Few elected officials in Washington had a particularly good 2013.
A divided Congress bickered for most of the year, shut down the government in October and saw its approval rating hover near record lows.
Only a year-end budget agreement saved the capital from complete gridlock.
So, who had the best and worst years on Capitol Hill? The two lead budget negotiators took top honors, while a cocaine bust guaranteed infamy for one freshman Republican
Sen. Patty MurrayPatty MurrayOvernight Healthcare: Trump officials weigh fate of birth control mandate | House, DOJ seek delay in ObamaCare lawsuit Top lawmakers from both parties: 'Vaccines save lives' Senate Dems move to nix Trump's deportation order MORE (D-Wash.)
Murray, the fourth-ranking Senate Democrat, had two significant accomplishments in 2013. The first was winning passage of a budget resolution in the first place; it was the first to pass the Senate in four years, a drought that had drawn considerable criticism from Republicans.
In December, Murray partnered with Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanBorder tax is reverse redistribution CEOs come to defense of border tax plan 7 key players in the GOP's border tax fight MORE (R-Wis.) to strike a two-year budget agreement that replaced a portion of the sequestration spending cuts decried by both parties. While modest in scope, the deal was a ceasefire in the Capitol budget wars, and Murray was able to win unanimous support from Senate Democrats.
On the whole, a year after helping to expand the Democratic majority against the odds as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2012, Murray solidified her position as a party leader.
2) Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)
Ryan kept a low profile at the beginning of the year after losing his bid for the vice presidency. But he managed to pass his conservative budget proposal through the Republican-led House for the third year in a row in April, and he worked behind the scenes to help Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerFormer House leader Bob Michel, a person and politician for the ages Former House GOP leader Bob Michel dies at 93 Keystone pipeline builder signs lobbyist MORE (R-Ohio) hash out strategies that could win support from conservatives.
Ryan’s big victory came in December with the two-year budget pact he negotiated with Murray. While he took a hit from conservatives, Ryan won an overwhelming 332-94 vote in the House, including more than two-thirds of Republicans. The win demonstrated his clout within the Republican conference, and it re-established him as a national force in the party. It also gave him his first significant legislative accomplishment.
A good argument could be made to put the polarizing Cruz on the other half of this list.
After all, he helped orchestrate a government shutdown that damaged the Republican Party and alienated many of his colleagues. Yet the episode showed that less than a year into his time in the Senate, Cruz is nothing if not relevant. He ends 2013 as a household name with a devoted following of conservative activists that could serve him well if he runs for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
4) Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenMcConnell: 'Winners make policy, losers go home' Trump wants to cut red tape? He should start with the CFPB. DeVos should ‘persist’ despite liberal opposition MORE (D-Mass.)
Warren spent her first year in the Senate taking the opposite path from fellow freshman Cruz in just about every way.
The Massachusetts liberal staged no around-the-clock filibusters, picked few fights with party leaders and rarely even spoke to reporters in the hallway.
But when she did speak, people listened. Videos of her grilling bank regulators at a Senate hearing and castigating Republicans on the Senate floor — each less than five minutes long — went viral. And by the end of the year, progressive activists were talking her up as a potential challenger to Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonLiberal ‘lies’ about President Trump Milo's travails show how quickly fortunes can change in 2017 media Clinton campaign chair: 'Forces within the FBI' wanted her to lose MORE for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. Warren quickly squashed that speculation, but she heads into his second year in the Senate as the capital’s foremost populist voice.
5) Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenTech, advocacy groups slam DHS call to demand foreign travelers' passwords Dem bill would force Border Patrol agents to get warrants before searching devices Senate Dems move to nix Trump's deportation order MORE (D-Ore.)
The veteran Oregon Democrat got a plum Christmas promotion when news broke that Sen. Max BaucusMax BaucusFive reasons why Tillerson is likely to get through Business groups express support for Branstad nomination The mysterious sealed opioid report fuels speculation MORE (D-Mont.) would be leaving his post as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee to become ambassador to China. Wyden is all but assured to take the gavel, putting him at the center of the long-running effort to reshape the tax code and entitlement programs. Wyden had already had a successful year by leading the charge for more transparency in the U.S. intelligence agencies and for reining in the National Security Agency.
Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDems ask Trump admin to protect rule on seniors' health costs Gillibrand: I'm running for Senate, not White House Puerto Rico’s toxic dumps: Obama’s legacy, Pruitt’s opportunity MORE (D-N.Y.) — Her campaign to crack down on sexual assault in the military won policy changes and glowing media coverage.
1) Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.)
A former television reporter, Radel had shown some promise in his first year in the House as a conservative who could relate to young people. Then he got busted for cocaine possession. Radel got caught in a federal sting, pleaded guilty and took a leave of absence in November to enter rehab in Florida. Local Republican officials called for his resignation, and while Radel appeared intent on staying in office, his political career could be over before it ever really got going.
Rubio began 2013 as the GOP’s star-of-the-moment, a conservative aligned with the Tea Party who would bolster his legislative resume and his bipartisan credentials by helping to pass an immigration overhaul through Congress. Rubio succeeded for much of the first half of the year, and after joining the Gang of Eight he helped pass its comprehensive immigration bill through with 68 votes by the end of June.
But the Florida Republican took significant fire from conservatives, and over the summer and fall, he appeared to be backing away from the legislation he co-authored. He made no attempt to win support from House Republicans for the bill and at one point suggested the House should not even use the proposal to negotiate a compromise in a conference committee.
Rubio’s attempts to win back conservative support by taking strong stands against abortion and ObamaCare largely fell flat, and by the end of the year he had been eclipsed by fellow Sens. Cruz and Rand PaulRand PaulTrump’s feud with the press in the spotlight Rand Paul: We’re very lucky John McCain’s not in charge Rand Paul: John Bolton would be a 'bad choice' for national security adviser MORE (Ky.), and by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as the most buzzed-about early contenders for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
3) Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.)
Camp, the chairman of the House Means and Committee, made a bold declaration as 2012 came to a close: One way or another, he said, the panel would pass a comprehensive overhaul of the tax code in 2013. That never happened. While Camp made steady progress throughout the year, unfavorable budget projections and resistance from the party leadership prevented him from advancing tax reform through the committee.
An even bigger hit for Camp came with the departure of Baucus, who announced his intention to retire in the middle of 2013 and then headed for a much earlier exit when he accepted the nomination of ambassador to China in December. Camp and Baucus had worked on tax reform together for years, but Baucus’s departure is the end of the bipartisan effort that had already faced long odds. Camp will likely have to leave his post at the end of 2014 because of Republican-imposed term limits, and Ryan has already announced his desire to replace him and carry on the tax reform effort.
4) Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
Baucus ended the year on a bright note with his nomination by Obama as ambassador to China, but it was a frustrating 2013 overall for him. His own legacy bid for a tax overhaul got virtually no support from party leaders, and his decision to retire from the Senate was seen as acknowledgment that he would have had a tough time winning reelection in 2014 anyway. Never a favorite of party leaders, he infuriated them with his (now-prescient) warning that the implementation of the healthcare law he helped write would be a “train wreck.” The remark, which Baucus said was an intended wake-up call, provided Republicans with a talking point for months.
5) Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinDem: Trump's China trademark looks like a quid pro quo Senate advances Trump's Commerce pick Flynn told FBI he didn't talk sanctions with Russian envoy: report MORE (D-Calif.)
The longtime California senator took up the mantle of gun control after the shooting massacre late in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. But despite an aggressive push, new restrictions on guns fell short in the Senate and went nowhere in the House. Feinstein’s signature priority, reinstituting the ban on assault weapons, won just 40 votes in the Democratic-led Senate.
Feinstein, who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, has also been the most vocal Democratic defender of the National Security Agency and its surveillance programs, but her position has put her increasingly at odds with public opinion, which is moving strongly in favor of limits on spying.
Rep. Alan GraysonAlan GraysonWhy Republicans took aim at an ethics watchdog Could bipartisanship rise with Trump government? Schumer under pressure to add Sanders to leadership team MORE (D-Fla.) — The House Democrat lost $18 million in a fraud scheme.
Rep. Luis GutierrezLuis GutierrezDems: White House canceled ICE immigration meeting ICE head cancels meeting with Hispanic Dems Hispanics are split in DNC race MORE (D-Ill.) — The immigration reform advocate had another frustrating year with no action in the House on his signature issue.