1. Dems eye to raise the minimum wage in 2014: The New York Times reports that the Obama White House and Democrats plan to make raising the minimum wage a key 2014 issue -- both in Congress and in state ballot initiatives. "With polls showing widespread support for an increase in the $7.25-per-hour federal minimum wage among both Republican and Democratic voters, top Democrats see not only a wedge issue that they hope will place Republican candidates in a difficult position, but also a tool with which to enlarge the electorate in a nonpresidential election, when turnout among minorities and youths typically drops off."
Indeed, this month's NBC/WSJ poll found 63% of Americans backing an effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 -- including 59% of independents and even 47% of Republicans and 45% of Tea Party supporters.
This comes as Democrats -- as well as some Republicans -- are pushing to extend unemployment insurance for more than one million Americans. NBC’s Carrie Dann: “Sens. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, and Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican, are proposing a three-month extension of the benefits program that would also retroactively pay the missed checks to the long-term unemployed. Reed said Thursday that he expects the first vote on that proposal to be held Jan. 6.”
2. HealthCare.Gov enrollment surges: The reason Democrats can now turn to an issue like the minimum wage? They don’t have to worry as much about the federal health-care website. On Sunday, the Obama administration announced that more than 1.1 million Americans had enrolled in a health-care plan on the federal website as of Dec. 24 – up from nearly 27,000 from October and 110,000 from November.
With an estimated one million who also enrolled on states exchanges, that brings the total enrollment number to about two million. As the New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn writes, these numbers don’t tell us if the insurance companies are getting correct data from the site or if there’s a good mix between healthy and sick enrollees. But they do tell us that Americans are able to purchase insurance on the website -- something they couldn’t always do a month ago. "What’s important now is that the systems are mostly functioning so that anyone who wants to get coverage can," the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Larry Levitt told Cohn.
3. One-party control: Red states vs. Blue: Also on Sunday, the Washington Post’s Dan Balz examined the two competing Americas -- states dominated by one-party Democratic control and states dominated by one-party GOP control. “Republican states have pursued economic and fiscal strategies built around lower taxes, deeper spending cuts and less regulation. They have declined to set up state health-insurance exchanges to implement President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. They have clashed with labor unions. On social issues, they have moved to restrict abortion rights or to enact voter-identification laws, in the name of ballot integrity, that critics say hamper access to voting for the poor and minorities.”
More: “Blue states have also been forced to cut spending, given the budgetary pressures caused by the recession. But rather than cutting more deeply, a number of them also have raised taxes to pay for education or infrastructure. They have backed the president on the main elements of his health-care law. The social-issue agenda in blue states includes legalizing same-sex marriages, providing easier access to voting and, in a handful of cases, imposing more restrictions on guns.”
4. Reaction to the NYT report on Benghazi: On “Meet the Press,” politicians reacted to Sunday’s New York Times report that the 2012 Benghazi attack didn’t involve Al Qaeda, and that it was inspired more by the inflammatory anti-Islam video than some members of Congress have indicated. Said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA): “Al Qaeda is not decimated and there was a group there that was involved that is linked to Al Qaeda. What we've never said, and I didn't have the security look behind the door, that's for other members of Congress, of what the intelligence were on the exact correspondence for Al Qaeda, that sort of information.”
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX): “Chairman Issa and members of that committee crusaded for over a year on what was really a fairytale, claiming that the administration knew that Al Qaeda was involved and wouldn't admit it.”
5. Bloomberg spent at least $650 million of his own money as mayor: How much money did outgoing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg spend on his three campaigns and his 12 years in office? At least $650 million, according to a new analysis.