Congress will return to session Monday for Democrats' final few weeks of power, and speculation has been mounting over what they'll try to do once they get back.
Chances are slim that Democrats will drive an aggressive agenda, as they'll be limited by time. There's a lot to be done, and not much time in which to do it. Passing anything other than essential pieces of legislation will be tough.
There is no set date at which the lame duck session will end--recall that last year, in a strained effort to pass health care reform, the Senate held a vote on Christmas Eve--and the only hard deadline is January 3 of next year, when the 111th Congress ends and the 112th Congress begins.
But lawmakers, some of them retiring and some of them having lost their seats on Nov. 2, will be itching to get out of town. No one wants to stay until Christmas again. Which means it's unlikely Congress will take up anything controversial, given that Senate Republicans can filibuster, and the process can drag on and on. The main goal, it seems, will be to extend spending and tax rates set to expire.
So what exactly will Congress do in the next several weeks? Here's a list of the agenda items they're likely to take up:
Funding the Government: The current appropriations the fund the federal government will expire in December, and, unless Congress passes a continuing resolution to extend the current funding levels (or if it somehow manages to pass a new omnibus appropriations bill), the federal government will shut down.