Lawmakers are bracing for chaos in December as they plunge into several high-stakes legislative fights.

Both chambers are expected to be in session for roughly 15 days before leaving town until January, but the looming battles could push their exit date closer to Christmas.

Republicans want to get a key agenda item, tax reform, to President Trump’s desk by the end of the year.

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That would be a daunting task even under the best of circumstances — but Republicans are also facing a Dec. 8 deadline to avoid a government shutdown, with fights over immigration and health care also crowding the agenda.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamHouse to advance appropriations bills in June, July The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  The Memo: The GOP's war is already over — Trump won MORE (R-S.C.) said the deadlines could be just what Republicans need to get things accomplished.

“I think that’s maybe the only way we can get it done,” he told The Hill. “We’re the ultimate do-your-homework-at-the-last-minute crowd.” 

Here’s what to watch for as Congress prepares for an end-of-the-year sprint.

Tax reform 

Senate Republicans are rushing to pass their tax plan this week after it was voted out of the Senate Finance Committee along party lines.

They have a narrow path to getting the bill through the Senate. With 52 seats, Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell: Taliban could take over Afghanistan by 'the end of the year' McConnell alma mater criticizes him for 1619 comments McConnell amid Trump criticism: 'I'm looking forward, not backward' MORE (R-Ky.) can only afford to lose two GOP senators, if every member of the Democratic caucus votes no; Vice President Pence could break a tie. 

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonOvernight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna Vaccine hesitancy among lawmakers slows return to normalcy on Capitol Hill FBI was aware Giuliani was a target of a Russian influence campaign ahead of 2020 election: report MORE (Wis.) became the first Republican senator to say he couldn’t currently support the House or Senate bills, arguing they don’t do enough to help “pass-through” businesses, or those taxed at the individual rate instead of the corporate rate.

Meanwhile, several GOP senators have raised concerns about the impact the tax plan could have on the deficit. The Senate plan can add up to $1.5 trillion to the debt over the next decade.

If the Senate is able to pass its own bill this week, Republicans will still need to work out a deal in conference committee and pass the final legislation.

Finding a deal won’t be easy, as the House and Senate bills differ in significant ways.

The House bill, for example, would scale back the state and local tax deduction, while the Senate bill would end it entirely. 

Time is of the essence, with a special election in Alabama on Dec. 12 that could leave Senate Republicans with only a one-seat majority.

Health care

Tied closely to the tax plan is a renewed fight over health care.

The Senate GOP plan would repeal ObamaCare’s individual mandate, which requires most Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.

But GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts House to advance appropriations bills in June, July Manchin touts rating as 'most bipartisan senator' MORE (Maine), a key vote on the tax plan, is warning that linking the mandate repeal and the tax fight is a mistake that could make it harder to get a bill through Congress.

"My concern is that if we combine the health-care issues with tax reform we make it far more controversial," she told reporters before lawmakers left town for Thanksgiving.

The Trump administration is signaling that it’s open to dropping the ObamaCare provision. Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Trump holdovers are denying Social Security benefits to the hardest working Americans Mulvaney calls Trump's comments on Capitol riot 'manifestly false' MORE, Trump’s budget chief, told CNN the White House is “OK with taking it out” if it is an “impediment” to passing the overall legislation. 

As part of a trade off, Senate GOP leaders have signaled they are prepared to pass legislation from Sens. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderThe Republicans' deep dive into nativism Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation - CDC news on gatherings a step toward normality MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySchumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap House passes bill to combat gender pay gap MORE (D-Wash.) that would provide two years of funding for ObamaCare’s cost-sharing reduction payments. 

Democrats, however, are warning that they won’t help pass that bill, which would need 60 votes, if Republicans link it to the tax plan.

Lawmakers are also under pressure to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which expired at the end of the September. Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Cornyn is most prolific tweeter in Congress so far in 2021 Schumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel MORE (R-Texas) has predicted that funding could end up in the December spending bill. 

Government funding

One of the first deadlines lawmakers face is Dec. 8, when government funding will expire.

With Congress returning on Nov. 27, they’ll have less than two weeks to craft legislation to avoid a shutdown. In the Senate, tax reform is expected to consume much of the first week.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney Budowsky: Liz Cheney vs. conservatives in name only Cheney at donor retreat says Trump's actions 'a line that cannot be crossed': report MORE (R-Wis.) has floated that lawmakers might need to pass a short-term continuing resolution to give appropriators more time to reach a long-term agreement. 

But Ryan said the stopgap bill would only last a few weeks. He wants to pass a full 2018 fiscal year funding bill by the end of December.

Complicating the timeline for passing a long-term funding bill are the spending caps.

Current spending levels are higher than the 2018 caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act. Without a deal to raise the caps, across-the-board spending cuts would be triggered automatically in late January.

Congressional leaders are eyeing a deal to raise budgetary caps by as much as $200 billion over two years, but the agreement is still being ironed out.

Immigration

The fate of an Obama-era immigration program has emerged as one of the largest hurdles to getting a government funding deal.

The Trump administration is nixing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows certain undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children to work and go to school without the fear of deportation. 

The deadline for deciding what to do about DACA isn’t until mid-March, but Democrats are demanding that Congress take action before the end of the year.

Trump and Senate Republicans decided during a closed-door meeting last month that immigration would not be part of the spending bill, but House Democrats plan to force the issue.

Without Democratic support, it could prove difficult for House Republicans to pass legislation preventing a government shutdown. Several liberal senators are also pledging to oppose a funding bill without a DACA agreement.

Intelligence reforms

Lawmakers face an end-of-the-year deadline to renew a key surveillance program, but they face opposition from privacy hawks.

Both chambers have taken steps toward reauthorizing, and reforming, the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program, which is set to expire on Dec. 31.

The provision authorizing the surveillance program, known as Section 702, allows the government to collect emails and text messages sent by foreign spies, terrorists and other foreign targets overseas.

Both the House Judiciary Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee have voted to advance their own proposals, but both measures are expected to face a contentious floor fight.

The Freedom Caucus in the House is pledging to oppose the Judiciary panel’s bill over what they argue are unacceptable breaches of Fourth Amendment protections.

Meanwhile, Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Sherrod Brown calls Rand Paul 'kind of a lunatic' for not wearing mask Overnight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna MORE (R-Ky.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenPutting a price on privacy: Ending police data purchases Overnight Health Care: Biden sets goal of at least one shot to 70 percent of adults by July 4 | White House to shift how it distributes unallocated vaccines to states Pallone commits to using 'whatever vehicle I can' to pass Democrats' drug pricing bill MORE (D-Ore.), as well as Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeRepublicans urge probe into Amazon government cloud-computing bid: report Allowing a racist slur against Tim Scott to trend confirms social media's activist bias Senate passes bipartisan B water infrastructure bill MORE (R-Utah) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap On The Money: Democratic scramble complicates Biden's human infrastructure plan | Progressives push on student debt relief No designated survivor chosen for Biden's joint address to Congress MORE (D-Vt.), have introduced alternatives to the Senate Intelligence bill.

Flood Insurance

Congress will need to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program by early December.

The House passed its bill, the product of months of negotiations between conservatives and Republicans from coastal states, earlier this month. The legislation would renew the program for five years, update federal flood mapping requirements and seek to bolster an emerging private flood insurance market. 

But the Senate has yet to take steps toward reauthorizing the program or lay out a path forward for potential legislation.

Lawmakers have until Dec. 8 to work out an agreement after a roughly three-month extension was included in the government-funding and debt-ceiling deal passed in September.