Just a few of the things they need to do…..
Lawmakers are preparing for an end-of-the-year dash as they return to Washington with little time to tackle a handful of policy fights.
Congress will be under pressure to wrap up their work on a full plate of divisive issues after they return from a week-long Thanksgiving recess.
Both chambers are expected to be in session for approximately 15 days, giving them limited time to send legislation to President Obama’s desk or be forced to kick the can to January.
The looming battles — including avoiding a government shutdown — could challenge Republicans’ desire to show they can govern heading into the 2016 election, as well as provide a fresh challenges for new Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
Here’s a look at the biggest issues that lawmakers still need to tackle:
The first deadline lawmakers face is passing a long-term infrastructure bill after approving another short-term funding patch before leaving for Thanksgiving.
Lawmakers only have a matter of days to get a long-term deal and avoid a shutdown of federal highway funding, with the current patch set to expire on Friday, Dec. 4.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) initially expressed optimism that House and Senate bills could be reconciled “in a matter of hours,” and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) declared separately that the recently passed short-term measure would be the “last extension.”
But lawmakers have gotten bogged down in negotiations over how to reconcile differences in the two bills. They’re also facing pressure from conservative groups to drop language reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank’s charter and skepticism from Republican lawmakers over only guaranteeing three years of funding for a six-year bill.
Inhofe, however, remains optimistic that negotiators will be able to seal an agreement, telling The Oklahoman that lawmakers “are very close to a product that country has needed for far too long.”
The Senate is heading for a battle over ObamaCare, as Senate Republicans gear up to use a parliamentary maneuver to repeal parts of the president’s signature healthcare law.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that lawmakers would turn to the measure after Thanksgiving and fast-tracked the House-passed bill to the Senate calendar, which will allow it to be brought up on the floor.
But the legislation is threatening to divide Republicans, raising questions over whether or not leadership will be able to get the 51 votes needed move the proposal through the upper chamber.
Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ted Cruz (Texas), who are both running for the Republican presidential nomination, and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) have threatened to oppose any legislation that doesn’t fully repeal ObamaCare.
If the three oppose the legislation, McConnell would need the support of every other Republican senator to get the reconciliation bill passed.
But a push to link cutting off federal funding for Planned Parenthood to the repeal package has raised concerns from moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) and blue-state lawmakers up for reelection in 2016, including Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).