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This year proved to be one full of chaos and crises that left Washington scrambling to respond to new threats and problems. From the rise of ISIS to the spread of Ebola to riots over police brutality, President Barack Obama struggled to keep up. The end result was huge electoral gains for Republicans in this year’s midterm elections.
Here’s a look at the top 10 political stories of the year:
10. Sebelius resigns after nearly 7 million enroll in Obamacare: After the embarrassing rollout of the president’s health care law, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius worked to right the ship before resigning in April. In the end, signups for healthcare.gov met expectations, but it came after months of costly repairs needed for Obama’s signature achievement. Open enrollment began again in November of 2014 without problems.
9. CIA Torture Report: A Senate Intelligence Committee report released in December detailed the harsh interrogation tactics the CIA used after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. CIA head John Brennan called the tactics "abhorrent," but said the agency also did many things right protecting the country from another attack. Former Vice President Dick Cheney said he “would do it again in a minute.”
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8. VA Scandal: Washington united in bipartisan outrage after reports that veterans nationwide faced long wait times at VA hospitals, and as many as 40 patients may have died while awaiting care. The outrage was enough for a polarized Congress to pass legislation meant to overhaul the VA health care system and help hold those in charge responsible for years of mismanagement. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki resigned in May.
7. Bridgegate scandal hits Christie: Fresh off a decisive re-election victory in a purple state, New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie found himself engrossed in a vindictive traffic scandal. He has so far not been linked to aides who plotted political revenge on the mayor of Fort Lee by closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge for a “traffic study” last September. The closures caused massive backups and traffic chaos. Though Christie’s claims of having no knowledge of the plan have held up, it re-enforced his image as a bully and hurt his standing as a potential GOP frontrunner in 2016.
6. Michael Brown and Eric Garner deaths: The shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in Missouri and the choke-hold death of Eric Garner in New York City compelled Americans to take to the streets to protest police brutality and racial profiling. It also reignited debate about where the country stands on race and the progress made six years after the election of the country’s first black president.
5. Obama’s executive action on immigration: A surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the Mexican border brought America’s immigration crisis to the forefront this summer. The president said it delayed the executive actions on immigration that he vowed to take after House Republicans refused to vote on comprehensive legislation passed by the Senate in 2013. He ended up announcing his unilateral actions after the November midterms, infuriating Republicans who said it was an overreach of his executive authority. It led to a budget showdown with Republicans eventually agreeing to fund most of the government through next September but vowing to fight Obama’s actions once they take control of the Senate.
4. Establishment beats Tea Party in GOP primaries: With one notable exception, establishment Republicans facing primary challenges from tea party supported candidates survived with ease. The outlier was former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s shocking primary defeat to David Brat in Virginia last June. Chris McDaniel also forced incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran into a runoff in the Mississippi GOP primary, but Cochran held on. Overall, though, Republican concerns that more conservative candidates would mount successful primary challenges to establishment politicians proved to be unfounded.
3. Ebola comes to the US (and impacts the midterm races): Mild panic set in after a Liberian man in Dallas died of the disease, stoking fears that Ebola was heading from West Africa straight to the U.S. A handful of other cases had politicians and the public questioning whether the country was prepared for Ebola, ensuring it became a campaign issue in the 2014 midterm elections.
2. ISIS’s rise: The U.S. at first debated if and how to respond to Islamic militants taking hold of large swaths of Iraq and Syria. But once ISIS’ capabilities and brutality became clear, the U.S. began airstrikes and rallied other countries to join the fight. The strikes have helped push back the militants and kill top ISIS leaders, but officials warn it could take years before the group is fully destroyed.
1. GOP’s midterm wave: With President Barack Obama’s popularity waning, Republicans were ready for a good night on November 4. But instead, they ended up having a great one. The GOP picked up nine Senate seats, easily securing a majority in the upper chamber come 2015. They also will control 247 seats in the House, giving the party their largest majority in 83 years.
Honorable Mentions: Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, Hillary Clinton’s book tour, Jeb Bush actively exploring a presidential run, the IRS scandal, Republicans lawsuit against Obama and the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.