By Kevin Bogardus - 12/17/13 07:53 PM EST
The influence industry had a tough slog in 2013 as Congress recorded one of the most unproductive years in history.
With major initiatives on immigration and taxes stalled, lobbyists scored many of their biggest wins while playing defense on legislation and regulations.
Here’s a look at the top 10 lobbying victories of 2013, and the trade groups and unions that can claim a share of the credit.
1. National Rifle Association (NRA), Gun Owners of America, National Association for Gun Rights
The NRA lived up to its reputation as a lobbying powerhouse this year in the charged battle over gun control legislation.
Groups such as the Gun Owners of America and the National Association for Gun Rights also made the case that new limits on firearms weren’t the proper response to the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
They were able to face down a newly reelected president pounding the bully pulpit, an onslaught of outside spending and a bipartisan push in the Senate to defeat universal background checks for gun sales.
2. National Federation of Independent Business, International Franchise Association, National Retail Federation Retail Industry Leaders Association
Business groups scored a lobbying breakthrough this summer when they convinced the administration to delay the controversial employer mandate under ObamaCare.
The associations warned their members were overwhelmed by the compliance requirements for the mandate, which require companies with more than 50 full-time employees to provide health insurance or pay fines.
The White House relented to the pressure, pushing the mandate to 2015 — and opening the door to the numerous ObamaCare delays that followed this year.
3. Fix the Senate Now
Senate Democrats went “nuclear” in November, elating groups on the left that had lobbied for years to limit the filibuster.
Fix the Senate Now, a liberal-leaning coalition — including the Alliance for Justice, Common Cause, the Communications Workers of America and the Sierra Club — began an intensive campaign after Obama’s reelection to end what they said was unprecedented obstruction by Senate Republicans.
Victory arrived last month when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did what had once been unthinkable: using a parliamentary maneuver known as the “nuclear option” to restrict the filibuster, a move that has helped speed through executive branch nominees.
4. Airlines for America, Air Line Pilots Association, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, National Air Traffic Controllers Association
Airlines and aviation unions got Congress to blink on the spending cuts from sequestration.
Facing a backlash from fliers, lawmakers this spring allowed the Federal Aviation Administration to grab funding elsewhere to stop agency furloughs. The pressure was generated in part by the airlines, which harnessed passenger frustration over late flights and slow security lines.
The airlines appeared to suffer a defeat this month when the budget deal raised the passenger fees that fund airport security — but lobbyists won two concessions. The pact also ends a separate fee on airlines, and forces the Transportation Security Administration to bear some security costs.
5. American Petroleum Institute, Grocery Manufacturers Association, Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers
The oil and gas industry, with a little help from food producers, won a victory over the ethanol mandate in 2013.
Breaking with precedent, the Environmental Protection Agency for the first time declined to increase the amount of ethanol and other biofuels that must be mixed into gasoline.
The EPA is now proposing to lower the mandate, beginning what ethanol opponents hope will be a steady retreat away from the fuel requirements in the years ahead.
6. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, National Association of Manufacturers
Business groups sprang into action this year when campaign finance reformers sought rules that would force public companies to disclose their political spending.
Watchdogs garnered more than 600,000 public comments in support of the rule, which they said was needed to counter an explosion of corporate spending since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.
But the Chamber, the Business Roundtable and other trade groups fought back against disclosure, with many blasting the petition as an assault on free speech while arguing the information would be of no interest to shareholders.
With opposition building, the Securities and Exchange Commission quietly dropped the petition from its regulatory agenda on the eve of Thanksgiving.
7. Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Work
It has been a banner year for gay rights advocates.
In addition to the Supreme Court decision that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, advocates triumphed in their quest to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) through the Senate, nearly two decades after it was first introduced in Congress.
The ENDA has a tough road ahead in the House, but with support building in Congress for same-sex marriage, advocates are confident momentum is on their side.
8. Aerospace Industries Association, NDD United, National Association of Manufacturers
The defense industry and public interest groups made some gains this year in their long battle to reverse the cuts from sequestration.
Defense contractors, manufacturers and a coalition of education, faith and public interest groups demanded that Congress roll back some of the blunt spending cuts before 2014 began.
They earned a two-year reprieve in the budget deal worked out between Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) that returns $63 billion to government coffers while setting a precedent that could shape future agreements.
9. American Federation of Government Employees, National Treasury Employees Union, National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association
Federal workers took a hit from furloughs this year but flexed their lobbying might to win back pay after the government shutdown.
And while retirement benefits for new federal workers are cut in the budget deal, the groups won a lower cap on contractor pay and the addition of a lower-cost option for their workers’ healthcare benefits.
The budget pact also leaves the retirement benefits of the current government workforce untouched. In addition, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) secured a promise from President Obama that he wouldn’t propose new cuts to federal workers’ retirement in his budget next year.
10. AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Coalition For Sensible Safeguards, Laborers’ International Union of North America
The administration issued a rule to protect workers from harmful silica dust after years of stalling.
Unions have lobbied for the proposal, which is now slowly moving through the regulatory process despite business opposition. Labor has seen action on a number of worker protections since Obama was reelected — including a minimum wage and overtime pay rule for in-home care workers, a big win for the SEIU and other groups.
The silica rule has been a personal cause for many in labor and has been supported by public interest groups that are concerned about worker safety.
Ben Goad, Julian Hattem, Jeremy Herb, Keith Laing, Kate Tummarello, Elise Viebeck, Erik Wasson and Megan R. Wilson contributed to this report.