing disagreements between Republicans and Democrats over spending for food stamps and expanding crop insurance for farmers, among other issues. All the House could pass on Thursday was a simple one-month extension of the current law, which Senate Democrats oppose because they think it will distract from the completion of a new bill.
  • IN OTHER BIG NEWS. A presidential advisory committee charged with examining the operations of the National Security Agency has concluded that a program to collect data on every phone call made in the United States should continue, though under broad new restraints that would be intended to increase privacy protections, according to officials with knowledge of the report's contents, THE NEW YORK TIMES' DAVID E. SANGER reports. The committee's report, the officials said, also argues in favor of codifying and publicly announcing the steps the United States will take to protect the privacy of foreign citizens whose telephone records, Internet communications or movements are collected by the N.S.A. But it is unclear how far that effort would go, and intelligence officials have argued strenuously that they should be under few restrictions when tapping the communications of non-Americans abroad, who do not have constitutional protections under the Fourth Amendment.
  • ABC'S ANN COMPTON reports The White House says the surveillance recommendations have not been delivered to the White House, but they are still expected by Sunday, December 15 th. President Obama is certain to preserve - but also rein in - the broad NSA surveillance called Prism tracking billions of phone calls
  • KERRY BACK IN THE MIDDLE EAST. Secretary of State John Kerry was back in Jerusalem and Ramallah overnight for meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, ABC's CHRIS GOOD reports, returning less than a week after his last visit to follow up on meetings about security plans under a Palestinian statehood deal. Kerry will then travel to Vietnam and the Philippines, where he'll survey typhoon relief efforts. "It's been constructive. It's always complicated," Kerry said before meeting with Netanyahu today.


ABC's JEFF ZELENY: What explains the overwhelming House vote on the budget deal? It's the most telling sign yet that House Republicans learned a lesson from the government shutdown and are eager to avoid a repeat episode. Speaker John Boehner and his team were pushing for a big margin and they got one: 332 to 94. Call it a course correction from the House action this fall that led to the 16-day shutdown. But with Tea Party and outside conservative groups still strongly opposed to the deal, will any House Republicans get new primary challengers now, after Senate Republicans spend next week bashing this deal?

ABC'S CHRIS GOOD: The State Dept. had set an aggressive, nine-month timeline for reaching a deal on Palestinian statehood, but a senior administration official traveling with John Kerry to the region acknowledged that a preliminary, framework agreement is more likely: "We don't expect that there would be a final status agreement, a treaty, by April 29th. So obviously, if we had a framework agreement at some point between now and then … we hope to get that done as soon as possible, you'd have to extend the deadline in order to allow for negotiation of the actual final status agreement."

ABC's RICK KLEIN: The last big vote of 2013 might be the most consequential in 2014. That holds true not just in Republican primaries - though the stark warning, from Sarah Palin on down, that "we'll be watching," suggests that it will matter there quite a bit. (Of the seven House Republicans seeking Senate seats next year, six voted "no" on the budget deal.) There's also importance in the precedence: This was the moment House Speaker John Boehner declared independence from the outside groups that have had outsized influence on the Hill. Of course, in most issue areas, House Republican leaders' interests align rather well with the groups that can claim some responsibility for delivering them to and keeping them in power. But now that it's been done once, Boehner will come under tremendous pressure to again represent the broader interests of the Republican Party, rather than the voices pushing the GOP consistently rightward. Immigration, anyone?

THIS WEEK ON 'THIS WEEK': As hotspots flare across the globe, from North Korea to Iran to Syria, ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz travels to Vietnam with Secretary of State John Kerry, only on "This Week" Sunday. And our powerhouse roundtable tackles the battle over the budget and all the week's politics, with ABC News' Cokie Roberts, University of California, Berkeley professor and former Clinton Labor secretary Robert Reich, former House speaker and CNN "Crossfire" co-host Newt Gingrich, and Republican strategist and CNN contributor Ana Navarro. Plus, New York Times investigative reporter Andrea Elliott discusses "Invisible Child," her compelling five-part portrait of Dasani, one of New York City's 22,000 homeless children. Be sure to use #ThisWeek when you tweet about the program. Tune in Sunday: 'This Week' Quiz - Dan Pfeiffer:


HOW ANN ROMNEY COOKED AWAY THE POST ELECTION BLUES. the latest episode of "The Fine Print." When Mitt Romney lost the election to President Obama last year, Ann Romney turned to her love of cooking to help get her mind off politics. Now, one year later, the wife of the former Republican presidential candidate has published a cookbook, "The Romney Family Table," in which she shares some of her favorite family recipes and stories. And during an interview with "The Fine Print," with ABC's JEFF ZELENY, Romney demonstrated how to prepare some of her favorite Christmas cookies at D.C. hotspot, Fiola. "It's all about love," Romney said when asked why she wrote the book. "I mean cooking for me is about love and maybe it was a cathartic healing thing for me to do after a campaign, you know, because it's pretty bruising."


HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTERS PARTY LIKE IT'S 2016. In a downtown Washington bar and lounge Thursday night, the more than 450 Hillary Clinton supporters who gathered for the pro-Clinton super PAC Ready for Hillary D.C. kickoff event could hardly wait for 2016.The pro-Clinton super PAC, founded by longtime Clinton supporters, including Iowa and Virginia backers, has been ratcheting up its activities since coming into existence shortly after Clinton left her post as secretary of state in February. The process has involved bringing old Clinton supporters and fundraisers into the fold, as well as investing former Obama staff in the effort of building a Hillary Clinton grassroots base that can match or perhaps exceed the one President Obama's campaign put together in 2008 and 2012.The campaign itself is at least another year away from starting, but you almost wouldn't know it.

CAN SNOW BRING PEACE? Secretary of State John Kerry is in the Middle East, trying to maintain Israeli/Palestinian peace talks during a rare snowstorm for the region, ABC'S CHRIS GOOD reports. In Ramallah yesterday, the heaviest snowfall in 50 years forced him to cut short a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, so Kerry could get back to Israeli territory (where he's staying) before the border closed. State Dept. spokesman Glen Johnson recounted some help from a Palestinian snow plow: "Kerry's Diplomatic Security team shuffled the staff into a caravan of four-wheel drive Chevy Suburbans, but in the blinding snow, their path home was cleared only by a Palestinian front-end loader. The driver held open his driver's-side door with his left hand, stuck his head out to see, and used his right hand to steer all the way from Ramallah to the Israeli border - pushing aside the snow as he went. Israeli police picked up the group on the other side and brought it home."

A REUNION LIKE NO OTHER. One soldier saved the life of another, keeping his comrade calm after he had been shot and paralyzed during a firefight. It came during some of the worst fighting American troops had seen in the Iraq war. Ten years had gone by since the two had seen each other. Tomas Young was just 24 years old when he was paralyzed from the chest down by a sniper's bullet in 2004, less than a week after he arrived in Iraq. Robert Miltenberger, the 38-year-old staff sergeant, kept Young alive, but also calm in battle by telling him a compassionate lie. Young was medevaced out of Iraq shortly after being wounded. Young and Miltenberger would not see each other again until ABC News recently brought them together, along with their wives, for a reunion in Portland, Ore. Read about their reunion and watch NIGHTLINE tonight to see the story from ABC's MARTHA RADDATZ.

UP ALL NIGHT. The Senate has worked continuously since 2:00 P.M. Wednesday, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes which adds up to over 42 straight hours. The all-night sessions kicked off Wednesday when Senate Republicans refused to yield back time on nominations in reaction to Senate Democrats' move last month to change filibuster rules using the so-called "nuclear option." Republicans did not back down Thursday, spending hours speaking about everything from their displeasure with the rules change to the failures of Obamacare. "What passed for gridlock before, this will pale in comparison to the poison that seeps from the hands of those who are careless and reckless with the law," Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said. "Where the filibuster once created conversation, the iron-fisted rule of the rule breakers will stifle it." But Senate Democrats saw the talk-a-thon as another example of obstruction that led to the rules change in the first place. "I think it speaks volumes as to what's been going on on the floor. It's the picture of why we had to change the rules around here," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a news conference Thursday. "We're wasting all this time post-cloture."

REVOLT. Press Secretary Jay Carney got an earful Thursday from a frustrated White House press corps, as reporters revolted against what they described as limited access to President Obama, reports ABC's MARY BRUCE. "We are working and have been working on expanding access where we can," Carney explained. The uproar comes just days after the White House declined to let journalists photograph the president and first lady with former President George W. Bush, former first lady Laura Bush and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the long flight to South Africa. The White House later released several photos of the rare assembly aboard Air Force One taken by the official White House photographer. "For a lot of those hours, the president, former president, first lady and the former first lady were asleep, so we probably weren't going to bring in a still pool for that, or they were having dinner or something like that," Carney said. He also said the White House "went to great lengths to get as much access for all of our traveling press as we could; in fact, got exceptionally more access for our traveling press than we were told we would get." Reporters say the lack of access contradicts the president's commitment to transparency. "The tension between White Houses and White House press corps over access is long-standing," Carney said in response. "It is always going to be the case, as it has, you know, since there have been photographers in the White House, that White House photographers take pictures and White Houses release them. And you know, we're obviously going to continue to do that."

LAUGHS FOR GROVER, NOT BIDEN. Vice President Joe Biden has been known to provide fodder for the late-night shows with a well-timed gaffe or two, but at an awards ceremony last night, it was a furry blue Muppet who was the comic relief , ABC's MATT LAROTONDA reports. When Grover, in a skit before the ceremony, spotted Biden with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in the audience, he couldn't help making a comment on the current state partisan politics. "Sitting together?" Grover said. "Awkward." But the night's star was Biden, who was honored by an array of dignitaries for his contributions to international diplomacy.

OBAMACARE UPDATE. In a nod to the challenges that many Americans are facing in the transition to new health plans under the Affordable Care Act, the White House Thursday announced some modest steps to provide relief for particularly at-risk consumers , ABC'S DEVIN DWYER reports. The more than 85,000 Americans who are currently enrolled in the federal Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) will now have until Jan. 15 to purchase a plan through the exchange, if they have not already done so. "We don't want these folks to experience a coverage gap," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on a conference call. There has been growing concern of late that many people with pre-existing conditions who have had difficulty signing up could see disruptions in their care come Jan. 1. Health and Human Services says the government will foot the bill for an additional month of PCIP coverage to ensure that those 85,000 with medical conditions will continue to get benefits through Jan. 31, 2014. (The $4.74 billion program is set to expire at the end of the year, but officials said there were enough remaining funds to cover the extension.) No immediate fix, however, for Americans outside that plan.

NOT SO FAST. The New York chattering class was buzzing on Wednesday after the New York Post reported that Republicans, fearful that Rep. Michael Grimm could lose in the 2014 elections, had encouraged former Rep. Vito Fossella to challenge him in the primary. Not so, says National Republican Congressional Committee chair Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore. "This is a complete fabrication and a ridiculous notion," Walden said in a statement. "Michael Grimm has not only proven he knows how to win this district, but he's also been an effective legislator for his constituents back home." Grimm is also a member of the NRCC's Patriot Program, in which incumbents receive additional funding and resources to help win their reelection bids. Fossella, who resigned from his Staten Island-based congressional seat in 2008 after admitting to having a second family resulting from an extramarital affair, told the paper, "There are significant people who have approached me to run…. 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," said Fossella…For his part, Grimm shot back in a statement provided to ABC News, saying, "As an independent voice for Staten Island and Brooklyn, my job is to fight for what's best for my district. Sometimes that requires actions that are not in lock-step with the party, but I didn't run for office to be liked; I ran to get results." "Baseless rumors will not keep me from focusing on my work in Congress and fighting for the people I proudly represent," he added.

CHARGED. The former chief of staff to Sen. Lamar Alexander allegedly bought child pornography and tried to distribute it on an Internet site, according to a criminal complaint filed in the D.C. District Court today. Ryan Loskarn appeared in a federal court in Washington this afternoon to be formally charged, a day after he was arrested on the charges and promptly fired by Alexander, R-Tenn. ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ reports, the complaint alleges that between November 2010 and March 2011, Loskarn purchased child porn from a video company in Toronto, Canada, which mailed DVDs to his home. In October 2013, the U.S. Postal Inspector Service "identified Loskarn's residential IP address on the Gnutella peer-to-peer network offering files with names that are consistent with child pornography broadcasting as a download candidate," according to the complaint.

US AMBASSADOR TO FINLAND'S HILLARIOUS HOLIDAY CARD. U.S. Ambassador to Finland Bruce Oreck has really outdone himself this year with this hilarious holiday card. Last year, the statesman flexed his bulging left bicep in his annual, unofficial winter snap, but this year he decided to pose fully clothed alongside four shirtless men in a sauna. "Last year, the lighthearted version of my holiday card received some notoriety because I was photographed flexing the bicep of my naked arm," he wrote. "WELL, I certainly learned my lesson." ABC's ALYSSA NEWCOMB notes, the photograph of Oreck, who wore a long-sleeve shirt and tie, was apparently taken in a 230-degree room at the Finnish Sauna Society in Helsinki.


LIE OF THE YEAR, PER POLITIFACT. It was a catchy political pitch and a chance to calm nerves about his dramatic and complicated plan to bring historic change to America's health insurance system. "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it," President Barack Obama said - many times - of his landmark new law. But the promise was impossible to keep. So this fall, as cancellation letters were going out to approximately 4 million Americans, the public realized Obama's breezy assurances were wrong. Boiling down the complicated health care law to a soundbite proved treacherous, even for its promoter-in-chief. Obama and his team made matters worse, suggesting they had been misunderstood all along. The stunning political uproar led to this: a rare presidential apology. For all of these reasons, POLITIFACT has named "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it," the Lie of the Year for 2013. Readers in a separate online poll overwhelmingly agreed with the choice. For four of the past five years, PolitiFact's Lie of the Year has revolved around the health care law, which has been subject to more erroneous attacks than any other piece of legislation PolitiFact has fact-checked.

SYRIAN REBEL LEADER'S FLIGHT A 'BIG PROBLEM' FOR US. Gen. Salim Idris' departure from Syria is "a big problem" but the United States continues to support him and the moderate opposition, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today. Idris is the head of the Free Syrian Army who reportedly fled Syria to Qatar this weekend after Islamic fighters took control of his group's headquarters and warehouses in northern Syria stocked with U.S. aid. ABC's LUIS MARTINEZ writes, that seizure prompted an end of U.S non-lethal assistance to rebels in that part of Syria to prevent it from getting into the hands of extremist rebels. At a Pentagon news conference, Hagel said "we continue to support General Idris and the moderate opposition, and we are going to continue to help in the humanitarian area, which we have been doing consistently."

North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un Executed His 'Worse Than a Dog' Uncle The North Korean official publicly purged by Kim Jong-un was set up by his own wife and has since been executed, according to experts and the North Korean state news agency, ABC'S JOOHEE CHO reports. The state news agency KCNA called Jang Song-thaek, who had been Kim's uncle and top deputy, "despicable human scum" and "worse than a dog" in a release announcing his execution. The news agency said the country was outraged by the allegations that Jang betrayed the trust of Kim Jong-un and his later father Kim Jong-il, referred to as "peerlessly great men." "Against the backdrop of these shouts rocking the country, a special military tribunal… was held on December 12 against traitor for all ages Jang Song Thaek," KCNA reported in a story that was headlined "Traitor Jang Song Thaek Executed." Jang's execution was announced as fresh details emerged about Kim's surprising public purging of his uncle from a top position which indicate it was a family affair with his aunt and brother, armed with a pistol, taking part in the arrests of ranking officials.


Huckabee says he may make another run for GOP presidential nod by THE WASHINGTON POST'S KAREN TUMULTY Add another name to the list of potential GOP presidential contenders for 2016. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee - the winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses, who took a pass on the 2012 presidential race - says he might be willing to give it another try. In an interview Thursday night, Huckabee said he is receiving encouragement to run "from places where I never got it before." That includes "business, people some would maybe call the establishment," he added. Both groups were adversaries in his 2008 bid, which caught fire in Iowa, but sputtered in later contests where he lacked money and organization…Although Huckabee enjoys strong support among conservative Christians, he sounded a much broader message. What is driving him, he said, is "a sense in which I really believe the key to a Republican victory is an ability to communicate a message that speaks across a broader spectrum. One of our failures is the ability to speak to African-Americans, to speak to Hispanics, to speak to working class people - more than just speaking to the board room, speaking to the people who go in and clean up after the meeting."

Chris Van Hollen Hopes Budget Deal Boosts Immigration Reform by The HUFFINGTON POST'S JON WARD. Chris Van Hollen paused several beats, and took a deep breath. "I have to say, unfortunately, there are not many highlights" from the last year, he said Thursday. The Maryland congressman, one of the top Democratic leaders in the House, was stumped. "In fact, let me think about a highlight. Hmmmm. What would be a highlight of the last year?" Finally, seated in his Capitol Hill office, Van Hollen settled on an answer. "Look, at the beginning of the year we avoided what was called the fiscal cliff. You know, the agreement I think it was satisfactory. We might have been able to do better," he said. And that about sums it up. The only semi-positive thing Van Hollen could name was passed on the first day of the year after an ugly and contentious process. Van Hollen, in his 10th year as a congressman and a leading candidate to be speaker of the House someday, did not mince words about why 2013 has been a downer. "What would be the low point? Well it wasn't a congressional action. It was the very rocky rollout of the Web-based exchanges in the ACA," he said, referring to the Affordable Care Act.


DNC Video: Chris Christie's Bridge Scandal Explained Watch the Video Here


@MarthaRaddatz: Getting ready for @gma this morning from Vietnam

@leffron831: Incredible story 10 yrs in the making on @Nightline: Two Soldiers, Scarred by the Same Battle, Reunite

@betsy_klein : Christmas came early: Beyonce Surprises Fans With New Album on iTunes … via @abc

@moorehn : Good piece on WH cutting out news photographers' access RT @andrewmendelson: Obama's Orwellian Image Control

@AlecMacGillis : Naming names, one year after #Newtown and eight months after The Vote: …