Obama, Healthcare, Same-Sex Marriage, Shutdown Top Year In Politics

(Washington, DC) -- Here are the top political stories of 2013.

President Obama was inaugurated for a second term in January. He vowed to pursue an aggressive agenda that included gun control, immigration reform and efforts to curb global climate change. Obama also called for an end to partisan gridlock in the nation's capital. The nation's first African-American President said the U.S. still has a lot of work to do to ensure equal rights for all Americans.

Supporters of same-sex marriage gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court in June and cheered landmark rulings. The high court ruled on a 5-4 vote that the federal ban on same-sex marriage in the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. It also ruled that opponents of same-sex marriage in California didn't have legal standing to challenge a ruling overturning that state's ban on the practice. This year, six more states legalized same-sex marriages, bringing the total to 16.

Much of the federal government shut down for 16-days in October in a dispute between congressional Republicans and President Obama. House Republicans insisted on defunding, delaying or otherwise hindering the healthcare reform law, Obama's signature legislative accomplishment. That strategy did not fly. Other disputes revolved around spending and debt. A temporary deal on the fiscal issues was agreed to and the shutdown ended.

Republicans like Texas Senator Ted Cruz kept up a relentless verbal assault on the healthcare reform law amid a rocky rollout of HealthCare.Gov, the federal website for the new healthcare exchanges. President Obama ordered a "tech surge" to fix the glitches and the website started working much better a month later. Meantime, the President had to retract earlier promises that, "If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan."

In November, President Obama announced an historic deal which aims to end Iran's nuclear ambitions. He said the interim agreement opens a "a new path to a world that is more secure." The deal was worked out between Iran and six world powers, including the U.S. In coming months, negotiations will continue on a comprehensive, longterm agreement with Iran.

White House spokesman Jay Carney underscored administration pressure on lawmakers to pass an immigration reform bill. The Senate passed a sweeping, bipartisan measure in June but it stalled in the Republican-led House. House Republican leaders said the Senate bill was too broad and vowed to take a more piecemeal approach, though no legislation was put forth as the year came to a close.

President Obama defended U.S. counterintelligence efforts as controversy swirled around the National Security Agency, NSA. The spy agency was accused of going overboard on surveillance and data mining after leaks surfaced from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Snowden, a former NSA contractor, took flight and was granted asylum by Russia. Meantime, the President ordered a full review of U.S. surveillance activities.

Vice President Joe Biden led administration efforts for new gun controls after last year's school shooting massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Senate Republicans blocked legislation to curb military assault-style weapons and high capacity ammo clips, along with expanded background checks. No serious gun control legislation was put forward in the House.

Despite presidential warnings, mandatory spending cuts started on March 1st. The across-the-board cuts in a so-called sequester were a result of a failure by congressional Republicans and Democrats to agree on a bipartisan plan to curb debt and deficits. Those efforts are continuing as a new round of sequester cuts is expected to hit the Pentagon especially hard.

Republican leader Mitch McConnell reacted angrily when Democratic leaders changed Senate rules in November. Fed up with Republican filibusters, Dems triggered a so-called nuclear option. The move eliminated a 60-vote threshold to proceed with presidential nominations. Republicans threatened to retaliate the next time the GOP regains the majority in the 100-member Senate.

President Obama prepared the nation for possible U.S. missile strikes against Syria over the use of chemical weapons against rebels. The U.S. blamed the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the chemical weapons attack that killed more than a thousand people, including children. U.S. missiles were never launched as Russia brokered a deal putting Syrian chemical weapons under UN control.