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How lame might the lame-duck Congress be?

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Congress has two weeks left and some hefty legislating to do.
  • Spending bill, Ebola, IS funding, military reauthorization, tax extenders top list of priorities
  • Republicans do not want a shutdown
  • Mary Landrieu accuses GOP opponent of preferring slavery to welfare for African Americans

Two weeks to go – Congress likely to be a low-action classic: Welcome back, Morning Line readers. With action in Congress about to heat up with just two weeks to go before winter recess, we take a look at what might get done. Free from the burden of either Nielsen ratings or impending elections, members of Congress do not need to worry about their (lack of) popularity, briefly. And thus, the finale of the 113th Congress seems to be a low-action classic: kick the budget can down the road and whistle about, but ultimately roll past, a shutdown — with a few possible surprises.

The to-do list: Some things will likely get done, though. Here’s what they are:

  • Pass a spending bill to keep the government running. Current funding expires Dec. 11. Background fact: currently the U.S. government requires an average of $2.8 billion a day to keep programs running (discretionary defense and domestic programs).
  • Ebola, IS funding. Potentially include funding to fight Ebola and the Islamic State militant group.
  • Renew the fight against IS. The temporary authorization to support and arm Syrian rebels against IS runs out Dec. 11.
  • Reauthorize the military in general. The defense authorization bill is under negotiation.
  • Sort out expired tax breaks. The Republican House is moving toward a one-year extension of expiring tax cuts, so-called tax extenders. Cost: $44.7 billion spread out over 10 years. (An earlier bill that would have extended the breaks 10 years was scrapped.) You can read a summary here.
  • Pass the ABLE Act — a bipartisan bill that would allow for tax-free savings for individuals with disabilities.

Who and what to watch today – Republicans are determined to avoid a shutdown:
(1) The House GOP Conference meeting at 10 a.m. EST at the U.S. Capitol. From this meeting, we should get a sense of the next two weeks. That includes whether Republicans have a plan for funding government (and possibly trying to defund a few specifics), how to respond to the president’s immigration action and whether the expired tax breaks will get a vote this week. Multiple GOP sources tell Morning Line that there’s virtually no chance of a shutdown.

(2) Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s regular Tuesday news conference at 2 p.m. EST. This will tell us how stopped-up the Senate is at the moment and whether a fight over nominations will clog up the calendar and push all the other business back. On Monday, Reid warned that the Senate could be forced to stay into the third week of the month. Though Reid is known for threatening Friday and weekend sessions, it seldom happens. A Democratic leadership aide tells Morning Line that there is likely enough support to pass the one-year tax cut extenders bill through the Senate.

(3) The Armed Services Chairmen — Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif. Their comings and goings could indicate a great deal about the fate of military authorization, funding and even the state of the fight against IS.

Quote of the day: “Doc Cassidy has endorsed a documentary which claims slavery was better for black folks than welfare. Woman: Oh no he didn’t!” — Mary Landrieu radio ad ahead of Saturday’s Louisiana Senate runoff.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1823, President James Monroe outlined what would later become his foreign policy legacy – the Monroe Doctrine. Which future president, who was also Monroe’s secretary of state, was one of the doctrine’s authors? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Rich Polanski (‏@ao2666) for guessing trivia from two weeks ago: Why were Americans being held hostage in Iran in 1979? The answer was: the deposed Shah of Iran was in the U.S. for medical treatment and the revolutionaries wanted the Shah returned to stand trial.

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