Congressional Republicans are vowing that the first action upon returning to Capitol Hill will be to send a bill to President Obama that repeals his health care law and defunds Planned Parenthood.
“We were sent to Congress to fight for the American people,” Missouri GOP Rep. Vicky Hartzler said Saturday. “They do not want their healthcare dictated to them by Washington. And they don't want their tax dollars going to abortion providers. … If the president didn't hear the people's voices earlier, hopefully, he will through this bill.”
Such efforts by the GOP-run Congress suggest that Washington politics and policy will undoubtedly be influenced by the 2016 presidential race.
All of the GOP White House candidates back repealing ObamaCare, as the president meanwhile plans next week to tighten gun control, a position backed by all three Democratic presidential candidates.
Obama will no doubt veto the repeal-and-defund bill, which the Senate already passed under special rules that protect it from Democratic obstruction.
However, Republicans have also lined up a veto-override vote for Jan. 22, when anti-abortion activists hold their annual march in Washington to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in 1973 that legalized abortion.
The House did not include defunding Planned Parenthood in the roughly $1.1 trillion tax-and-spending bill passed by members before they left for holiday break, which in part resulted in the Rev. Franklin Graham leaving the Republican Party and potentially taking the evangelical vote with him.
House Republican said they didn’t want the Planned Parenthood issue muddling the tax-and-spending bill but vowed to address the issue in January.
Recently appointed House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told conservative talk host Bill Bennett over the holidays, “You're going to see us put a bill on the president's desk going after ObamaCare and Planned Parenthood so we'll finally get a bill on his desk to veto."
Despite dozens of past votes to repeal the health law in full or in part, Republicans never before have succeeded in sending a full repeal bill to the White House.
They insist that doing so will fulfill promises to their constituents while highlighting the clear choice facing voters in the November presidential election.
The Democrats running for president would keep ObamaCare in place.
Hartzler says the bill also places a moratorium on taxpayer funding to abortion providers and redirects the money to community health centers, which she says serve eight times more women patients than Planned Parenthood and provide more comprehensive care.
In the Senate, which reconvenes a week later than the House, early action will include a vote on a proposal by Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican who is running for president, for an "audit" of the Federal Reserve. Democrats are likely to block it. But like the health repeal bill in the House, the vote will answer conservative demands in an election year.
Also expected early in the Senate's year is legislation dealing with Syrian refugees, following House passage of a bill clamping down on the refugee program. Conservatives were angry when the year ended without the bill advancing. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky promised a vote, though without specifying whether it would be the House bill or something else.
The House Benghazi committee will continue its investigation of the attacks that killed four Americans in Libya in 2012, with an interview of former CIA Director David Petraeus on Jan. 6. That comes amid new Democratic accusations of political motives aimed at Hillary Clinton after the committee chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. for president.
Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, was secretary of state at the time of the Benghazi attacks.
The bold agenda promised by Ryan after succeeding former Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, as speaker last fall will begin to take shape at a House-Senate GOP retreat this month in Baltimore. Thus far Ryan has pledged efforts to overhaul the tax system and offer a Republican alternative to the health overhaul.
In the Senate, McConnell's primary focus is protecting the handful of vulnerable Republican senators whose seats are at risk as Democrats fight to regain the Senate majority they lost a year ago.
That means weighing the political risks and benefits of every potential vote to endangered incumbents in Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.
That could determine whether McConnell allows criminal justice overhaul legislation -- the one issue cited by Obama and lawmakers of both parties as ripe for compromise -- to come to the floor.
McConnell already has suggested that prospects for approval of Obama's long-sought Asia trade pact are dim, and the senator has ruled out major tax overhaul legislation as long as Obama is president.
McConnell could try to put his thumb on the scales of the presidential race with two GOP senators having emerged as leading contenders.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has been a thorn in McConnell's side, once calling the GOP leader a liar, and has frosty relations with his fellow senators. Rubio is on good terms with fellow lawmakers and has been endorsed by several of them. McConnell could schedule debate on an issue with the potential to favor Rubio politically over Cruz, such as National Security Agency wiretapping authority.
But McConnell insists he is staying out of it.
"We all have a big stake in having a nominee for president who can win, and that means carrying purple states, and I'm sure pulling for a nominee who can do that," McConnell said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.