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Budget deal passes Senate - becomes law

This week, the Senate joined the House in passing the bipartisan budget deal crafted by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). Nine Republicans joined all 55 members of the Democratic caucus in passing the bill. President Obama said he will sign the bill, making it law. 

The bill sets top-line funding levels at $1.012 trillion for fiscal 2014 and $1.014 trillion for fiscal 2015, while providing $63 billion in sequester relief over two years, paid for through a combination of fees and mandatory savings. The deal will also reduce the deficit by $28 billion over the next 10 years.

The bill includes an amendment that will extend the "doc fix" formula, which is used to reimburse doctors under Medicare, for three months, while congressional negotiators continue to search for a more permanent fix.

Appropriators get to work

With the bicameral passage of the budget deal, appropriators in both chambers immediately went to work.

Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD); her House counterpart, Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY); and their subcommittee chairs have already begun discussions and will be working through the holidays to craft a 12-bill omnibus package that Congress will address when lawmakers return in January. The current funding mechanism, a continuing resolution passed at the end of the October shutdown, expires Jan. 15. 
Click here to view the Washington Business Brief, Budget deal becomes law and a look ahead to 2014.

Baucus to China

This week, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) began telling his colleagues that he will be nominated by President Obama to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to China.

It remains unclear when the appointment would take effect, but Baucus would have to win confirmation from his Senate colleagues - something all sides expect would not be a problem. If he leaves before his term ends, which is what is expected, Baucus would relinquish his gavel on the powerful Senate Finance Committee at a time when he is still aggressively pushing for a dramatic rewrite of the Tax Code - which would serve as another major blow to proponents of tax reform.

If, as expected, he leaves early, Baucus will be opening up a Senate seat in a competitive state where Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock appoints the senator when there is a vacancy.

Wyden to head Senate finance

The impending departure of Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) leaves an opening at the head of the Senate Finance Committee - an opening that will likely be filled by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Wyden, who was first elected in 1996, is known as a results-oriented senator and someone who has shown a willingness to work with members on both sides of the aisle.

Wyden's potential move to Chair the Senate Finance Committee was greeted with optimism by Republican Senators and Republican lobbyists who believe that Wyden, like Baucus, will be open to working on issues important to GOP constituencies.

Wyden, who currently serves as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, declined to talk specifically about the potential chairmanship of the Finance Committee, but indicated an interest in continuing Baucus’ work with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) on tax reform and pursuing legislation to boost renewable energy supplies. Becoming chairman of Finance would require Wyden to relinquish the Energy Committee gavel.

Wyden told the Washington Examiner, “I think it’s pretty well understood: I think that the tax code is a dysfunctional mess; it’s a 100 years old this year and suffice it to say it looks its age everyday.”

The potential dominos at Senate Energy Committee

The expected move by Senate Energy Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) to head the Senate Finance Committee, plus the impending mid-term elections, will set off a fairly complicated chain of political dominos. This chart shows what could happen:


Political bits:


Alabama 1st Congressional District Special Election: Former State Senator Bradley Byrne (R-AL) easily won election to the House of Representatives this week defeating a little known Democratic opponent.

Iowa 3rd Congressional District: Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA), one of only 17 Republicans to sit in seats won by President Obama in 2012, announced that he would not run for re-election in 2014.

Utah 4th Congressional District: Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT), a moderate, announced this week that he would not seek another term in 2014. Matheson's district, which is an overwhelmingly red district, is expected to be an easy pick-up for Republicans. Mia Love, who lost to Matheson in 2012, is the expected GOP nominee.

Virginia 10th Congressional District Special: Long-time Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) announced that he will not run again in 2014. Wolf's retirement sets up a competitive race in this swing district.


Montana: The impending departure of Senator Max Baucus will leave a vacancy that will be filled by the Montana Governor Steve Bullock (D-MT). Bullock is expected to tap his lieutenant governor, John Walsh (D), for the post.    

A look ahead:

The House and Senate will be in recess next week.

Washington by the numbers            

72 - The percentage of Americans who say big government is the country’s biggest threat.

55 - The percentage of Americans who say Edward Snowden’s leaks have harmed the public interest.

They said what?

“I don’t think there’s going to be unanimous consent on anything until hell freezes over.” –Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) (Roll Call)

Washington humor                                

"It's really starting to look like Hillary Clinton's going to run. The digital team behind both of President Obama's campaigns is already preparing for a Hillary Clinton run. They're starting early because they've got to delete 10 years of Bill Clinton's browser history." –Conan O'Brien



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