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.”