O-Care rollout is top story of 2013

President Obama’s healthcare law dominated 2013 and promises to dominate the midterm election year of 2014.

The troubled rollout of the healthcare law was the single biggest political event of the year and has Republicans hoping they can win back the Senate from Democrats in 2014.

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ObamaCare was also at the center of the second biggest story of the year: the government shutdown.

Here’s a look back at the biggest political stories of 2013, many of which will continue to play out in the new year. 

1.     ObamaCare’s rollout

The botched rollout of President Obama’s signature law was The Hill’s top story of 2013, and the law’s implementation promises to be the biggest story of 2014 as well.

The disastrous start of HealthCare.gov sunk the president’s poll numbers and quickly took away political momentum he and Democrats had earned during the government shutdown.

Compounding the matter was another problem: President Obama’s repeated statements, proved false this fall, that people who liked their insurance could keep it under ObamaCare. PolitiFact awarded Obama the political “lie of the year” for those statements.

The administration has repeatedly delayed deadlines under the law to try to boost enrollment in the healthcare exchanges, which is a story the political world will be watching in January.

2. The government shutdown.

For 16 days, the federal government shut down in October, after Democrats and Republicans in Congress failed to come together on a funding mechanism. The shutdown furloughed hundreds of thousands of federal workers, closed national parks and monuments, and sunk congressional Republican poll numbers.

Polls showed Republicans shouldered most of the blame after intraparty fighting highlighted a divided party. Several senators privately blasted Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), blaming him for the shutdown, after he and his allies insisted that ObamaCare should be halted as part of a funding bill. Cruz was a thorn in the side of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other House members, as the Tea Party favorite consulted with rank-and-file House Republicans on their strategy.

The shutdown ended with a deal to fund the government through Jan. 15, and in December, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) agreed to a two-year budget framework.

3. The National Security Agency’s spying programs.

Former government contractor Edward Swowden’s leaks about mass spying programs by the U.S. government created headlines around the world and a massive headache for President Obama. They also turned Snowden into a fugitive from justice and an international celebrity.

Snowden’s leaks revealed the National Security Agency was mining U.S. phone calls to telephones overseas and international emails. The administration defended the programs, arguing that they were within the law and had helped authorities stop real terrorist threats. But critics said the programs violated the Constitution, and in December a federal judge agreed.

In 2014, the legal battles are expected to continue, and efforts in Congress to rewrite statutes authorizing what the NSA can and cannot do will be a major debate.

4. Boston Marathon Bombing.

Three people were killed and hundreds were wounded — many severely — when two homemade bombs were detonated at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15. The nation was captivated by the terrorist attack and the ensuing manhunt in Boston that led to the killing of bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and the wounding and arrest of his younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

5. War in Syria

President Obama on Aug. 31 asked Congress to authorize a military attack on Syria. The request came after Obama had dug himself into a corner by warning that the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces would constitute a red line that would result in the use of U.S. force.

Polls showed military action was unpopular, and a whip count by The Hill indicated Obama’s request to Congress likely would have been rejected. Obama’s unlikely rescuer was Russian President Vladimir Putin, who engineered a deal in which Syria promised to turn over its chemical weapons. That allowed the U.S. to back way from the resolution and for Obama to save face.

6. Immigration reform stalls in the House.

Immigration reform that would provide a path to citizenship for the nation’s estimated 8 million illegal immigrants cleared the Senate in June but ran into a brick wall in the House. The failure marked a huge disappointment for President Obama, who had made immigration reform a central second-term legislative goal. Supporters hope a bill might move forward in the House in 2014, but there is little indication that a majority of Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) conference wants to touch the issue.

7. Gun control dies.

Efforts to enact new controls on guns began in Congress weeks after 20 first graders were killed by a lone gunman in Newtown, Conn. The tragedy led supporters to think there was a real chance to move gun control legislation for the first time in decades, especially after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) signed on as a lead sponsor of a bill toughening gun registration laws. But in the end, the Senate defeated Manchin’s bill and several other measures, highlighting the clout of the National Rifle Association and the strength of gun rights supporters.

8. Reid, Dems nuke filibuster

The most significant changes to the Senate filibuster in decades were forced through by Senate Democrats in November. Under the new rules, only 51 votes are needed on procedural motions related to all administration nominees aside from Supreme Court justices. To win the change, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) followed through on his threats to trigger the nuclear option, which allows Senate rules to be changed by a simple majority vote. Every Republican voted against the change, along with three Democrats. The move allowed several Obama nominees to move forward but promises to make life in the Senate difficult in the next year.

9. Supreme Court strikes down DOMA.

The top court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in June in a landmark decision said that allows gay federal employees who are legally married to have the same benefits as same-sex couples. The decision was another sign of the changing political waters on gay rights.

10. IRS controversy.

The IRS in May said it had improperly given extra scrutiny in its audits to conservative groups that had requested tax-exempt status, plunging the tax-collecting agency into controversy. Republicans and Democrats called for a full investigation, and the acting head of the agency resigned.

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