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 GrahamWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Barr to attend Senate GOP lunch on Tuesday GOP lawmaker makes unannounced trip to northeastern Syria 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 McConnellWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Russian interference reports rock Capitol Hill Top GOP super PAC spent money on NC Democrat 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 JohnsonWhistleblower retaliation: Stop confusing unlawful attacks with politics Congress looks to strengthen hand in State Department following impeachment Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony 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 CollinsThe new American center Democratic Senate campaign arm raised more than .5 million in January On the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump 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 MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump furious after officials allowed Americans with coronavirus to fly home with other passengers: report Mulvaney confirms he'd have to take a pay cut to be permanent White House chief of staff The Hill's Morning Report — Sanders, Dems zero in on Super Tuesday 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 AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Trump administration's harmful and immoral attack on children Democrats worried about Trump's growing strength The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: Senate panel to hold hearing on US coronavirus response | Dems demand Trump withdraw religious provider rule | Trump Medicaid proposal sparks bipartisan backlash Democratic senators urge Trump administration to request emergency funding for coronavirus response Democrats demand Trump administration withdraw religious provider rule 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 CornynOcasio-Cortez announces slate of all-female congressional endorsements Trump Medicaid proposal sparks bipartisan warnings Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony 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 RyanPaul Ryan says he disagrees with Romney's impeachment vote Trump doubles down on Neil Cavuto attacks: 'Will he get the same treatment as' Shep Smith? Trump lashes out at Fox News coverage: 'I won every one of my debates' 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 PaulSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Pelosi names first-ever House whistleblower ombudsman director The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE (R-Ky.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenRussian interference reports rock Capitol Hill McSally unveils bill to lower drug prices amid tough campaign Graham: Trump has 'all the legal authority in the world' to pardon Stone MORE (D-Ore.), as well as Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' The 8 Republicans who voted to curb Trump's Iran war powers MORE (R-Utah) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDemocratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' Pentagon transferring .8 billion to border wall 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.