Don’t ignore the lame duck. Policy fights are raging in Congress that will affect millions. – Updated by Jeff Stein Dec 2, 2016, 2:30pm EST


Mitch McConnell has led the opposition to a bill that would rescue the pension funds of tens of thousands of coal miners. If Congress fails to act, the pensions are set to expire at the beginning of 2017. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Mitch McConnell has led the opposition to a bill that would rescue the pension funds of tens of thousands of coal miners. If Congress fails to act, the pensions are set to expire at the beginning of 2017. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Mitch McConnell has led the opposition to a bill that would rescue the pension funds of tens of thousands of coal miners. If Congress fails to act, the pensions are set to expire at the beginning of 2017. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

There’s less than two months left until the Republican Party takes complete control of the government on January 20, 2017.

But Washington won’t simply be at a standstill until then. What happens in Congress in the time President Obama has left — during what’s known as the “lame-duck session” — will have a huge impact on the lives of millions of Americans.

At stake is the safety of the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, the pensions of thousands of laid-off coal miners throughout Appalachia, the biggest health reform package since Obamacare, and the paychecks of all US troops — and that’s during what’s considered a relatively uneventful lull in the legislative chambers.

Perhaps just as importantly, the next seven weeks are when Democrats will lay the groundwork for the much bigger and more critical struggle against the soon-to-be empowered GOP. Where congressional Democrats decide to fight now — and who emerges as leading advocates of the opposition — will shape how they’ll try to stop the Republican Party in the next session.

Here is a look at five of the most important fights in the lame-duck Congress — and how they’ll influence the much bigger battles looming around the corner.

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