John Boehner and Mitch McConnell penned a Wall Street Journal editorial in November that promised they would prove wrong "the skeptics [who] say nothing will be accomplished in the next two years." But even with both House and Senate firmly under GOP control when Congress convenes tomorrow, the Republican leadership will need to navigate what Politico calls a series of "legislative land mines" to accomplish what they've promised in 2015 and set the stage for the 2016 presidential election. Among the challenges:
- Immigration: Homeland Security is only funded through Feb. 28—unlike most of the government, which is budgeted through September—which will offer conservatives the chance to wear President Obama down on his immigration amnesty platform and allow Congress "to take more aggressive action on the issue," Politico notes.
- Medicare: The expensive way in which the government pays back Medicare providers, known as the "doc fix," has seen a variety of "patches," as Forbes calls them, but many are now looking for a permanent solution. Unfortunately, that permanent solution to the Sustainable Growth Rate formula would take money, and a lot of it: $140 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
- Transportation: The highway trust fund won't have the money to pay its debts come May, which means federal infrastructure projects could come screeching to a sudden stop. Boehner and Co. will need to find an alternative to raising the gas tax, which has its own complications.
- Debt ceiling: This year's extension on the country's borrowing authority—which didn't exactly go smoothly in 2014—has to be made sometime between the late spring and early fall.
- Miscellaneous: Other plans in the GOP playbook, according to Politico, would be passing bills to: start building the Keystone XL pipeline; define a workweek as 40 hours to limit those covered by ObamaCare; and tighten Iran sanctions. Congressional Republicans are scheduled to gather in Hershey, Pa., later this month at a retreat to prepare for "frictions that will inevitably arise," a GOP aide says, per the Hill.
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