Breaking through

BREAKING THROUGH: There are a few tests in Washington right away to see whether Congress and President Barack Obama can break through the partisan gridlock that has plagued the legislative process for years. Jason Seher lists unemployment insurance, the details of funding the government, the debt ceiling, healthcare politics and immigration reform as the key issues on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers must work together in order to solve these and other problems facing the country: Jason Seher for CNN: 5 tests for kumbaya on Capitol Hill
YELLEN CONFIRMED: In a 56-26 vote, the Senate confirmed Janet Yellen to be the next Chair of the Federal Reserve. Yellen, the first woman to lead the Federal Reserve, is expected to start her term on February 1. The confirmation process, though, may have been the easiest part of the job. In this hyper-partisan environment, Yellen "will face more scrutiny than perhaps any central bank leader before her when she formally takes the reins this month from the retiring Ben Bernanke," writes Peter Schroeder: Peter Schroeder forThe Hill: Senate confirms Yellen at Fed
DEAL WITHIN REACH: Lawmakers close to the appropriations process say they are within striking distance of making a deal. "The $1 trillion-plus measure will literally touch every corner of government and is a crucial second step following on the bipartisan budget agreement reached in December. Much as the December deal set new caps for spending by Congress, the bill now spells out where those dollars go. Its very scope and detail invite conflict, which makes the House-Senate talks such a challenge," writes David Rogers. Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, who is one of the leaders in the talks, says she is encouraged by the progress the group has made and believes a deal will happen.She also notes that at this point, four of the 12 spending bills are done with a few hurdles remaining for the other eight: David Rogers for POLITICO: Barbara Mikulski: Within ‘striking distance’ on budget
SLEEPER ISSUES: While topics like immigration and health care are hotly contested in Washington, there are some areas that are not receiving as much attention where lawmakers can strike agreements. David Hawkings lists half of dozen issues — energy, water, crime, patents, sales taxes and Medicare — where Washington can quietly strike agreements before the midterm elections despite the lack of headline appeal: David Hawkings for Roll Call: 6 Sleepers Lurking on the Hill’s To-Do List
ACTION OF THE DAY: On No Labels Radio, Sen. Joe Manchin discussed his year of being a Problem Solver and an Honorary Co-Chair of No Labels. Check it out.
STAT OF THE DAY: Gallup's Economic Confidence Index improved to -19 in December from -25 in November. This is still below the monthly ratings from October 2012 to August 2013: Alyssa Brown for Gallup: U.S. Economic Confidence Improved Again in December


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