Congress returned to Washington on Wednesday for a lame-duck session with some heavy-duty issues after an explosive election that shook the Democratic power structure on Capitol Hill.
Republicans are also looking forward to the next session in January when they will control both houses of Congress, with as many as 54 seats in the 100-member Senate.
The politicians began work on a crowded legislative agenda, just as a new Gallup poll
shows Democrats have sunk to a record-low approval rating of just 36 percent since the Nov. 4 election.
Also some moderate Democrats
from Republican-leaning states are considering breaking ranks with their liberal leadership to support GOP programs on energy and taxes.
The lame-duck session is scheduled to last about four weeks and could see a vast range of issues, from a massive spending bill to fund the government through the end of the next fiscal year in September to a long-delayed measure to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
of Nevada wants the session to act on a defense authorization bill, an extension of popular personal and business tax breaks, a renewal of the ban on Internet-access taxes, and the government spending measure, which faces a Dec. 11 deadline. He also wants the Senate to approve a backlog of appointments, including several State Department officials nominated for ambassadorships.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is pushing a bill to ban the National Security Agency from gathering intelligence on American citizens. That complex issue will likely guarantee that the White House will have to wait until January for the Senate to consider the nomination of Brooklyn federal attorney Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder as attorney general.
Republicans are also warning President Obama against issuing an executive order that would essentially grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. Obama has threatened to act unilaterally if Congress fails to adopt a comprehensive immigration bill that he likes.
Some GOP members are pushing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) to block any long-term government spending bill unless it prohibits money for any presidential immigration order.
"The president cannot, having had his policies defeated at the ballot box, impose them through executive decree," Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), expected to be the new chairman of the Senate Budget Committee next year.
Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, said over the weekend that an executive order on immigration would destroy any bipartisan sentiment on Capitol Hill.
"What the President does over the next two months is really going to set the tone for the next two years in Washington," he told "Fox News Sunday"
"So, I think it would be like the President pulling the pin out of the hand grenade and throwing (it) in as we're actually trying to work together. I'm hoping that cooler heads at the White House prevail."
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