Hobbled Democrats and invigorated Republicans return today to Capitol Hill.
More than 100 mainly Republican freshmen arrive to be schooled on the jobs they'll assume when the next Congress convenes in January. For Democrats, New York Rep. Charles Rangel goes on trial on ethics charges. He's the former chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee
Among the items they must act on are the expiring Bush-era tax cuts to protect millions of people from significant tax increases. Lawmakers failed to pass even a single annual spending bill this year. They'll need to to keep federal agencies financed and avoid a government shutdown. Meanwhile doctors face a crippling cut in Medicare reimbursements.
There are also efforts to give Social Security recipients a $250 check to make up for no cost-of-living increase next year; to extend unemployment benefits; to allow gays to serve openly in the military; to ratify a nuclear weapons reduction treaty with Russia; and to extend government oversight of food safety.
Congress will be in session for a week before the Thanksgiving break. They return Nov. 29 and will stay until they complete their work or adjourn.