By Bob Cusack
2010 was the year of the Tea Party.
The grassroots conservative political movement made its clout felt the entire year, from the healthcare reform debate to GOP primaries and the general election last month.
Senior Democrats, ranging from Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.), aggressively attacked the Tea Party in the lead-up to the midterms, hoping that doing so would soften losses to the GOP. House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) and other Republicans embraced the movement, believing its energy would benefit their party at the polls.
In the end, the Tea Party was in many ways a net asset for the GOP as Republicans grabbed control of the House and cut into the Democratic majority in the Senate.
However, there was collateral damage as Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) and other Senate GOP hopefuls seen as the party’s best chance of winning general-election races were ousted in primaries. Some blamed Tea Party candidates for costing Republicans a Senate majority to go with their new majority in the House.
A month-by-month breakdown of 2010’s most memorable political events follows.
Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) announce they will not seek reelection.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) apologizes for racially insensitive remarks.
Scott Brown (R) wins Sen. Edward Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) old seat; healthcare reform on the ropes.
Supreme Court issues major decision on campaign finance reform; Democrats vow to pursue legislative fix.
President Obama delivers State of the Union address; Justice Samuel Alito shakes head as Obama scolds high-court ruling on campaign finance.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke confirmed by Senate for a second term.
Obama goes toe to toe with Republicans at House GOP retreat in Baltimore.
Unemployment drops to 9.7 percent.
Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) dies.
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) announces he will not seek reelection.
Reid discards jobs bill crafted by Senate Finance Committee leaders.
Congress holds hearings on defects in Toyota vehicles.
Senate passes jobs bill.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) steps aside as Ways and Means Committee chairman.
House Democrats and Republicans separately vow crackdown on earmarks.
Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) resigns amid scandal.
Republican yells, “Baby killers” during speech on floor by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) during healthcare debate; lawmaker later identified as Rep. Randy Neugebauer (Texas).
Healthcare reform passes without a single Republican vote.
Massa scandal intensifies.
Controversy over Arizona’s immigration law intensifies.
Massive oil spill occurs off the Gulf Coast.
Wall Street reform bill advances.
Senate hopeful Charlie Crist becomes an Independent.
Failed bomb attempt in New York City.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) announces his retirement.
Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) falls short in effort to represent party in general election.
Obama nominates Elena Kagan to Supreme Court.
Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) loses in primary.
Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), who switched parties, loses in Democratic primary.
Former Murtha aide wins special election to replace late congressman.
Amid reports of infidelity, Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) retires.
Wall Street reform clears Senate.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) survives primary challenge, subsequently loses in general election.
Rep. Parker Griffith (R-Ala.), who was elected to Congress as a Democrat, loses in the GOP primary.
Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.) gets into altercation with man holding a camera on Capitol Hill; Etheridge subsequently loses his reelection bid.
Tax-extender package stalls amid concerns about the deficit.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) apologizes for his controversial apology to BP.
Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) loses in GOP primary.
Obama fires Gen. Stanley McChrystal after his critical remarks are published in Rolling Stone magazine.
Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) dies.
Wall Street reform passes.
Oil spill in Gulf Coast is capped; massive cleanup ensues.
Ethics panel charges Rangel.
Kagan easily confirmed by Senate.
Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) loses in primary.
Ethics panel charges Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).
Congress returns from recess to pass border-security bill.
Former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) dies in plane crash.
White House press secretary blasts the “professional left”; two House Democrats call for his resignation.
Reid breaks with Obama on planned mosque near 9/11 site in New York City.
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) convicted on one of 24 charges.
Boehner calls for resignation of Obama administration officials Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) loses primary to Joe Miller.
Many pundits predicting GOP will win House.
Senate hopeful Castle loses to Christine O’Donnell in primary.
Small-business bill passes.
Congressional Democrats punt tax bill until after election.
House GOP unveils its “Pledge to America.”
Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert testifies, in character, to a House subcommittee.
Economy loses 95,000 jobs in last report before election; unemployment stands at 9.6 percent.
Ethics trials of Rangel and Waters postponed until after the election.
Most pundits say GOP will win House but probably not take the Senate.
ELECTION NIGHT: Republicans win back the House, pick up a net 63 seats.
Democrats hold on to the Senate, but majority is significantly weakened; Reid triumphs over Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle.
Murkowski wins general election in write-in effort.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announces she will run for minority leader; later she easily beats Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) for post.
Ethics panel recommends Rangel censure; House subsequently censures New York Democrat.
Obama strikes deal with Republicans on tax deal; liberals in Congress seethe.
Congress’s job approval ratings lowest ever on record.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) mounts filibuster of tax bill, speaking on Senate floor for more than eight hours.
Congress passes tax bill as House Democrats bend to Senate-passed measure.
Omnibus spending bill dies, along with its more than 6,000 earmarks.
Congress passes repeal of Pentagon’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
Senate ratifies U.S.-Russia arms treaty.
Congress passes 9/11 health fund bill.
Hannah Brenton contributed to this report.
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