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 CoburnAmerican patients face too many hurdles in regard to health-care access Live coverage: Donnelly, Braun clash in Indiana debate The Hill's Morning Report — How will the Kavanaugh saga impact the midterms? 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 MikulskiAthletic directors honor best former student-athletes on Capitol Hill Dems ponder gender politics of 2020 nominee Robert Mueller's forgotten surveillance crime spree 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 Ann WarrenDNA is irrelevant — Elizabeth Warren is simply not Cherokee The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump seizes on immigrant 'caravan' for midterms | WHCA criticizes Trump for praising lawmaker who assaulted reporter | Trump takes harder line on Saudis Clinton aide: Chances 'highly unlikely' but 'not zero' Hillary will run for president again 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 CruzElection Countdown: Small-donor donations explode | Russian woman charged with midterm interference | Takeaways from North Dakota Senate debate | O'Rourke gives 'definitive no' to 2020 run | Dems hope Latino voters turn Arizona blue White vote is 'fundamental problem' for Texas Dems, political analysts says Houston Chronicle endorses Beto O'Rourke in Texas Senate race 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 ReidFive takeaways from testy Heller-Rosen debate in Nevada Major overhauls needed to ensure a violent revolution remains fictional Senate heads home to campaign after deal on Trump nominees MORE (D-Nev.) move a larger batch of controversial nominees than expected, after he and Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenators pledge action on Saudi journalist’s disappearance Bernie Sanders: US should pull out of war in Yemen if Saudis killed journalist Senators warn Trump that Saudi relationship is on the line 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 McConnellMeghan McCain calls Russian attacks against her father the 'highest compliment' to her family Schumer: Fight for Senate is 'neck and neck' Nikki Haley powerfully rebuts Trump MORE (R-Ky.) and GOP Whip John CornynJohn CornynFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke debate showdown Live coverage: Cruz faces O'Rourke in Texas debate showdown Trump, Feinstein feud intensifies over appeals court nominees MORE (R-Texas) among those voting no.

Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuLobbying world Former New Orleans mayor: It's not my 'intention' to run for president Dems grasp for way to stop Trump's Supreme Court pick 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 SessionsBeto O'Rourke on impeachment: 'There is enough there to proceed' Rosenstein to appear for House interview next week Emmet Flood steps in as White House counsel following McGahn departure MORE (R-Ala.) and Reps. Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannYes, condemn Roseanne, but ignoring others is true hypocrisy Bachmann won't run for Franken's Senate seat because she did not hear a 'call from God' Billboard from ‘God’ tells Michele Bachmann not to run for Senate 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 BoehnerHouston Chronicle endorses Beto O'Rourke in Texas Senate race The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Citi — House postpones Rosenstein meeting | Trump hits Dems over Medicare for all | Hurricane Michael nears landfall Kavanaugh becomes new flashpoint in midterms defined by anger 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 BoehnerHouston Chronicle endorses Beto O'Rourke in Texas Senate race The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Citi — House postpones Rosenstein meeting | Trump hits Dems over Medicare for all | Hurricane Michael nears landfall Kavanaugh becomes new flashpoint in midterms defined by anger 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.