After nearly a month of health problems that culminated with a stay in a New York City hospital for treatment of a blood clot in a vein between her brain and her skull, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was back in her office Monday morning.

The State Department released a photo of the 65-year-old, soon-to-be-retired Clinton chairing a weekly meeting of assistant secretaries.

President Obama this afternoon nominated former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., to be his next defense secretary and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

In those two, the president said, he has chosen men with experience in the field and who "understand the consequences of decisions we make in this town" on the men and women who serve America around the world,

President Obama will announce today that he plans to nominate John Brennan to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, an administration official with knowledge of the decision tells NPR's Tom Bowman.

This week saw both a frantic finale to the much-unloved 112th Congress and, hours later, the swearing in of the new 113th. The cast of lawmakers and their leaders is mostly unchanged. The same can be said for Capitol Hill's never-ending drama over taxes, deficits and spending.

What was arguably this week's most sensational congressional moment did not even take place in Washington. On Wednesday in Trenton, N.J., Republican Gov. Chris Christie blasted the GOP-led House for closing down the last Congress without even considering a Superstorm Sandy disaster relief bill.

Update at 1:30 p.m. ET: The counting is done and as expected, President Obama and Vice President Biden collected all 332 Electoral College votes they earned on Election Day. Their Republican opponents, Mitt Romney and running mate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, received 206 votes each.

Since it takes 270 Electoral College votes to be elected, the president and vice president have indeed been returned to office.

Update at 2:17 p.m. ET. Passage In The Senate:

The Senate just passed, by unanimous agreement, a bill that injects more than $9 billion into the insurance program that will assist those hit hard by Superstorm Sandy last October.

President Obama had urged passage and is expected to quickly sign the bill.

Our original post:

Todd Wiseman via Texas Tribune

The political action committee for Waste Control Specialists, which is owned by Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, was fined Wednesday by the Texas Ethics Commission over illegal political contributions. 

The PAC illegally donated nearly $65,000 to 18 state lawmakers — 15 Republicans and 3 Democrats — in 2011, shortly after the organization was formed. At the time, Simmons was the only contributor to the PAC. Texas elections code requires a PAC to have at least 10 donors before it makes a political contribution.

Todd Wiseman / Gage Skidmore / Bob Jagendorf for Texas Tribune

When 11 Travis County voters scribbled in "Mickey Mouse" for president on their ballots in November, the cartoon character didn't get any closer to becoming the first animated leader of the most powerful nation in the world. After all, counties don't count write-in votes for uncertified candidates.

In every presidential election, hundreds of names are written in by voters who choose not to vote for a major candidate. Among those names is a trove of living and deceased politicians, fictional characters and popular personalities. That trend continued in Texas in 2012.

(We put a new top on this post at 3:45 p.m. ET.)

The House of Representatives will vote on aid for victims of Superstorm Sandy before Jan. 15, according to promises Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, made to legislators from the affected areas this afternoon. The speaker met with angry representatives at 3 p.m., seeking to quell their outrage over the postponement of a vote on federal help.

We're sorry to start the first work day of 2013 on a negative note, but here goes:

Though the House voted 257-167 late Tuesday to OK legislation that kept the federal government from going over the so-called fiscal cliff — and stopped income taxes from rising for about 99 percent of Americans — lawmakers didn't reach agreement on other very divisive issues.

Sen.-elect Ted Cruz of Texas is a bright young Hispanic star who will be sworn in this week in Washington. The Republican Party nationally hopes Cruz will be part of the solution to its growing problem luring Hispanic voters.

Almost nobody had heard of Cruz when he began his campaign for the U.S. Senate. But when he stepped in front of a microphone, he could light up a room in a way that made the other Republican candidates seem lifeless.


In 2012’s presidential election, 27 percent of Hispanics in the U.S. voted for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Until that number increases, Republicans will have a hard time winning a Presidential race – so party insiders say it’s time to soften the GOP’s position on immigration.

For Texas Senator John Cornyn, it’s about who’s the best fit to tackle the topic. He says if Republicans are going to seriously tackle immigration policy, Texas lawmakers are uniquely qualified to take the lead.

“I happen to believe that we in Texas understand a little bit more about some of these issues than people from other parts of the country – given our proximity to the border and given the nature of our population,” Cornyn says.

Update at 9:45 p.m. Deal Reached

Vice President Joe Biden was meeting late Monday with Senate Democrats to brief them on a proposed deal to stop sharp tax increases and spending cuts. A source told NPR the deal with congressional Democratic and Republican leaders includes a mix of both.

(Scroll down for updates.)

Well, here we are. It's New Year's Eve and with just hours to go before the end of the year and the arrival of the so-called fiscal cliff, Democrats and Republicans in Washington are still trying to strike a deal that heads off automatic increases in taxes, automatic deep spending cuts in a variety of programs and the automatic expiration of some jobless benefits.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been admitted to a hospital for a blood clot "stemming from" a concussion earlier this month, Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines says. In a statement, Reines says doctors found the clot during a follow-up exam on Sunday.

"She is being treated with anti-coagulants and is at New York-Presbyterian Hospital so that they can monitor the medication over the next 48 hours," he says.

We have reached the last weekend of the year, and Washington still has not reached a deal to avert the big tax hikes and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff.

President Obama met with top congressional leaders at the White House on Friday afternoon: John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi from the House, and Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell from the Senate.

African-Americans voted this year at a higher rate than other minorities and may have topped the rate for whites for the first time, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

President Barack Obama will meet with the four leaders of Congress Friday to discuss a possible deal that would avoid automatic spending cuts and tax increases in the new year.

The session, to be held at the White House, would come just days before the "fiscal cliff" deadline that arrives on Jan. 1.

News of the meeting came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) spoke on the Senate floor Thursday, when he mentioned that he had spoken with the president about a new proposal.

Even as Air Force One was about to land in suburban Maryland this morning — bringing President Obama back from his vacation in Hawaii to resume negotiations aimed at avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff of automatic tax increases and spending cuts — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was on the floor of the Senate warning that a dive off that cliff seems inevitable.

(Scroll down for updates on the GOP's "plan B" and White House rejecting it.)

Talks are "heating up."

Differences are "narrowing."