Congress: Unfinished business

Billy House: “With the House scheduled to adjourn for the year on Friday, both chambers will try to address a bevy of unfinished business this week, including the budget, a defense bill, and legislation to fund food stamps and farm programs.”

Washington Post: "House and Senate negotiators were putting the finishing touches Sunday on what would be the first successful budget accord since 2011, when the battle over a soaring national debt first paralyzed Washington. The deal expected to be sealed this week on Capitol Hill would not significantly reduce the debt, now $17.3 trillion and rising. It would not close corporate tax loopholes or reform expensive health-care and retirement programs. It would not even fully replace sharp spending cuts known as the sequester, the negotiators’ primary target."

Wall Street Journal: "In the final week of 2013 that the Senate and House are scheduled to be in Washington at the same time, lawmakers and aides are optimistic that negotiators can reach a budget accord and continue to make progress on a farm bill and other measures. Meanwhile, a Senate rule change pushed through by Democrats should help ease the way for confirmation of several of President Barack Obama's executive-branch and judicial nominees, even as Republicans still have the power to prolong the process. 

Politico: "Largely shut out of the budget negotiations, Capitol Hill’s minority parties are getting increasingly antsy about the emerging agreement. Senate Republicans and House Democrats are learning the details of a possible deal largely through the media. For Republicans, their unease is caused by news that domestic spending may surpass existing caps, fueled by an increase in fees on government services. House Democrats are growing angry over the increased likelihood that federal workers’ benefits are going to be cut and the possible exclusion of unemployment insurance."

Roll Call reports that despite the protests, the minimum wage is likely not going up soon because Democrats are lacking in political capital: “Even approving unemployment benefits before the end of 2013 is shaping up to be a tough haul for Democrats, who so far have failed to negotiate an extension as part of year-end budget talks.” 

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) did not say that jobless benefits were make-or-break in a budget deal. He told This Week: “I don't think we have reached that point where we say 'this is it, take it or leave it.’”

David Hawkings: “On Monday afternoon, senators will spend just 30 minutes ‘debating’ the virtues of Patricia Ann Millett, a prominent 50-year-old Washington appellate litigator, before confirming her for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. However she distinguishes herself during that lifetime appointment, Millett will be remembered by congressional historians for this: She’s the first person to benefit from the limitations on Senate filibuster rules muscled through by the majority Democrats three weeks ago.”

And: “The GOP minority has not decided how much of a fuss it will make about the other five: Federal Reserve Vice Chairwoman Janet L. Yellen to take the helm of the central bank, former top Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson to be the fourth-ever secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Democratic Rep. Melvin Watt of North Carolina to run the Federal Housing Finance Agency and, for the two other vacancies on the D.C. Circuit, Georgetown law professor Nina Pillard and federal trial Judge Robert Wilkins. Each may be slowed, but no longer can any of them be stopped. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will use Tuesday’s weekly caucus lunch to press for a consensus game plan.” 

President Obama, the country’s top Democrat, is heading to South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Republicans are sending… Aaron Schock. Schock has been alive four years less than Mandela was in prison. 

The Sunday Times of London gives Marco Rubio a solid review after his recent visit to Britain.

The Hill: “Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is headed back to the drawing board with her controversial proposal to take sexual assault cases outside the chain of command.” 

Harry Reid’s older brother died. He was 85.