Winners and losers of the lame-duck

The final days of the 113th Congress were dominated by a bruising fight over government funding that nearly led to a shutdown.

Senate Democrats rushed to move legislation and nominees across the finish line before losing their majority, while Republicans battled internally over how to respond to President Obama's action to delay deportations.

Here's who won and lost in the post-election scramble.



Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnCongress brings back corrupt, costly, and inequitably earmarks Conservative group escalates earmarks war by infiltrating trainings Democrats step up hardball tactics in Supreme Court fight MORE (R-Okla.)

The retiring senator nicknamed “Dr. No” effectively blocked Congress from reauthorizing the federal terrorism insurance program (TRIA) in his final act as a member of Congress.

He objected to a provision in the bill that would have required insurance agents to register into a national clearinghouse, arguing that states should be able to "opt out" of the program.

Coburn also prevented passage of a bill designed to help prevent veteran suicides that had unanimous support, arguing it would “throw money away” on a duplicative program.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

Pelosi had struggled to gain footing in the lame-duck session until her vigorous fight against the year-end government funding package.


Not only did the Democrats lose more than a dozen seats in the midterm elections, but Pelosi alienated many in her party by picking a close friend over a more senior member in the high-profile contest for top Democrat on the Energy Committee.

By launching a full-throated attack on the GOP riders in the funding bill — and by publicly breaking with President Obama — she energized the Democratic base and now heads into the 114th Congress with renewed standing in her caucus.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.)

Maloney finally got her wish. For almost two decades, the New York Democrat has pushed legislation promoting the creation of a National Women's History Museum in the nation's capital, to no avail. Faced with entrenched opposition in the Senate, this year looked to be no different.

But tucked into Congress's defense authorization bill cleared by both chambers was her proposal creating a bipartisan commission charged with laying out a plan to bring a women's history museum “on or near” the National Mall.

"I never dreamed it would take 16 years to get this commission passed,” Maloney said Friday. “It seemed like an easy lift."

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiBottom line How the US can accelerate progress on gender equity Former Md. senator Paul Sarbanes dies at 87 MORE (D-Md.)

The two appropriators were perhaps the biggest winners of all in the lame duck, as the massive spending package they labored over for months survived a contentious debate.

While part of the $1.1 trillion spending package funds Homeland Security through only February, both sides scored policy wins in a compromise that keeps the government open through September 2015. 

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden plan would nearly double capital gains tax for wealthy: report Top general concerned about Afghan forces after US troops leave Progressives divided over efforts to repeal SALT cap MORE (D-Mass.)

The progressive rock star nearly derailed the funding bill over a provision she derided as a “giveaway” to Wall Street. While she failed in her effort to scuttle the change to the Dodd-Frank law, she mounted a formidable grassroots campaign against it, uniting liberal groups at the eleventh hour in a display of political muscle. Now ensconced in Democratic leadership, Warren’s influence is likely to grow in 2015.

Campaign donors 

Big-money contributors won the opportunity to give 10 times as much per year to Republican and Democratic campaign committees, in a provision tacked on to the very end of the spending agreement. (Page 1,599 of 1,603, to be exact.) Now, a donor who previously maxed out at $32,400 a year per campaign committee can give $324,000 a year, a boon for fundraisers seeking gain access at the increasingly expensive party conventions.


Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzEvery day should be Earth Day Hawley votes against anti-Asian hate crime bill Senate passes anti-Asian hate crimes bill MORE (R-Texas)

Cruz entered the lame-duck session promising to object to any legislation he deemed non-emergency. Cruz also spoke out forcefully on the need to stop President Obama’s executive order on immigration.

But GOP colleagues wound up blaming Cruz for helping Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Memo: Washington's fake debate on 'bipartisanship' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Biden to tap Erika Moritsugu as new Asian American and Pacific Islander liaison MORE (D-Nev.) move a larger batch of controversial nominees than expected, after he and Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHawley votes against anti-Asian hate crime bill Senate passes anti-Asian hate crimes bill Senate locks in hate crimes deal, setting up Thursday passage MORE (R-Utah) kept the chamber in session over the weekend. Republicans were so angry that 20 of them voted against Cruz’s point-of-order to protest “executive amnesty,” with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTim Scott to deliver GOP response to Biden's speech to Congress GOP state attorneys general urge Biden, Congress not to expand Supreme Court The Memo: Washington's fake debate on 'bipartisanship' MORE (R-Ky.) and GOP Whip John CornynJohn CornynCornyn, Sinema unveil bill aimed at confronting border surge US Chamber of Commerce comes out in support of bipartisan, bicameral immigration bill GOP sees immigration as path to regain power MORE (R-Texas) among those voting no.

Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuCassidy wins reelection in Louisiana Bottom line A decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth MORE (D-La.)

The Louisiana Democrat might have had the worst lame-duck session of anyone.

Any chance she had of winning a Dec. 6 run-off election vanished, when the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee canceled its ad buys in Louisiana after judging her campaign a lost cause. She rolled the dice by pressing Reid to allow a vote on legislation approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline days before her election, but the gamble failed, when only 58 senators voted with her. Her Republican opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy (La.), crushed her by 14 points in the runoff.

The Central Intelligence Agency


The CIA suffered its sharpest criticism in years after the release of a Senate Intelligence Committee report about its past “enhanced interrogation” program. The report, compiled by Democrats, accused the CIA of torturing detainees while misleading the White House and Congress, forcing CIA Director John Brennan to hold a rare press conference.

Immigration hard-liners

Lawmakers like Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDOJ to probe Minneapolis police Garland rescinds Trump-era memo curtailing consent decrees Biden picks vocal Trump critics to lead immigration agencies MORE (R-Ala.) and Reps. Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannBoehner says he voted for Trump, didn't push back on election claims because he's retired Boehner: Trump 'stepped all over their loyalty' by lying to followers Boehner finally calls it as he sees it MORE (R-Minn.) and Steve King (R-Iowa) failed in their campaign to “defund” Obama’s immigration orders in the funding bill.

In an attempt to win over “defund” advocates, GOP leaders chose to fund the Homeland Security Department only through February. While that alternative wasn’t good enough for conservatives, their opposition wasn’t enough to stop the package from passing with Democratic support.

Meanwhile, a Congressional Research Service report obtained by The Hill indicated immigration services wouldn’t stop, even if the government shuts down next year.

The National Football League

The NFL was perhaps the most prominent supporter of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, which had guaranteed a financial lifeline from the government in the event of a catastrophic attack.


The NFL and other professional sporting leagues joined with a broad coalition of business and banking groups to push reauthorization of the program, calling it crucial for the economy. But last minute political wrangling killed the bill, and the program’s future is now uncertain.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

Reid got off to a rocky start in the lame duck, when Democratic colleagues criticized his leadership during a marathon meeting after their drubbing in the midterm elections.

At least six Democrats voted to oust him as leader, even though he did not have a challenger. And while Reid scheduled a vote on the Keystone XL oil pipeline to help Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) in her runoff, the move backfired, when it could not clear the required 60-vote threshold.

Reid suffered another setback when Obama vowed to veto a tax deal he was negotiating with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.).

But Reid redeemed himself in the final days by passing the $1.1 trillion omnibus and securing the confirmation of 69 of Obama’s nominees — including 12 judges — whom Republicans tried to block. “I could not imagine ending on such a high point five days ago,” said a senior Senate Democratic aide. 

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerCantor: 'Level of craziness' in Washington has increased 'on both sides' Cheney on Trump going to GOP retreat in Florida: 'I haven't invited him' Republicans race for distance from 'America First Caucus' MORE (R-Ohio) and GOP leadership

House GOP leaders managed to beat back a conservative rebellion over the omnibus spending package — but just barely. The trillion-dollar package squeaked by on a test vote after leaders twisted arms, and the measure only passed with help from Democrats.

While they have cleared the decks for January, BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerCantor: 'Level of craziness' in Washington has increased 'on both sides' Cheney on Trump going to GOP retreat in Florida: 'I haven't invited him' Republicans race for distance from 'America First Caucus' MORE, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) are now facing a backlash from conservatives who feel they should have used the lame-duck spending deal to make a stand against Obama’s immigration actions.

— Kevin Cirilli, Rebecca Shabad, Bernie Becker, Scott Wong and Julian Hattem contributed.