Legislating for Nov.

Congress has a lot on its legislative plate this year, but perhaps not much will be signed into law.

The stalemates and gridlock that dominated 2011 seem more like to intensify than abate this election year.

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But it’s worth noting that Congress will be debating a lot of high-profile issues, including the extension of the payroll tax holiday, online piracy, defense spending, education reform, highway reauthorization and the farm bill. 

A few things will get done, though a lot will be punted until after the election, most notably what to do about President George W. Bush’s tax cuts, which are due to expire and raise rates sharply.

One of the most fascinating things to watch in 2012 will be how Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) use the congressional agenda to further their respective campaign goals. 

Polls show that voters are very angry with Congress, but unlike the last three elections, it’s unclear which party will feel the brunt of the ire. That is why the next few months are so important to both sides. The victor of the message wars will be able to tap the anger and direct it at the opposing party.

Reid and his lieutenants will schedule votes on taxing millionaires and continue to talk about the need to extend the payroll tax holiday after bludgeoning the GOP on that legislation late last year. Senate Democratic leaders will repeat their call for the House to pass the China currency bill that cleared the upper chamber in 2011. Reid is also expected to urge passage of a long-stalled highway bill.

Boehner, meanwhile, will highlight the need for improvements to the nation’s infrastructure and paying for it through expanded oil drilling. He will also call for repealing big portions of the president’s healthcare reform law, including the CLASS Act and its payment advisory board. 

House Republican leaders will talk a lot about the administration’s looming decision on the Keystone oil sands pipeline. By statute, President Obama must make a decision by Feb. 21.

There will be an interesting Capitol Hill-2012 presidential race dynamic. Democrats have already hammered Mitt Romney for his vow to veto a scaled-back immigration reform bill called the DREAM Act.

House Republicans could schedule votes on pending gun rights legislation, forcing Obama to take a position he doesn’t really want to talk about.

Congress is not popular, but it will play a large role in the intense political debate of 2012.