And they’re back

AND THEY'RE BACK: Members of Congress will be back in the Capitol today to start what many hope will be a more successful year than the last — but don't get your hopes up. “Members of Congress from both parties introduced fewer bills last year than in similar legislative years over the past decade. They cast fewer votes than usual. And, as has been noted, they passed fewer laws than in any other year in recorded congressional history. Set to begin a new session Monday, lawmakers are struggling to find optimism that 2014 will mark a pivot point for an institution whose historically low approval rating has been at or below 20 percent for three years,” writes Paul Kane: Paul Kane for The Washington Post: In Congress, 2014 begins with shrunken ambitions
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: “Members of Congress returning to work this week are plunging immediately into policy battles that will shape their campaigns for the November elections … Political strategists on both sides expect the debates to position their parties for November, even if the legislation fails,” write Janet Hook and Siobhan Hughes for The Wall Street Journal. “The ‘do nothing' Congress is preparing to do even less. Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader, is quietly playing down expectations for any major legislative achievements in the final year of the 113th Congress, which passed fewer laws in its first year — 65 — than any single session on record,” writes Jonathan Weisman for The New York Times. “With members of Congress jockeying for position in advance of the November elections, it will be difficult for them to avoid the partisanship that marked last year's session and find common ground to do much of anything in the new year,”according to Reuters.
TO-DO LIST: The top issues facing Congress this year are very similar to the issues faced year, according to Fawn Johnson. Unemployment insurance, immigration reform, minimum wage, healthcare and the debt ceiling are hot topics for Washington, she writes. Additionally, theAssociated Press breaks down the list even further categorizing issues as must do's, votes possible and to be determined.
NEARING THE END: House and Senate negotiators are meeting Monday to discuss the last hurdles to finalizing the $1 trillion omnibus spending package. “If last month’s agreement said how much Congress can spend this year, the giant appropriations measure now spells out where the dollars will go. Hundreds of pages long, it literally touches every corner of the government. But its very scope also invites conflict over everything from Wall Street’s banks to Appalachia’s coal industry — championed by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers. The challenge now is to find balance,” writes David Rogers: David Rogers for POLITICO: Budget battle nears finish line
BATTLE OVER JOBLESS BENEFITS: The extension of jobless benefits will likely be the first battle of 2014 between Democrats and Republicans. While Democratic leaders in the Senate feel confident they will have the 60 votes necessary to advance legislation out of their chamber, House Republicans are wary of extending benefits after nearly six years of recession. Some House Republicans say the $6.4 billion cost of extending benefits another three months for the 1.3 million Americans affected should be balanced with deficit-reduction measures. Lawmakers in Washington need to work together to find the best solution for the country: Alexander Bolton for The Hill: Battle over jobless benefits will consume start of 2014
CHUCK TODD ON NO LABELS RADIO: In case you missed it, Chuck Todd, Chief White House Correspondent for NBC News, was on No Labels Radio with Gov. Jon Huntsman. Listen to the interview now.
THE DAILY BREAK: Brothers in Minnesota spent 95 hours building this 16-foot high snow shark. Check it out now.
ACTION OF THE DAY: No Labels proposed 12 ways to make Congress more effective. Click here to view the list.
STAT OF THE DAY: Americans reported spending $96 per day in December — the highest monthly average since September 2008: Frank Newport for Gallup: U.S. Consumer Spending in December Highest Since 2008


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