Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated on Thursday that he thought negotiators would find a way to pay for the proposed yearlong extension of unemployment benefits. Republicans have been conditioning their support for the benefits extension upon the plan being deficit-neutral. The yearlong proposal costs around $26 billion.

The Hill: Senators Near Deal on Unemployment

House Republicans are turning their attention to immigration reform this year, attempting to tackle an issue that is pressing, but difficult to resolve both on the level of policy and electoral politics. The House Republican leadership is busy drafting an agenda for immigration reform and will release it later this January, various news outlets have reported. They are supposedly supporting reform via several smaller bills, rather than a “comprehensive” bill. Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, whose panel oversees immigration legislation, have both offered suggestions that they would support provisions to regularize and eventually naturalize young adults whose parents brought to them to the United States when they were underage. The Democrat-controlled Senate has already passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, which President Barack Obama supports, but which Republicans do not. In fact, yesterday, a group of 16 conservative House Republicans sent the President a letter sharply critiquing his policies.

New York Times: House Republicans Preparing Plan for Immigration Overhaul

Wall Street Journal: House Conservatives Blast Obama Immigration Push

The announcement by Representative Mike McIntyre, a moderate Democrat from North Carolina, that he would retire at the end of this Congress has further diminished prospects that his party will recapture the House. They must make a net gain of 17 seats, but McIntyre’s will most likely go to a Republican, as will Representative Jim Matheson’s. Romney carried those districts by large margins in the last election, whereas in the districts that the Democrats have the best chances, President Obama either narrowly lost or narrowly won.

Roll Call: House Retirements Offer Democrats Limited Hope

The disappearance of moderate Democrats from Congress is a trend that corresponds to a variety of changes in the electorate in general. Frequently, pollsters will release surveys examining the relative strength of the mysterious middle, the independents or swing voters. There are two main schools of thought on these self-described independents: They are actually intellectually distinct from both parties, and are usually more moderate than the two, or they are actually just kidding themselves, and consistently vote for one of the two parties.  Emory University political science professor argues that the independents are not so independent, noting, “Independent Democrats are much more liberal than independent Republicans on almost all major issues. In fact, these two types of independents share little in common other than the label.” This is an interesting observation, as it essentially mirrors what has largely occurred in both Chambers of Congress. In the Senate, the most conservative Democrat is still more liberal than the most liberal Republican. In the House, there is still some overlap, but it is slight.

Politico Magazine: Independent Voters Partisan in the Closet

And for our latest blog post: Flattening the Rules: The Implications of the Senate’s Nuclear Option