The House is to take up a Senate-passed child nutrition bill, which promotes healthier school lunches and has the support of first lady Michelle Obama.
Also on the House agenda is a last-ditch effort by Democrats to show they have not forgotten immigration policy. Legislation known as the Dream Act, which has stumbled once in the Senate, would provide a path to legal status for the children of illegal immigrants who either go to college or join the military.
Also on the to-do list:
—Senate Republicans have blocked a defense bill that would end the military's ban on gays serving opening. The Pentagon is to release a report Tuesday on how lifting "don't ask, don't tell" would affect military operations, and Democrats say they will try again to change the policy. Graham said he doesn't believe there are "anywhere near" the votes on the GOP side for a repeal right now. "So I think in a lame-duck setting, 'don't ask, don't tell' is not going anywhere.
—Obama says the new START treaty that would reduce nuclear weapons arsenals in the U.S. and Russia is a "national security imperative" and he wants the Senate to hold a ratification vote this year. But a key Republican, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, says the vote should be put off until next year. There are "higher priority items" in the lame-duck session, he said Sunday. The addition of more GOP senators in the new Senate will complicate passage.
—Democrats say they want to give the extension of unemployment benefits another shot. One possibility is tying it to the tax cut bill. Democrats could try to portray Republicans as supporting tax cuts for the rich that would cost $700 billion over 10 years while opposing help for the jobless.
—There are numerous other tax breaks, such as for research and development, that need to be renewed. Congress is facing a deadline to shield some 21 million from significant tax increases by adjusting the alternative minimum tax by the end of the year. The cost of that is about $70 billion.
On the sidelines, hearings are expected on new airport screening methods judged by some travelers as being too intrusive, and House Republicans will continue to develop the rules under which they will govern when they become the majority in January. Republicans must settle several disputes over who will become committee chairmen next year.
To darken everyone's holiday mood, the president's bipartisan deficit commission on Wednesday is expected to come out with its ideas on long-term cuts to Social Security, Medicare, defense and other federal spending needed to keep the government solvent.
"The commission probably is dead," Graham said.
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