Think about 2014 as a year of diminished D.C. expectations—and then you’ll see the pattern in my predictions for the next 12 months.
Start with the budget, where Senate Democrats and House Republicans have struck a modest deal replacing part of the budget sequester with savings they like better.
Look for them in early 2014 to follow up with spending bills that throw scraps to defense and domestic priorities Congress has neglected—but make little fundamental change.
Lawmakers will avoid both a government shutdown and another debt crisis. Been there, already burned by that.
(More predictions: 4 ways to make money off Washington next year)
The Obama administration will grind along to the 2014 open enrollment deadline of March 31 for those troubled new health care exchanges that Americans without insurance must buy from.
Even if enrollment comes up short of the 7 million person goal, White House allies will recruit enough young people to the system to keep the exchanges financially viable for 2015. Obamacare will still have health problems, but it’ll get the chance to survive and grow.
(More predictions: Tired of Obamacare? More of the same in 2014)
By the fall, voters will go to the polls for another round of mid-term elections.
Without much faith in either party, they’ll start no revolutions this time. Republicans will hold their House majority, Democrats theirs in the Senate.
(More predictions: Get ready—Here comes the REAL economy)
And then the status quo will limp along toward the 2016 election of President Barack Obama’s successor.
—By CNBC’s John Harwood. Follow him on Twitter @JohnJHarwood.