Between budget battles, near-historic gridlock and -- yes! -- a midterm election cycle, whose stars will rise on Capitol Hill in 2014?
Post TV took to the newsroom and asked some of our top political minds to weigh in with their picks:
Chris Cillizza’s lawmaker to watch in 2014 is Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who chairs the powerful Senate Budget Committee.
The four-term Democrat took the spotlight in December, after she and House counterpart Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) negotiated a $1.012 trillion bipartisan deal to avoid another shutdown, roll back some $63 billion in automatic spending cuts from the sequester and fund the government through 2015.
But the deal doesn't raise the debt limit, setting the stage for a potentially contentious brawl on how lawmakers will tackle the country's $17.3 trillion debt. That debate could ratchet up by February or March -- just a few months before the midterms -- and could be a decisive moment for Republicans, who face deep divides over debt tactics while still eyeing to gain control of the Senate.
Murray's position as committee chair means all debt and spending issues will have to pass through her first, making her a key player to watch in the year ahead.
For Post politics reporter Jackie Kucinich, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is the one to watch in 2014. He's a hard-line GOPer when it comes to fiscal issues, but with fairly libertarian roots, his political alliances aren't always so predictable.
Paul's led a vocal charge against the NSA's phone records surveillance and data collection, joining outgoing Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) to spearhead a class-action lawsuit against the Obama administration.
And in March, he invoked one of the Senate's oldest traditions when he launched a 13-hour filibuster against the nomination of John Brennan, President Obama's then-nominee to lead the CIA, and the administration's use of unmanned drones.
But on domestic issues, such as prison reform and sexual assault in the military, Paul emerges as an unlikely GOP champion willing to reach across the aisle. For example, he's currently co-sponsoring a bill with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that would no longer require mandatory minimum sentences for federal crimes -- not a typical Republican cause.
Congressional reporter Ed O’Keefe took to the campaign trail with his 2014 pick, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). She faces one of the toughest reelection bids of this cycle, fighting as a Democrat trying to distance herself from Obamacare in a state that gave Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney a 17-point advantage in 2012.
Landrieu was one of the last Democratic holdouts to support the Affordable Care Act, making her an easy target for conservative advocacy groups waging ad campaigns attacking her as the law's "deciding" vote. But since the fallout of President Obama's now-ubiquitous "if-you-like-it-you-can-keep-it" promise, she's fought to distance herself from that backlash. Her "Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise Act" would require insurers to keep offering plans canceled under Obamacare, and it's gained support from several fellow Senate Democrats facing reelection fights in 2014.
Landrieu's also pushing back against Obamacare on the campaign front. In mid-December, she released her first TV commercial of the 2014 cycle -- a $250,000 ad buy slamming President Obama's promise and touting her own bill as pressuring the White House.
When it comes to fundraising, Landrieu continues to outpace her presumptive opponent, GOP front-runner Rep. Bill Cassidy. She raked in nearly $1.4 million in the last three months of 2013, ending the year with about $6.4 million in the bank, according to campaign figures released this week. Cassidy raised $1 million in the final quarter of the year and has $4.2 million in cash on hand.
Still, a numbers game alone could spell trouble for the third-term senator: Landrieu has never won her seat with more than 52 percent of the vote.
Gabbard is the youngest woman in Congress, as well its first Hindu and first female member of Samoan ancestry. A captain in the Hawaii National Guard, she’s also one of Congress’s two female members who’ve served in combat, along with Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).
She and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) are the co-founders of the new bipartisan Congressional Future Caucus. This is geared toward some of House's youngest members who believe they hold the key to breaking through near-historic gridlock and frustration on Capitol Hill.
Post TV's Theresa Poulson contributed to this report.