— -- Congress is back in session today with only several weeks to run through a list of legislative items -- including a must-pass spending bill that could be caught up in the fight over Syrian refugees.
Here are some of the items on the legislative agenda and why they matter.
Congress has until Friday, Dec. 4, to pass a highway bill that funds infrastructure projects across the country. The measure -- the product of negotiations between the House and Senate following the passage of two separate proposals -- would be a bipartisan, multi-year achievement for Congress, provided members can reach an agreement on financing the measure.
A MUST-PASS BUDGET
Congress has until Dec. 11 to send a must-pass $1.1 trillion spending bill to the White House, under the terms of the two-year budget agreement President Obama signed into law in early November.
While that bill -- a parting gift from John Boehner for new House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin -- set two-year budget figures in an attempt to make it easier for lawmakers to negotiate a deal, lawmakers are still sparring over the finer details and language of the must-pass bill, raising the specter of another government shutdown.
One possible area of contention after the Paris attacks remains the admission of Syrian refugees to the United States. While the House passed a bill restricting Syrian refugees earlier this month in a bipartisan, veto-proof vote, Senate Democrats have threatened to block the measure. Seventy-three House Republicans have signed onto a letter from Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, to House GOP leaders calling for an omnibus rider that would block funding to admit Syrian refugees into the United States.
Additionally, lawmakers could also include rider language targeting Obama administration financial and environmental regulations.
OBAMACARE AND PLANNED PARENTHOOD
Senate Republicans are planning to vote to partially repeal parts of Obamacare in a measure that could also include provisions targeting Planned Parenthood funding. The reconciliation bill -- which Senate Republicans can pass around a Democratic veto -- is all but certain to receive a presidential veto. Republicans remain split on tying the bill to Planned Parenthood, which could also be targeted with a rider in the omnibus.
NATIONAL SECURITY AFTER THE PARIS ATTACKS
House lawmakers continue to work on legislation addressing national security fears after terrorist attacks in Paris two weeks ago left 130 dead. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, said today he hopes the House will vote on a bill in December that would boost security on a program that allows foreigners from dozens of countries to enter the United States without a visa. Several of the terrorists who carried out the attacks in Paris were citizens of countries that participate in the visa-waiver program.
McCarthy, who formed a task force of seven House GOP committee leaders to put forward legislation addressing post-Paris security concerns, told reporters that security is the "top issue" for House Republicans heading into the end of the legislative year, and said members are "very concerned where the president is and where the country is."