AP: “Back to work on Monday, Congress faces a hefty list of unfinished business and a politically driven agenda in an election year that will determine control of the House and Senate. President Barack Obama's nomination of Janet Yellen to head the Federal Reserve and a three-month extension of benefits for the long-term unemployed are first up in Senate, with votes scheduled Monday night.”
NBC’s Kasie Hunt: “New year, same (113th) Congress. In the next ten (more like 9) months, they still have to deal with the farm bill, set spending levels and raise the debt ceiling. And partisan rancor over issues like unemployment compensation and the minimum wage are hinting that the budget deal hasn't fundamentally thawed the deep freeze of dysfunction. On Monday, the Senate plans to take a key procedural vote to extend unemployment benefits that expired on Dec. 28. The House plans votes related to ObamaCare.” (The House isn’t in until tomorrow.)
Tonight’s vote on the jobless benefits extension, per Hunt, should come after 5:30 pm ET (as will a vote on Obama’s pick to be Fed Chair Janet Yellen). The Senate’s in at 2:00 pm ET. It’s unclear, however, if the votes are there to pass it. "Hopefully, we can get four more Republicans," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on CBS' Face the Nation. But he noted that Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., is a cosponsor of the extension, and that it should be easy to find the four additional GOP votes needed. "Remember, Dean Heller is not some maverick that is out spewing socialism," Reid said. That said, so far, it’s unclear where those four votes would come from – Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is out, but watch Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mark Kirk of Illinois, John McCain of Arizona.
“Even if it clears the Senate, the bill faces an uphill climb in the House, where the Republican leadership has signaled opposition to extending the benefit without paying for it,” National Journal reminds.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told First Read over the holiday break: "Why didn't they [Democrats] offer a plan that met the Speaker's requirements - fiscally-responsible, with something to create jobs - or any plan, for that matter, before they left for the holidays?"
AP: Congress returns to work Monday with election-year politics certain to shape an already limited agenda. Republicans intend to focus on every facet of President Barack Obama’s health care law. … Democrats will press to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour and extend unemployment benefits.”
David Rogers: “House-Senate negotiators are slated to meet Monday in hopes of narrowing their last differences over a $1 trillion-plus omnibus spending bill that attempts to fill in the blanks after December’s budget deal and avoid another shutdown next week.”
AP: “Republican Sen. Rand Paul says he is filing suit against the Obama administration over the data-collection policies of the National Security Agency. On his website, he's urging Americans to join the lawsuit, in his words, ‘to stop Barack Obama's NSA from snooping on the American people.’”
And he’s not the only one: “Sen. Ron Johnson plans to file a lawsuit Monday against the Office of Personnel Management over its policy permitting lawmakers and Hill staff to receive Obamacare subsidies for their health plans,” Politico writes.
Politico with the bizarre story (and picture!) of the day: “The Congressman Who Went Off the Grid: Roscoe Bartlett spent 20 years on Capitol Hill. Now he lives in a remote cabin in the woods, prepping for doomsday.” From the story: “The octogenarian Republican from western Maryland—more than once labeled ‘the oddest congressman’—found himself gerrymandered out of office a year ago and promptly decided to take action on the warnings others wouldn’t heed, retreating to a remote property in the mountains of West Virginia where he lives with no phone service, no connection to outside power and no municipal plumbing. Having failed to safeguard the power grid for the rest of the country, Bartlett has taken himself completely off the grid. He has finally done what he pleaded in vain for others to do: ‘to become,’ as he put it in a 2009 documentary, ‘independent of the system.’”
Speaking of the bizarre: “Canada-born U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has yet to renounce his birth country's citizenship as promised — but a spokeswoman said Saturday the tea party darling plans to have that finished soon,” Politico notes.