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- "A bipartisan agreement to ease sharp spending cuts known as the sequester easily cleared its last major hurdle Tuesday as 67 senators voted to advance the measure in hopes of ending nearly three years of political gridlock over the federal budget." A final vote is "expected to occur Wednesday evening." (Washington Post)
- "Three longtime members of the House, including two who represent swing districts, announced their retirements unexpectedly on Tuesday, joining a wave of lawmakers from both parties who have decided to leave Congress after the midterm elections next year." The retirements "are not enough to signal a major shift in the dynamics of the race for control of the House in 2014, which is still decidedly weighted toward Republicans." (New York Times)
- Rep. Frank Wolf's (R-VA) first announced that he won't seek reelection. Wolf's retirement leaves a battleground, suburban, Republican-held congressional district wide open in 2014. (Hotline reporting)
- Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) was the second House member to announce his retirement Tuesday, and Democrats will likely cede his heavily Republican-leaning district in the next election -- his 2012 opponent, Mia Love (R), is running again. (Hotline reporting)
- Matheson, on potentially running for another office in 2016: "I think everything's on the table for me right now." (Deseret News)
- Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) also announced Tuesday that he will not seek reelection in 2014, marking the third House retirement of the day in a battleground district. His retirement gives Democrats a major opportunity to retake the seat next year. (Hotline reporting)
- Latham's retirement could "clear the way for Republicans in the crowded" Senate race to run for Latham's seat instead. (Des Moines Register)
- In the AL-01 special election, former state Sen. Bradley Byrne (R) "won a landslide victory," carrying every county in the district. (Mobile Press-Register)
- "The conservative Judicial Crisis Network will begin airing an ad in Alaska on Wednesday attacking Sen. Mark Begich (D) for voting to confirm" President Obama's judicial nominees." (Politico)
- Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) "has named" Kirk Sims, chief of staff for Gov. Phil Bryant (R), to run his reelection campaign. (Jackson Clarion-Ledger)
- In IA GOV, state Rep. Tyler Olson (D) announced that "he's dropping out ... because of disruptions to his family caused by a pending divorce," leaving state Sen. Jack Hatch (D) "as the top" Democratic candidate. (Des Moines Register)
- Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) "will run for a 23rd term representing his Harlem district and plans an announcement as early as" Thursday. (New York Daily News)
- Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) "will seek to become the next chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, a move that would bring instant star power to the cause of tax reform while complicating his presidential ambitions." (Politico)
Hotline editors weigh in on the stories that drive the day
• Each of yesterday's 3 retirements changed the 2014 House outlook. Matheson's retirement all but gives UT-04 to the GOP, Latham's now makes IA-03 1 of 3 open Republican seats that President Obama carried in 2012, and Wolf's gives Dems the opportunity to see if they can translate favorable demographic change in Northern Virginia into a House gain, as they did in 2008 when another NoVa GOP veteran, Tom Davis, retired. (Wolf's district is more evenly split, though: Obama and Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe both lost it by 1 point in 2012.)
• Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) came out in support of a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation in the state, adding him to a small group of GOP governors who have shown movement on LGBT issues this year. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) abandoned the state's legal challenge to gay marriage in October, and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) said earlier this week that he was "open" to extending civil protections for gay people. Their actions -- along with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) expressing support for gay marriage -- indicate a growing amount of wiggle room on the issue among blue-state Republicans.
HAIR OF THE DOG
"A Florida Wal-Mart employee faces charges after officials say he shot a co-worker's car window because she won an employee-of-the-month award." (AP)
FRESH BREWED BUZZ
- The White House announced that Obama, Vice President Biden and the first lady "will not attend the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February, a pointed snub by an administration that is feuding with Russian leaders on a range of foreign policy and human rights issues." (Washington Post)
- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg "said Tuesday that Supreme Court justices should work as long as they can and shouldn't manipulate their retirement so a like-minded president can appoint their successor." (AP)
- "Jerry Brown, urged to run for president, won't rule out 2016 bid" (Los Angeles Times)
- Obama joked Tuesday that he wished things were as 'ruthlessly efficient' in Washington as they are in the Netflix original series 'House of Cards.'" Obama: "It's true. I was looking at Kevin Spacey, I was thinking man, this guy's getting a lot of stuff done." (The Hill)
- "Al Franken Hosts Secret Santa, Marco Rubio Gets Coal" (U.S. News & World Report)
- ME-02 candidate Emily Cain (D) sent a fundraising email pointing out "that women in Maine are paid far less than their male counterparts when doing the same work." A response from IEBW, Local 1057 president Jeff O'Neill: "Big Frigging deal... men pay for 95 percent of the s--- women have, looks good to me." (Lewiston Sun-Journal)
- Video: Tornoto Mayor Rob Ford "caught during a council session Tuesday, dancing to a band playing 'One Love' on the chamber floor." (Washington Post)
- "Iowa Poll: Corn on the cob is No. 1" (Des Moines Register)
- "Walter White gets 12 years for dealing meth" (Billings Gazette)
PLAY OF THE DAY!
- Today's weather, from the National Weather Service: Areas of fog this morning. Sunny. Highs in the upper 30s. West winds 10-15 mph.
- The Senate returns at 10 a.m.
- The Heat could be without LeBron James when they host the Pacers. (ESPN, 7 p.m.)
- Beyoncé headlines the sold-out "Mrs. Carter Show World Tour." (Verizon Center, 8 p.m.)
- Have an event for us to highlight? Email us!
- The two federal laws that keep D.C. buildings to a maximum height of 130 feet were passed as a reaction to the construction of the Cairo in Dupont Circle in 1894.
- The winner is Tom Davis, and here's his Swizzle Challenge: "With former Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) contemplating running for NH SEN (a la Daniel Webster), who was the last congressman to represent two states in Congress, and what were the states?" The 2nd correct e-mailer gets to submit the next question.
NJ'S EARLY BIRD SPECIALS
- Senate Republicans Give Reid Lumps of Coal for Christmas
- As Budget Deal Heads to Passage, Senators Are Already Eyeing Changes
- Budget-Deal Vapors
- Rest Up From the Budget Fight, Because There's a Debt Ceiling One Around the Corner
- Americans Broadly Support Minimum-Wage Hike
"I know my friend from Arizona is well aware of that because he is such an esteemed historian of this body." -- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), on Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (Slate)
"There's no such thing as friends. ... There's me and Joe [Lieberman] and Lindsey [Graham], but it's rare. I can count on one hand the number of real friends I have, or maybe two hands." -- McCain (New York Times Magazine)
Julie Sobel, Editor
Steven Shepard, Editor-in-Chief