By Pete Kasperowicz - 12/26/13 06:00 AM EST
The year started with a deal on the fiscal cliff and ended with a deal on a two-year budget accord.
In between, there were fights over the Benghazi, Libya terrorist attack, National Security Agency surveillance programs, immigration reform, the war in Syria and the implementation of ObamaCare.
1) “What difference, at this point, does it make?”
Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, January 23
Republicans pounced on this remark, in which Clinton seemed to downplay the importance of figuring out the circumstances surrounding the death of four U.S. officials in Benghazi, Libya.
Clinton quickly said it's the job of the State Department to assess what happened, but the GOP said her remarks were in line with earlier administration comments saying that the U.S. consulate was attacked as part of a spontaneous protest against a movie.
Republicans are almost sure to resurrect the quote — and Clinton's role in failing to keep the officials safe — if and when she runs for president in 2016.
2) "It's always the wacko birds on right and left that get the media megaphone."
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to the Huffington Post, March 8
In a single line, McCain permanently drew out the differences between mainstream and more conservative “Tea Party” Republicans.
He was criticizing Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who filibustered the nomination of John Brennan to lead the CIA. Paul wanted assurances that the administration would not use drones to bomb U.S. citizens — he got those assurances hours after he ended. He also got an apology from McCain a week later.
3) “I just see a huge train wreck coming down. You and I have discussed this many times, and I don't see any results yet.”
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, April 17
This quote became the definitive GOP argument against ObamaCare, which Republicans were only to happy to remind came from a Democrat who supported ObamaCare.
Nearly every Republican took a turn using the phrase, especially later in the year during what most agreed was the bungled rollout of the HealthCare.gov website.
4) “I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner."
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to NBC News, June 9
That was Clapper's look back at his decision to tell the Senate Intelligence Committee “no, sir” when asked in March whether the National Security Agency collects any data on hundreds of millions of Americans.
By the time his NBC interview took place in June, Edward Snowden was just beginning to leak information about the NSA's vast intelligence gathering operations.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said those leaks showed that Clapper did not give a “straight answer” back in March. Many have since called on Clapper to be terminated for lying to Congress.
5) “For everyone who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert. Those people would be legalized with the same act.”
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) to NewsMax TV, July 18
King's remarks became the poster child for GOP opposition to immigration reform, even though many Republicans ultimately denounced them as insensitive.
While some charged him with racism, King clarified several times that his point was that many illegal immigrants are carrying drugs, and said border agents back him up on that claim.
6) “Over the last several days, we have heard from members of Congress who want their voices to be heard. I absolutely agree.”
President Obama address to the nation, August 31
After weeks of indicating that he had the right to bomb Syria without permission from Congress, Obama finally relented and said he would seek congressional approval.
The issue quickly settled down from being what some called a constitutional crisis, into a more manageable situation in which Syria agreed with Russia to remove its chemical weapons. Congress never had to vote.
7) “I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam I Am.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on the Senate floor, September 25
Cruz famously read Green Eggs and Ham to his children, who were watching on CSPAN as their father spoke for hours on end on the Senate floor to protest ObamaCare.
Many debated whether his remarks were a filibuster at all — technically, his speech did not fit the definition of "filibuster" provided by the Senate, but the act of reading out items that had nothing to do with ObamaCare made it feel like an old school way to burn time in the Senate.
8) “I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me.”
President Obama to NBC News, November 7
In early October, the HealthCare.gov website was the subject of ridicule for not being able to handle much traffic, and for constant problems people had logging in.
After a few more weeks, a more serious problem cropped up — ObamaCare's new standards for health insurance were forcing companies to cancel millions of health insurance policies.
The White House spent several weeks downplaying this problem, but Obama finally acknowledged it with this apology. Some Republicans reacted by saying Obama was insincere, as he gave no assurances he would work with Congress on legislation to fix the problem.
9) “Even if it takes changing the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.”
Bill Clinton to OZY, November 12
Clinton once again injected himself into the national debate with a line that many saw as a devastating blow to the White House's efforts to defend the OamaCare rollout.
Two days later, Obama would announce that insurance plans due to be canceled could still be offered.
Many also saw Clinton's comments as a way to create some distance between a troubled administration and his wife, who may run for president in 2016.
10) “You'll regret this, and you may regret this a lot sooner than you think.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on the Senate floor, November 21
This warning from McConnell came after Senate Democrats decided to gut the ability of Republicans to filibuster Obama administration nominees.
Democrats had threatened to use the so-called “nuclear option” for years, but finally pushed the button in order to speed up nominations.
Republicans immediately warned that Democrats would pay as soon as the Senate flips back to the GOP, which they said could happen a year from now.
11) “They pushed us into the fight to defund Obamacare and shut down the government. And the day before the government reopened, one of these groups said, 'Well, we never thought it would work.' Are you kidding me?!”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) at a press conference, December 12
Boehner’s outburst was directed at conservative groups who forced Republicans to take tough positions all year, and was seen as the first serious rift between those groups and Boehner.
Many of the groups responded by saying Boehner has declared war on Tea Party organizations, something that will likely remain a thorn in Boehner's side in 2014.
12) “Elections have consequences. And I fundamentally believe — this is my personal opinion, I know it's a slightly partisan thing to say — to really do what we think needs to be done, we're going to have to win some elections.”
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on the House floor, December 12
With all the division within the GOP about the year-end budget deal, Ryan's comments were the simplest way to explain it — there are just not enough Republicans around to cut spending as much as the GOP would like, and this is what compromise looks like.
13) “Embrace the suck.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to Democrats, December 12
Pelosi was speaking to Democrats, but it was advice that applied equally to members of both parties.
Many Democrats and Republicans hated the final budget deal, but most would eventually accept it — 62 Republicans and 32 Democrats ultimately decided they would not embrace the suck.