Quite surprisingly, the year 2013 was anything but boring in politics. Following a year which was highlighted by an extremely negatively-campaigned and close presidential contest in the United States, one would think that politics would fall back to page 2 for a time. However, if anything, politics held the headlines just as much as they had last year – if not more. The top 10 political stories of the past 12 months are presented here. In years to come, these are the issues and stories for which 2013 will be remembered.
The Top 10 Political Stories of 2013
- The Obamacare rollout fiasco: The highly-anticipated launch of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) website on Oct. 1 was the biggest political story of the year. After three years of preparation for President Barack Obama’s health care law to begin, it bombed. For six weeks, the failed launch held headlines. In the midst of the controversy, matters became worse when insurance companies mailed out cancellation notices to millions of Americans after President Obama promised: "If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan." By year's end, the president admitted the rollout failed by commenting during his last press conference of the year on Dec. 20: “We screwed it up.”
- Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks: Edward Snowden, 32, a computer specialist who was formerly a CIA employee as well as National Security Agency contractor, disclosed close to 2 million classified NSA documents which revealed that the United States has been spying on United States citizens and other countries. His status and his threats of releasing more documents have made headlines from the spring of the year right up until the end of the year. Snowden first provided documents to Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian and filmmaker Laura Poitras in February or March of 2013.
- Gun Control debate: The politics involving gun control in the United States has been around for many years, but in 2013 it has been more of an issue than in the past. Increased interest has occurred after a series of multiple-shootings in public places in the United States. The debate that continues by year’s end is between the persons who believe in the right to bear arms which is asserted in the United State Constitution’s Second Amendment and those who want gun-ownership and use restricted.
- Syria chemical weapons concerns: The controversy over who – in Syria – was responsible for the use of chemical weapons became an international story with great significance to the United States. The destruction of the chemical weapons in Syria, by year’s end, is still a continuing process which was initiated with agreements made in September. United States Secretary of State John Kerry has been an important player in the destruction of the chemical weapons.
- IRS scandal: In the past year, it was found that the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) targeted political groups – based on their political slant - that had applied for tax-exempt status. By a vast majority, conservative groups with such labels as “Tea Party” had been targeted. Reportedly, the IRS’ scrutiny of certain organizations and individuals began three years ago. Though there was much doubt, the Democratic White House denied any involvement with the actions by the IRS.
- Immigration debate: There are between 7 million and 20 million illegal immigrants in the United States, according to a Christian Science Monitor report, and the vast majority of them are from Mexico, according to an NPR report. The debate as to if or how illegal immigrants should gain citizenship intensified through 2013, and by year’s end the near-promised political solutions remained unresolved. Last year, President Obama used executive powers to revise immigration procedures without changing laws with a non-deportation policy which allowed 1.7 million illegal immigrants to apply for a temporary right to live and work in the country. Near the end of 2013 – on Nov. 25 - Ju Hong, 24, an undocumented immigrant from South Korea, yelled at the president and told him to use his executive powers to stop deportation. Obama said he couldn’t do it without Congress passing the necessary laws.
- Government Shutdown: The United States federal government was shutdown from Oct.1 through Oct. 16, 2013 when the United States Congress did not enact legislation appropriating funds. Some 800,000 federal employees were furloughed while more than one million government workers were to report to their jobs without knowing when they would be paid for their work. The shutdown ended when an interim appropriations bill was signed into law in mid-October.
- Same-sex marriage debate: The marriage between two persons of the same sex has been a highly-debated issue again in the past year. Some of the states in the United States allow for same-sex marriages. On June 26, 20013, the United States Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for its federal government to not allow federal benefits of marriage to same-sex married couples – but only if it is recognized or performed in a state that allows such unions. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which was passed by Congress 17 years ago was at issue in 2013. On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court asserted that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.
- Ted Cruz in the U.S. Senate: Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz, 43, became a junior member of the United States Senate representing Texas on January 3, 2013. The Republican lawmaker went on a nationwide tour sponsored by the Heritage Foundation in the summer of the past year to promote the defunding of the Affordable Care Act. He also argued that a shutdown of the government would not be harmful for America and the Republican Party. On Sept. 24, Cruz spoke on the floor of the United States senate regarding Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act). His speech lasted 21 hours and 19 minutes – the fourth-longest in the Senate’s history. After the speech, the Senate voted 100-0 regarding a procedural hurdle toward passing a stopgap funding bill to avert a government shutdown, according to a USA Today report. Cruz and 18 Republican senators joined efforts to prevent taking out a clause that would have defunded the Affordable Care Act by voting against the debate-ending motion, leaving 21 votes short of the required number to deny cloture, according to a Guardian report. Cruz ended up being blamed as the major force behind the government shutdown of 2013. When the Obamacare website rollout failed, Cruz resurfaced to lead the call for the resignation of Kathleen Sebelius, the United States Health and Human Services Secretary responsible for the website’s functionality.
- Chris Christie and his huge gubernatorial victory in New Jersey: Republican Gov. Chris Christie, the 55th governor of New Jersey, solidified his power and popularity in the Republican Party with a huge win in his state. Christie defeated Democrat Barbara Buono on Nov. 5 to realize his second term in that office. Following the huge win, Christie is believed to possibly be eyeing a run at the White House in 2016. Reportedly, Christie is now building a national fundraising network.