Best, worst years in Washington

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.

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President Obama, fresh off his reelection, failed to win passage of either of his major domestic priorities — gun control and immigration — and his own popularity sank with the botched rollout of his signature healthcare law.

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 

BEST

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills 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 Davis RyanJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay House Ethics Committee informs Duncan Hunter he can no longer vote after guilty plea 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 Andrew BoehnerFormer Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock From learning on his feet to policy director 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.

3) Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSunday Talk Shows: Lawmakers look ahead to House vote on articles of impeachment, Senate trial The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 Democrats trading jabs ahead of Los Angeles debate Senate Republicans air complaints to Trump administration on trade deal MORE (R-Texas)

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 Ann WarrenTrump executive order aimed at combating anti-Semitism stirs up controversy Booker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications Democrats threaten to skip next debate over labor dispute 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 Diane Rodham ClintonNo, the polls aren't wrong — but you have to know what to look for How to shut down fake Republican outrage over 'spying' on Trump More than 200,000 Wisconsin voters will be removed from the rolls 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 WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday Senators zero in on shadowy court at center of IG report Trump administration approves Medicaid work requirements in South Carolina MORE (D-Ore.)

The veteran Oregon Democrat got a plum Christmas promotion when news broke that Sen. Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusBottom line Overnight Defense: McCain honored in Capitol ceremony | Mattis extends border deployment | Trump to embark on four-country trip after midterms Congress gives McCain the highest honor 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.

 

HONORABLE MENTION

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandAdvocacy groups decry Trump's 'anti-family policies' ahead of White House summit This bipartisan plan is the most progressive approach to paid parental leave Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' MORE (D-N.Y.) — Her campaign to crack down on sexual assault in the military won policy changes and glowing media coverage.

 

WORST

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.

2) Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioWhite House makes push for paid family leave and child care reform Tom Hanks weighs in on primary: 'Anybody can become president' GOP senator blocks bill aimed at preventing Russia election meddling MORE (R-Fla.)

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 PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSunday Talk Shows: Lawmakers look ahead to House vote on articles of impeachment, Senate trial Pentagon to take bigger role in vetting foreign students after Pensacola shooting Overnight Defense: House passes compromise defense bill | Turkey sanctions advance in Senate over Trump objections | Top general says military won't be 'raping, burning and pillaging' after Trump pardons 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 Emiel FeinsteinSanders revokes congressional endorsement for Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur Sanders endorses Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur for Katie Hill's former House seat Houston police chief stands by criticism of McConnell, Cruz, Cornyn: 'This is not political' 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.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Rep. Alan GraysonAlan Mark GraysonFlorida's Darren Soto fends off Dem challenge from Alan Grayson Live results: Arizona and Florida hold primaries The Hill's Morning Report: Frustration mounts as Republicans blow up tax message MORE (D-Fla.) — The House Democrat lost $18 million in a fraud scheme.

Rep. Luis GutierrezLuis Vicente GutierrezDemocrats rally behind incumbents as Lipinski takes liberal fire Dem leader says party can include abortion opponents DHS to make migrants wait in Mexico while asylum claims processed MORE (D-Ill.) — The immigration reform advocate had another frustrating year with no action in the House on his signature issue.