The Successes ...

Budget deal

A $1.1 trillion spending bill approved Friday funds the government for the 2016 budget year and extends $680 billion in tax cuts for businesses and individuals. The deal avoids a government shutdown and allows crude oil exports.


Obama signed a sweeping overhaul of the No Child Left Behind education law, the biggest education reform since 2002. The bipartisan law ushers in a new approach to accountability, teacher evaluations and the way the most poorly performing schools are pushed to improve. The law encourages states to limit time spent on testing and diminishes the stakes for underperforming schools.

College loans

Congress extended a federal loan program that provides low-interest money to the neediest college students.

Highways, transit

Congress approved a bipartisan bill to improve the nation's aging and congested highways and transit systems. The new law does not resolve how to pay for transportation programs in the long run.

Trade promotion authority

Congress approved a bill granting the president trade promotion authority. The law allows Congress to ratify or reject trade agreements negotiated by the executive branch, but not change or filibuster them.


President Obama signed into law the USA Freedom Act, which extends three expiring surveillance provisions of the USA Patriot Act, passed after the 9/ 11 attacks on New York and Washington. The law overhauls the previous law's most controversial provision, which had been interpreted to allow bulk collection of U.S. phone records by the National Security Agency.


Congress approved a sweeping defense-authorization bill that includes a troop pay raise and prohibits transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States.

Doc fix

Congress finally approved a bipartisan measure that permanently recasts how Medicare reimburses doctors for treating over 50 million elderly people. The $214 billion measure prevented a 21-percent cut in physicians' Medicare fees, preventing a flood of complaints from doctors and senior citizens that lawmakers dearly wanted to avoid.

Export-Import Bank

Congress revived the federal Export-Import Bank five months after lawmakers allowed it to expire.

The Failures ...

Iran nuclear deal

GOP lawmakers failed to block a deal involving the U.S., Iran and five other world powers that would curb Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for giving Iran access to billions in frozen assets and oil revenue.

Planned Parenthood

Congress tried but failed to muster votes to halt federal payments to Planned Parenthood, after secretly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing tissue donations fueled an uproar among Republicans and abortion opponents.


Lawmakers tweaked the edges of Obama's health care law but did not overturn it.

Environmental rules

Congress did not block Obama administration regulations on clean air and water and was unable to stop Obama's signature environmental accomplishment, a high-profile plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Keystone XL

Congress again failed to win approval for the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada. Obama finally rejected the pipeline last month after seven years of debate and indecision.


House Republicans continued a widely criticized investigation into the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador. An 11-hour hearing featuring Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton failed to produce revelations Republicans were seeking.


Neither chamber approved comprehensive immigration reform; Obama will try again.

And Unfinished business ...

Middle East

With a civil war in Syria, ongoing fighting in Afghanistan that has postponed a final U.S. troop withdrawal and continued insurgent activity in Iraq, the U.S. has failed to disentangle its military from the region.

Criminal justice

Obama is expected to push Congress for more changes in sentencing; the GOP will resist.


This complicated relationship offers opportunities for cooperation (Syria) and pitfalls (Ukraine).


Obama said Friday that he hopes to work with Congress to cut Japanese tariffs on American agricultural products.

Associated Press story, photo