2009: An ‘extraordinary’ year in politics

2009: An ‘extraordinary’ year in politics

2009 was a year of many fierce policy disputes, the death of a Senate icon, scandals that hit both major political parties, and the nation’s first black president.
President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein Obama Obama backs Trudeau in Canadian election Former Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Senate Democrats ding Biden energy proposal MORE said 2009, his first year as commander in chief, has been an “extraordinary year.”


Rank-and-file House members, including Reps. Joe WilsonAddison (Joe) Graves WilsonOvernight Defense & National Security — Congress begins Afghanistan grilling Connolly rips Wilson over 'you lie' during Blinken hearing Taliban seizes Kandahar as advance picks up speed MORE (R-S.C.) and Alan GraysonAlan Mark GraysonFlorida Rep. Val Demings officially enters Senate race against Rubio Demings raises Democrats' hopes in uphill fight to defeat Rubio Demings planning to run for Senate instead of Florida governor MORE (D-Fla.), became household names.
New scandals hit South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) and Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), as old ones involving House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) intensified.
There was no shortage of stunning developments, ranging from Sarah Palin’s (R) resignation as Alaska governor to Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize to Sen. Arlen Specter’s (Pa.) decision to leave the GOP.
There were bizarre moments as well, including Obama going way off message during a healthcare reform press conference by saying Cambridge, Mass., police officers acted “stupidly” in arresting Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates. America was introduced to Michaele and Tareq Salahi, alleged White House party crashers. Meanwhile, Rep. Spencer BachusSpencer Thomas BachusManufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank Biz groups take victory lap on Ex-Im Bank On The Money: White House files notice of China tariff hikes | Dems cite NYT report in push for Trump tax returns | Trump hits Iran with new sanctions | Trump praises GM for selling shuttered Ohio factory | Ex-Im Bank back at full strength MORE (R-Ala.) said there are 17 socialists in Congress but declined to name them.
Policy disputes on Capitol Hill grew heated amid record government spending on the stimulus package, auto bailouts and an increased U.S. presence in Afghanistan.
Healthcare dominated the year. Democrats missed self-imposed deadlines on getting the bill passed, and took a lot of heat for their legislation at town hall meetings over the summer. But Democrats seized momentum in the fall and winter, passing legislation through both the House and Senate.
Sen. Edward Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) death in August left a huge void on Capitol Hill. Kennedy, a staunch liberal, was widely respected on both sides of the aisle. In a 2009 survey conducted by The Hill, Senate Republicans said Kennedy was the most bipartisan Democrat in the Senate.
The stock market and the nation’s unemployment rate were volatile throughout 2009. While the market ended the year on an upswing, Obama and congressional Democrats said the unemployment rate is unacceptable and are vowing to enact a jobs measure in early 2010.
A month-by-month breakdown of  2009’s most memorable political events follows.


  • Obama orders 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan
  • Tom Daschle withdraws as Health and Human Services secretary nominee
  • Obama signs children’s healthcare bill into law
  • FBI raid on PMA shines ethics spotlight on Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.); ethics office later clears Murtha
  • Senate strikes deal on stimulus
  • Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) withdraws as Commerce secretary nominee
  • Congress passes $787 billion stimulus
  • Burris under pressure to resign after new information surfaces on Gov. Blagojevich
  • Obama addresses Congress
  • Obama proposes $3.6 trillion budget plan


  • Dow drops below 6,800
  • House passes housing cramdown bill; measure later falters
  • After delay, Congress passes omnibus spending measure
  • Obama administration announces it will give ailing auto industry billions of dollars
  • AIG bonus controversy explodes
  • Election for Gillibrand’s former House seat is too close to call; subsequently stays in Dem hands


  • Justice Department drops case against former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)
  • House and Senate pass their budget measures
  • Rep. Bachus claims there are 17 socialists in Congress
  • Allegations on Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and wiretaps surface
  • Sen. Specter bolts the GOP to become a Democrat


  • Supreme Court Justice David Souter announces he will retire
  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) under fire for what she knew about waterboarding
  • Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney deliver dueling speeches on military prison in Guantanamo Bay
  • Congress passes credit card reform
  • Obama selects Sonia Sotomayor to replace Souter




  • Lawmakers confronted at town halls on healthcare reform
  • Sen. Kennedy dies
  • August is deadliest month for U.S. troops in Afghanistan


  • Unemployment hits 9.7 percent
  • Obama address Congress on healthcare reform; Rep. Wilson shouts “You lie!” at Obama
  • Wilson reprimanded by the House; Pelosi fears political violence
  • House passes education reform bill
  • Congress votes to strip ACORN of federal funding
  • Pelosi commits to public option in healthcare reform bill



  • Fort Hood shooting kills 13
  • House adopts Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-Mich.) abortion language to healthcare bill, 240-194
  • House passes healthcare bill, 220-215
  • Dems win special election for McHugh’s seat as GOP split over candidates; GOP wins gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia
  • Unemployment rate increases to 10.2 percent
  • Senate health bill clears procedural hurdle


  • Obama announces 30,000 more troops will be sent to Afghanistan
  • Congress holds hearing on alleged White House party crashers
  • Obama hosts job summit
  • Obama approval drops under 50 percent
  • Unemployment drops to 10 percent
  • Sen. Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusBiden nominates Nicholas Burns as ambassador to China Cryptocurrency industry lobbies Washington for 'regulatory clarity' Bottom line MORE (D-Mont.) acknowledges he nominated his girlfriend for U.S. attorney post
  • Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D-Neb.) anti-abortion rights amendment to health bill falls short
  • Reid scraps public option; proposes new bill with “Medicare buy-in” plan
  • House passes financial regulatory reform bill
  • Medicare buy-in dropped; Dem centrists commit to bill
  • Congress passes omnibus measure
  • Senate health bill clears hurdle on cloture motion with 60 votes; Snowe votes no
  • Senate passes healthcare reform bill, 60-39
  • Rep. Parker Griffith (Ala.) leaves Democratic Party to become a Republican
  • Dow hits year high of 10,520 points
  • Terrorist plot foiled; Nigerian attempted to blow up plane headed for Detroit
  • Congress calls for hearings on apparent lapses in homeland security