What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Will immigration conflict derail Congress’ year-end to-do list?

Read the Full Transcript

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The House and Senate are back in Washington for the final weeks of the 113th Congress. Big-ticket items, from financing government to tax breaks for corporations and classroom teachers, remain up in the air.

    Lisa Desjardins reports on the high-stakes to-do list, as Republicans and Democrats alike debate deadlines.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Crowded halls, a crowded agenda and a bit of frenzy have taken over the U.S. Capitol.

  • REP. PAUL RYAN:

    I'm running late for something.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Late and not much time left. House Republicans are trying to leverage their election momentum in these final weeks of this Congress with a big and critical to-do list: reauthorizing Defense Department spending, funding the fights against Ebola and Islamic State militants, and extending dozens of tax breaks which expired last year.

    Among those tax breaks, billions of dollars for corporations to promote things like research. The package also includes tax breaks for teachers to buy supplies, as well as — get this — special provisions for NASCAR and some incentives for mass transit.

    That's the relatively easy stuff. Both the House and Senate are poised to extend those tax breaks for one year. The White House is thinking about it. But things could get dicier when the federal government runs out of funds next week. Republicans insist that they will fund almost all of government at current levels, but they are hotly debating a way to limit one thing, the president's executive orders protecting more illegal immigrants from deportation.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, Speaker of the House: This is a serious breach of our Constitution. It's a serious threat to our system of government. And, frankly, we have limited options and limited abilities to deal with it directly. But that's why we're continuing to talk to our members.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    House Republicans, led by Speaker Boehner, are fuming, and considering a creative option, fund most of government for the next year, but fund the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration, only until March, and potentially try to cut funds for that agency.

    The man who oversees those funds, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, objected to the Republican idea today at a House hearing, charging it could be freeze vital things like new agent hires.

    JEH JOHNSON, Secretary of Homeland Security: I need the help of Congress to support and build upon border security, which I believe all of you support. So I'm urging that we act on our current appropriations requests now for the purpose and for the sake of border security and homeland security.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    For now, House Republicans are debating their plan. The president is debating a veto, and all of Congress is wondering if this to-do list can be done in the two weeks officially left on the calendar.

    Lisa Desjardins, "PBS NewsHour."

Listen to this Segment