The simplest explanation to what's going on in Washington is that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans command majorities in both Houses and control of the White House and you can throw in political realignment as an explanation. Liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats have been diminished to the point of near extinction. But even so, Democrats and Republicans in Congress in years past somehow managed to make deals and legislate despite profound differences.
Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick will represent Arizona's 1st Congressional District when she returns to Washington this week after sitting out a term. This time around, Kirkpatrick hopes to strengthen her foothold in a swing district, but she's dealing with a tricky electorate.
First elected to the House in 2008, Kirkpatrick turned a red district blue. Then in 2010, the backlash against President Obama and his health care plan hurt her. So, a Republican dentist from Flagstaff took her seat for a term.
Despite what has been called a status quo election, life is far from static on Capitol Hill. The 113th Congress will bring with it generational and some historic changes, including the first all-female delegation for a state (New Hampshire), and the fewest number of military veterans in the Senate and House since World War II.
It is almost unimaginable that both the House and Senate would be in session on a Sunday evening on the penultimate day of the year. And yet, they both were, with lawmakers hoping it was not merely a big waste of time and effort.
A bipartisan push by Senate leaders over the weekend has so far failed to forge a deal to spare American wage earners from tax hikes and shield government programs from drastic cutbacks.