On Nov. 2, 2010 -- nearly two years after the election of President Obama and four years after losing a majority in Congress -- Republicans reclaimed control over the House of Representatives, picking up 63 seats. The GOP wave put an end to Democrats' short-lived three-way majority in the House, Senate and presidency. (Senate Democrats lost six seats, but managed to retain control over the chamber.) In an emotional speech following the victory, incoming House Speaker John Boehner solemnly commemorated the occasion. "This is not a time for celebration," he said. "It's a time to roll up our sleeves and go to work."
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HEALTH CARE REFORM PASSES
Following months of contentious debate in the House and Senate and weeks of political haggling, Congress passed a historic health care reform law on March 21, 2010. The bill, which marks the first such overhaul in the history of American health care, expands medical access and insurance coverage to millions of Americans. Notably, the final bill did not earn a single Republican vote. And while the law remains the topic of heated debate even months after its passage, it marks a major legislative victory for Mr. Obama.
"The bill I'm signing will set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for and marched for and hungered to see," he said before signing the bill into law in March. "Today we are affirming that essential truth, a truth every generation is called to rediscover for itself, that we are not a nation that scales back its aspirations."
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THE BP OIL SPILL - AND RESPONSE
The April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico set off a series of headaches for the Obama administration throughout the summer of 2010. In the wake of multiple failed attempts to plug the leak, the administration faced widespread criticism not only for misjudging the scope of the problem (it was the largest accidental oil spill in American history) but also for a response some viewed as slow and error-filled. By July, the leak had finally been plugged, but the aftermath - political and environmental - may linger for years.
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WIKILEAKS SPILLS SECRETS
In 2010, the website WikiLeaks caused a major international stir when it released to the public thousands of classified documents detailing U.S. government and military activity - including a 2007 video of Iraqis being killed by U.S. forces, over 75,000 documents from the Afghanistan war, and, most recently, a series of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.
In December, after Swedish authorities issued a European warrant for his arrest, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange turned himself in to London authorities and was arrested on sexual misconduct charges. A week later, Time Magazine named him a runner-up for its 2010 Person of the Year issue.
In response to the controversies raised by the WikiLeaks documents, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the site, saying that there is "nothing laudable about endangering innocent people."
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SCOTT BROWN RISES IN MASSACHUSETTS
Democrats were served a stunning upset when a little-known state senator named Scott Brown won a special election for the Massachusetts Senate seat formerly occupied by Ted Kennedy, who had died of cancer in August 2009. Brown's January victory signaled not only the end of a Democratic supermajority in the Senate, but also a wake-up call for Democrats about the strength of opposition to the health care bill and other Democratic initiatives.
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GLENN BECK'S RALLY TO RESTORE HONOR
In an August rally that drew 87,000 to the steps of Washington D.C.'s Lincoln Memorial, Fox News host Glenn Beck (joined by fellow Tea Party enthusiast Sarah Palin) called for a "return to honor" in the American political system. Beck paid tribute to Americans who he said "embody our nation's founding principles of integrity, truth and honor." The event, which was held on the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s historic "I Have a Dream" speech, would later serve as the impetus for a liberal-leaning counter-rally sponsored by comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
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JON STEWART'S RALLY TO RESTORE SANITY
In September, Comedy Central talk show hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert announced a joint rally on the nation's capitol. Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity" and Colbert's "Rally to Restore Fear" reflected a response to Glenn Beck's rally in August as well as to what Stewart described as an over-the-top political and media environment. At the march, which took place on October 30 and attracted an estimated 215,000 people, Stewart railed against cable news - or, as he described it, "the country's 24-hour politico pundit perpetual panic conflictinator."
"The image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false," Stewart said. "It is us through a funhouse mirror."
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FINANCIAL REFORM BILL PASSES
In July, nearly two years after the near-collapse of the American financial system, Congress gave final approval to a finance reform bill that had been considered for more than a year. When signing the bill, which established an independent consumer bureau in the Federal Reserve and granted governmental authority to shut down large financial companies on the brink of collapse, President Obama hailed "the strongest consumer financial protections in history."
"The American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street's mistakes," he said. "There will be no more taxpayer-funded bailouts. Period."
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ELENA KAGAN APPOINTED TO SUPREME COURT
Following the April retirement of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, President Obama nominated Elena Kagan, then the White House Solicitor General, as his nominee to replace Stevens. Kagan, the first female dean of Harvard Law School, inspired a fair amount of debate from conservatives regarding her perceived liberalism and lack of experience on the bench, but she ultimately passed through the confirmation process with relative ease.
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CHELSEA CLINTON GETS MARRIED
After weeks of media speculation as to when, where, and how it would happen, Cheslea Clinton, daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, married Marc Mezvinsky in a July 31 ceremony in Rhinebeck, New York. The wedding attracted the likes of Madeline Albright, Terry McAuliffe, and Ted Danson - but President Obama stayed at home. "I was not invited," Mr. Obama said during an appearance on ABC's "The View. "You don't want two presidents at a wedding."