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Photo of U.S. capitol by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

The shutdown is over, but Congress still has a long to-do list

After a three-day shutdown, Congress voted to reopen the government– for now. Lawmakers passed another short-term spending bill, giving itself a three-week extension to fund the federal government and set spending amounts for the next fiscal year.

But agreeing on a longer-term funding bill is not lawmakers’ only task in the weeks ahead. They face a complex web of difficult, hot-button issues, and a very limited calendar in which to get them done. Due to a House recess and political party retreats, the House and Senate will be in Washington together for just six days over the next three weeks. This is their to-do list in that time.

  1. FUND THE GOVERNMENT AGAIN
  2. Deadline: By Feb. 8

    The issue: This should be easy. But these days, even passing a basic continuing resolution for funding has become difficult for Congress.

    What now? Lawmakers are linking passage of the next spending bill to all of the issues below.

  3. IMMIGRATION
  4. Deadline: By March 5

    The issue: The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects some of those brought to the United States illegally as children from deportation, ends March 5. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to allow open debate and votes on several versions of an immigration compromise no later than Feb. 8, if a bill has not already passed by then.

    What now? A few competing bills have emerged in both the House and Senate this year, but now multiple groups of lawmakers are meeting to craft potential new deals. Those include the bipartisan so-called “Gang of Six,” led by Senators Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a conservative group led by Senators Tom Cotton, R-Ark. and David Perdue, R-Ga., and the so-called “No. 2s” group comprised of the second-highest ranking leaders in each chamber and party.

  5. SPENDING CUTS
  6. Deadline: As soon as possible.

    The issue: Across-the-board spending cuts, known as the sequester, are due to kick in this year, meaning tens of billions less for the military and the rest of government. Republicans want to erase the cuts for defense. Democrats want to also erase the cuts for non-defense spending.

    What now? Many sources on Capitol Hill say the two sides have essentially agreed on the level of spending they want. But they will not pass that deal until everything else on this list, especially immigration, is resolved.

  7. DISASTER FUNDING
  8. Deadline: As soon as possible.

    The issue: Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida were hammered with a series of hurricanes last summer. They received some initial help from Congress, but have been waiting for months for a larger funding package.

    What now? The House passed $81 billion in disaster aid in December, but it is waiting for the Senate to act. As noted above, it seems this is also being held as a bargaining chip for other issues.

  9. OTHER ISSUES
  10. Deadline: As soon as possible.

    The issue: States have been waiting since last summer for federal dollars to help fight the opioid epidemic. Meanwhile, federal funding for community health centers across the nation ran out September 30.

    What now? There is talk of adding funding for community health centers in the next spending bill. Opioid epidemic funding seems more closely tied to the overall negotiations on everything else.

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