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."
AP: "President Barack Obama will pay tribute this week to Nelson Mandela, making the long trip from Washington to South Africa Monday to attend a national memorial service for the anti-apartheid icon. Tuesday's memorial service will also serve as a rare reunion of nearly all the living American presidents. George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, will accompany Obama and first lady Michelle Obama on Air Force One, while former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter will travel separately to South Africa."
The Hill: "President Obama is sending two of his top diplomats to Capitol Hill next week in a final bid to stop new sanctions on Iran. Secretary of State John Kerry and his lead Iran negotiator, Under Secretary Wendy Sherman, will testify in public before House and Senate panels about the preliminary deal reached last month in Geneva. Their goal: Convince skeptical lawmakers that levying new punishments on Iran could derail the sensitive nuclear negotiations. "
Politico: "Presidential travel overseas is usually months in the making — but President Barack Obama’s trip to South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s Tuesday memorial service will be the end result of a process measured in mere hours."
USA Today: "Torched by disclosures the National Security Agency tapped into its data and spied on people and businesses, some of tech's biggest names have banded together to form what is essentially an anti-NSA coalition. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo lead the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, announced late tonight, to rein in the vast tentacles of the NSA and — perhaps — salve the worries of privacy-conscious consumers."
NBC's Jessica Taylor looks at are seven contests to watch in 2014 for how Obamacare could impact the midterms.
"Democrats increasingly view championing the pay of hourly workers as a can't-lose issue that revs up their base of liberal, black, and Hispanic voters" in the 2014 elections, Beth Reinhard writes in National Journal. "Perhaps more importantly, it also resonates with the white, blue-collar workers who overwhelmingly side with Republicans...But it won't be easy. In fact, in the races that will decide control of the Senate, it might be near impossible to get people focused on wages instead of the health care law."
The New York Times examines the re-election prospects of three Southern Democratic senators -- Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). "Next year, Democrats will face not only a general hostility to the national party among Southern white voters, but also a keen dislike of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. "
National Journal's Scott Bland looks at how "The Republican Main Street Partnership has emerged as an outspoken, deep-pocketed player in pro-business GOP plans to beat back tea party challengers next year. But the group's new super PAC has an unexpected source for its seed money: labor unions."
FLORIDA: Roll Call's Abby Livingston reports on the first television ads out of the special election in Florida's 13th District to succeed the late Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.). "State Rep. Kathleen Peters has joined lobbyist David Jolly on the airwaves for the Republican primary...Peters is even spending more than Jolly — so far — in television advertising, according to a Democratic media buyer monitoring the Tampa media market. Peters placed a one-week ad buy on Tampa cable worth around $22,000. Roll Call reported on Thursday that Jolly placed about $6,000 in ads....The 30-second spot seeks to frame the race as a local politician versus a Washington insider."
MISSISSIPPI: Roll Call's Kyle Trygstad: "In one of the last red-state bastions of appreciation for appropriations, Sen. Thad Cochran’s decision to seek re-election sets up a unique test for hard-line conservative groups that have targeted incumbents over the past few cycles. The six-term Republican and veteran appropriator is beloved in Mississippi for his efforts to direct federal funding to a state in need — especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina — so labeling him the “king of pork” won’t necessarily be a winning argument, even in a low-turnout Republican primary."
VIRGINIA: Politico: "Virginia Republicans suffered a drubbing last month, losing all three statewide races (though a recount is impending in one). A year earlier, it was pretty much the same story as Mitt Romney got swamped and the party unexpectedly lost ground in the Senate. But to hear GOP leaders in this once reliably red state tell it, this is no time to panic. No hint of discouragement is betrayed. Just as many party activists insisted after Romney’s loss, key figures here said that their shortcomings are cosmetic — that the problem is largely about campaign mechanics and how the conservative message is being delivered, not the message itself."
And Politico's James Hohmann reports that "Former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie is considering a run against Virginia Sen. Mark Warner (D) next year."