Ambitious Agenda Remains for Lame-Duck Session

December's much-watched lame-duck session of Congress is tentatively set to adjourn on December 17 - leaving just ten days for both houses of Congress to wrap up an ambitious agenda before the 112th Congress takes over next year.

Two significant pieces of financial legislation loom over both the House and the Senate: whether to extend Bush-era tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year; and passing appropriations legislation that would fund the government - essentially keeping the government running into 2011.

The Senate failed to pass two tax extension proposals on Saturday, leaving the White House scrambling to compromise with Senate Republicans in order to resolve the legislation. Both chambers will likely take up the issue again at the end of the week, followed by the appropriations legislation.

The Senate and the House will helps it hold later in the day both take up the DREAM Act on Wednesday - legislation that would allow children of illegal immigrants to be eligible for US citizenship, provided they attend college or serve in the military. The White House has urged Congress to pass the act, but it's an uphill battle in both chambers.

The rest of the House's lame-duck agenda is less controversial - mainly finalizing committee appointments for the new Congress.

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, however, has more ambitious goals for his chamber. He told his fellow senators earlier this week that he plans to push ahead with legislation ranging from the START treaty to the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

"We have a long to-do list," he sad Monday on the Senate floor. "These are not leftovers, they're critical to our economy, national security, to our families and to our country's future. And we will resolve them before we adjourn."

The Senate is likely to address the START treaty and the defense authorization bill next week. Both the White House and Senate Democrats are pushing for the chamber to quickly ratify a new START treaty - an arms control agreement between the US and Russia - while Senate Republicans want more time for debate before voting.

And the Senate must still vote on the defense authorization bill, with or without legislation that would repeal the military's long-held "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding gays serving openly in the military. The vote will come in the wake of hearings held by the Senate Armed Services committee on a report from the military detailing internal opinions on the policy.

It's an ambitious - and controversial - agenda for a lame-duck session of Congress, made all the more significant by the upcoming shift on congressional leadership for the 112th Congress.