As 2011 comes to an end a few hours from now, there is no question it was a year to remember. From debt ceiling showdowns to campaigning on a national scene and from redistricting and immigration to GRAMA on a state level, there was plenty of political news to fill the last twelve months.
Let’s look at some of the national news first:
*Rep John Boehner became the Speaker of the House as Republicans enjoyed one of the biggest wave elections in almost a century. The first vote by the Republican controlled House was to repeal Obamacare. The Democrat-controlled Senate would have nothing of it and the stage for the year was set- absolute gridlock.
*It’s the money, honey. More than once this year Republicans and Democrats have drawn lines in the sand when it comes to federal spending – only to stay on the path of profligate spending. The president proposed a budget that got zero votes. The Senate refused to approve any budget sent by the House and instead passes “Continuing Resolutions” to keep the dollars flowing. Discussions on raising the debt ceiling resulted in threats of a government shut-down and a president who threatened to withhold Social Security payments. A last-minute “deal” was struck at the end of the summer and a super-committee was created to find ways to cut a trillion dollars in 10 years. (In Washington terms, that’s barely a drop in the bucket.) The committee got nothing done, surprising no one and now, the next debt ceiling increase – to $16.2 trillion – is being asked for as most members of Congress are home for the holidays. It’s no wonder Congressional approval ratings are at all time low.
*DC was hit by an earthquake and a hurricane in the same week, bringing an abundance of jokes about the Apocalypse.
*Some of the world’s bad guys are gone – Osama bin Laden, Mohammar Quadafi and Kim Jong Il. Their replacements, however, may not be an improvement.
*The race for the GOP presidential nomination starts earlier every cycle and this was no exception. As we approach January of 2012, almost a year away from the actual presidential election, the players are all on stage and have been for months. In spite of the “flavor of the month” from the “anybody but Romney” crowd, Mitt has remained steady and (mostly) unflappable as we approach both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary in the next few days. Rick Perry made his mark and will be remember for his top three programs to cut – One, Two, and Oops.
*The biggest story nationally continues to be the faltering economy – economic uncertainty, tens of thousands of new pages of federal regulation, month upon endless month of unemployment hovering around 9%, and states finally facing the reality of significant budget deficits brings to mind a famous quote from a previous presidential election cycle: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
In Utah, the top political news stories focused less on the economy and more on the legislature.
*The once-in-a-decade process of redistricting has been completed. 75 House districts, 29 Senate districts, 15 state school board districts and four Congressional seats now await a tumultuous, albeit entertaining 2012 election year.
*Utah House Republicans elected their first woman speaker – Rebecca Lockhart.
*One of the hottest topics on Capitol Hill was immigration. A series of bills was passed dealing with a number of topics including enforcement and the sticky topic of what to do with people already in the state. The LDS church weighed in heavily in the debate.
*The other hot topic was GRAMA. Passed then repealed, then studied by committee, there are actually a number of non-controversial changes all sides agree on. One sticking point is still include text messages – are they records or are they conversations?
*Orrin Hatch spends millions of dollars campaigning with no opponent in the race. Rep Jason Chaffetz appears to test the waters and ultimately decides not to run. Jim Matheson decides against running for the US Senate or the Governor’s seat and instead decides to run for the newly created 4th district. Governor Gary Herbert has 2 (and likely 3) intra-party challengers and the grand 2012 election shuffle has begun.
*A mistake with maps led to a mid-term vacancy and allowed me the remarkable opportunity to step into the Utah House as the Representative for my area. Starting one week into the session, the first, overwhelming first days suddenly got much more intense with the death of my youngest child just three days after I was sworn in. I have learned a lot – some good, some bad – but overall, it has been a fantastic opportunity to serve in a meaningful way.
Next – what’s on tap for 2012…….