updated 4:20 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014

FEATURED POLITICAL STORIES

Historic thaw in U.S., Cuba standoff
Secret talks and freed American pave way for historic announcement from Obama, Castro
CONGRESS OUTLOOK
Democrats use nuclear option

As they make a final push to approve presidential nominations before Republicans take control of the Senate, Democrats said Tuesday the confirmation of a record number of federal judges was evidence they were right to make controversial changes to filibuster rules, despite objections from Republicans.

Goodbye, Congress: Moses, fish and 'awful' staff

Several congressional giants, who are retiring or were voted out of office, quietly said their public goodbyes during the first half of December.