This time around, the question seems to be whether another continuing is needed, or whether (as Republicans hope) a final 2012 spending package can be put together.

The 2 percent payroll tax cut that expires this year will also be front and center. Senate Democrats this week tried to push through an extension of that cut that also expanded it to a 3.1 percent cut, and spent the week daring Republicans to oppose it.

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But Republicans said that while they want the cut, they don't want the Democrats' pay for, which was a tax on income above $1 million. Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid on 'Medicare for All': 'Not a chance in hell it would pass' The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders on the rise as Nevada debate looms Bottom line MORE (D-Nev.) has hinted that he might revisit the payroll bill, and Republicans on Friday presented several ideas for paying for the extension, like a freeze in federal pay and workforce reductions.

The employment picture brightened somewhat Friday, as the unemployment rate fell to 8.6 percent, although many noted that some of that drop was due to the decision of many people to stop looking for work. Regardless, members will also grapple with whether and how to extend expiring unemployment benefits.

Republicans last week were looking for ways to pay for an extension of unemployment benefits, including by limiting eligibility of these payments to households above certain income levels.

Another issue that will be folded into the mix is finding a way to maintain physician reimbursement rates under Medicare, or the so-called "doc fix."

Most of the movement on these key issues will take place off the House and Senate floor, which have relatively light schedules. Below is a more detailed look at the week ahead:

Monday

The House meets at 2 p.m. for work on several suspension bills, but votes will take place Tuesday. The suspension bills are:

H.R. 2351, the North Cascades National Park Service Complex Fish Stocking Act;

H.R. 944, to eliminate an unused lighthouse reservation and consolidate ownership of related islands in California;

H.R. 2360, the Providing for Our Workforce and Energy Resources (POWER) Act;

H.R. 643, the Sugar Loaf Fire Protection District Land Exchange Act;

H.R. 1560, to amend bloodline requirements for entry into an indian tribe in Texas;

S. 683, the Box Elder Utah Land Monument Lease Authorization Act;

S. 535, the Fort Pulaski National Monument Lease Authorization Act; and

S.Con.Res. 32, to make technical corrections to H.R. 470, which expanded the availability of hydroelectric power at the Hoover Dam.

The Senate meets at 2 p.m., and at 4:30 p.m. will take up four district judge nominees:

Edgardo Ramos for the Southern District of New York;

Andrew Carter Jr. for the Southern District of New York;

James Gilstrap for the Eastern District of Texas; and

Dana Christensen for the District of Montana.

Tuesday

The House meets at noon, and may begin work on H.R. 10, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. This will would require Congress to approve major regulations, a step Democrats say would leave regulatory agencies virtually unable to release rules dealing with health and human safety, financial issues and other matters.

The House is also likely to consider more suspension bills. In addition to voting on the bills debated Monday, the House may also take up ten others scheduled for consideration next week. They are:

H.R. 1254, the Synthetic Drug Control Act;

H.R. 2405, the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act;

H.R. 3237, the SOAR Technical Corrections Act;

H.R. 2297, to promote the development of the Southwest waterfront in Washington DC;

H.R. 313, the Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act;

H.R. 2471, clarifying how video tape service providers get a consumer's written consent;

H.R. 1021, the Temporary Bankruptcy Judgeships Extension Act;

S.J.Res. 22, a joint resolution relating to bonds issued by a joint agency of Missouri and Illinois;

S. 1639, relating to the American Legion; and

S. 1541, to change eligibility standards for membership in the Blue Star Mothers of America.

The Senate is expected to be in session Tuesday through Thursday, but with an uncertain schedule.

Wednesday

The House meets at noon for legislative work. Aside from work on the bills listed above, the House may also start work on H.R. 1633, the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act.

Thursday

The House will meet at 9 a.m. to complete any unfinished work.

Friday

The House is not scheduled to be in session, and no work is expected in the Senate. However, House GOP leaders have held open the chance of work related to expiring spending and other provisions, so there is some chance of Friday work.