It's only February, but most lawmakers expect the payroll tax holiday extension be the last major piece of legislation Congress passes all year, as election year politicking brings the 112th Congress—not exactly known for its blistering pace—to a screeching halt. What will Congress do about the raft of urgent issues barreling its way, including the January expiration of the Bush tax cuts, unemployment benefits, and payroll tax holiday? "Zero," Lindsey Graham tells Politico. "If you're looking for a positive spin on this, I don't have one to give you."
January will also bring $1.2 trillion in automatic budget cuts, half of them to defense spending, thanks to the failure of the deficit super committee. "There's a perfect storm set up right now for right after the election," says Carl Levin. Harry Reid doesn't even intend to bring a new budget to the floor, lest he give Republicans a chance to offer politically charged amendments. Asked what else Congress might actually accomplish this year, Dick Durbin could think of exactly one thing: "postal reform." (Read more gridlock stories.)