To our dear readers,
This year has been one of change for me and the reporter I've taken to calling WGDB's better half, Niels Lesniewski. We launched our blog with little more than Wordpress passwords and a dream, and we wanted to take a moment to thank you. Our stories so far have run the gamut of Capitol Hill news and intrigue. In 2013, we mourned the loss of the Senate's last remaining World War II veteran and also of the kind man who cooked for hungry senators and staffers when no one else would. We went to an appliance store in New Jersey with soon-to-be-Ambassador-to-China Max Baucus, D-Mont., and the West Virginia state fair with Sen. Joe Manchin III. We covered the sort-of-historic (depending on whom you ask) Senate rules change, aka the "nuclear option" (Niels even did a Reddit AMA about it, though I'm still unsure what this means). We wrote about the rise of women on the Senate Armed Services Committee, presaging the battle between them as Congress debated changes to how the military addresses sexual assault. Most important, we tried to bring clarity to issues and stories and regurgitated talking points that, frankly, were ignored or distorted by others.
It's difficult to believe that 2013 started with the second inauguration of President Barack Obama and that we've nearly arrived at 2014, another Congressional election year. WGDB has been quite a journey so far and we look forward to continued Capitol adventures in 2014.
So, without further ado, we present the best of what we did in 2013. (And don't forget to read through to the end, where you'll find a special bonus — the Nielsiest #NielsTweets of the year!)
- If you read WGDB from day one, you would have known that the nuclear option was likely to be exercised this year. Niels wrote dozens of insightful stories on this topic, but here's a selection to give you an idea of how closely and perceptively WGDB covered this issue: Reid Pushes Flipping Balance of Power on DC Circuit, Hints at Another Filibuster Battle; Reid Prepped Filibuster Showdown for Months; Democrats' Memo on Senate Precedent Changes; Democrats Go 'Nuclear,' Eliminate Filibusters on Most Nominees.
- 2013 started with a bitter battle to confirm former Sen. Chuck Hagel to be secretary of Defense. At the time, we wrote about a secret email campaign being run by a top staffer to Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., who had concerns over Hagel's nomination because of previous comments the Nebraska Republican made on Israel.
- Staffers acted up, as staffers are wont to do, though at times it was unclear if they were acting on their own or doing their bosses' bidding. Dean Heller's staff really wanted to help him keep his spacious personal office in the Russell Building; Majority Leader Harry Reid's staff divulged personal emails between his chief of staff and Speaker John A. Boehner's chief; and the chief of staff to another Senate leader "accidentally" cut an ad for a Beltway publication in response to a request for a testimonial characterized as "not an editorial feature."
- I staked out the mysterious Senate gym starting at 5 a.m. and learned it is one of the last vestiges of the chamber's good ol' boys club.
- Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., launched a personal campaign against the late Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg's legacy chemical safety bill, accusing him of not being mentally fit to have agreed to it. Things got messy when Lautenberg's widow called Boxer, begging her to cease and desist, and Boxer called a meeting to chide senators for both their support of the Lautenberg bill and what she believed to be their leaking of information to Roll Call.
- Congressional prayer came under Constitutional threat, an issue made more prominent after Senate Chaplain Barry Black emerged as a star this year.
- Republican Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania refused to stand with Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., at a news conference for background check legislation. This caught the eye of The New York Times' Gail Collins. It also was good politics for Toomey.
- CONGRESSIONAL STAFF EMPLOYER CONTRIBUTIONS TO HEALTH CARE DO NOT CONSTITUTE AN "EXEMPTION" OR "CARVE OUT." Even Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said so.
- The Supreme Court overturned a crucial part of the Voting Rights Act in one of the most important but under-reported stories of the year. Roll Call had you covered.
- Rob Portman of Ohio became the first Republican senator to support gay marriage after revealing that his son Will is gay. WGDB sat down the week before his announcement to Ohio press and wondered what he might be mulling next.
My favorite "gentleman's filibuster" was the one by Al D'Amato about the typewriter factory http://t.co/oBg5zUciuw
— Niels Lesniewski (@nielslesniewski) September 24, 2013
Yes I went home, but I'm back at the Capitol already.
— Niels Lesniewski (@nielslesniewski) September 25, 2013
There are 11 people in the Senate visitor's gallery, including a child, watching this quorum call.
— Niels Lesniewski (@nielslesniewski) October 16, 2013
"Hooray!" exclaims @SenateApprops Chairwoman @senatorbarb
— Niels Lesniewski (@nielslesniewski) October 16, 2013
I wonder if John Kerry and Arlen Specter ever discussed the single bullet theory?
— Niels Lesniewski (@nielslesniewski) November 10, 2013
Grocery store had a cake molded in the shape of a cooked turkey. I decided against it.
— Niels Lesniewski (@nielslesniewski) November 28, 2013
Office of Legal Counsel issued an opinion in 2005 confirming the validity of the autopen.
— Niels Lesniewski (@nielslesniewski) December 9, 2013
Looks like the House plans to combine the budget deal and the doc fix!!
— Niels Lesniewski (@nielslesniewski) December 11, 2013
I hate to say it, but Sens. Merkley and Toomey have dueling Alexander Hamilton quotes.
— Niels Lesniewski (@nielslesniewski) December 12, 2013