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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Congressional leaders have been pushing off vital action for months — and a lot of it will catch up with them in December, which begins Wednesday.

Driving the news: Funding for the federal government is set to expire at midnight on Friday. There are also consequential deadlines related to the debt limit, President Biden's agenda and annual actions like voting on the National Defense Authorization Act.

Key dates:

1. Midnight on Dec. 3: Government funding runs out.

  • As of now, members don't anticipate a government shutdown that could affect everything from access to national parks to delivery of Social Security checks.
  • Instead, they're working on another short-term continuing resolution to keep the government open for another series of weeks.
  • Democrats favor a shorter-term target of late December or January as a new deadline, while Republicans like Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, favor pushing for a longer extension.

2. Dec. 15: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s deadline to raise the debt limit.

  • The intense rhetoric we saw leading up to the initial Oct. 18 default date has died down considerably this time — in part due to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell previously blinking on the issue — but there's still no clear path forward on raising the ceiling.
  • McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer met to discuss the debt limit before the Thanksgiving recess, and have plans to meet again as early as this week.

3. Dec. 31: Schumer’s deadline to pass Biden’s Build Back Better plan.

  • Schumer said Monday that meetings with the Senate parliamentarian over shepherding the package through the budget reconciliation process are ongoing. Once that work is completed, he'll bring Build Back Better legislation to the Senate floor, he said.
  • However, there are still a number of outstanding issues that need to be worked out, including Medicare expansion, the state and local tax deductions, paid family leave and immigration.
  • Two key players, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), also have yet to sign off the bill.
  • Given the other must-pass deadlines Congress faces that take priority over this bill, we wouldn't be surprised if Senate Democrats are forced to push this off to January.

4. Dec. 31: Congress deadline to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

  • The Senate failed to reach an agreement on this must-pass, $768 billion bill before its Thanksgiving recess, and they faced another speed bump Monday night as Republicans blocked efforts to shut down debate on the bill, arguing they need to spend more time negotiating.
  • The two sides hope to hash out disagreements over a series of key amendments, such as requiring women to register for a military draft and repealing the 2002 authorization to go to war in Iraq, this week.

The backdrop: Key action regarding the Jan. 6 Select Committee’s investigation, forging a House and Senate agreement on Schumer’s China bill (the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act) and ramping up approval of Biden’s nominees also will take place simultaneously this month.

Go deeper

Dem Senate candidates rally against “sellout” Sinema

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema enters the Democratic caucus meeting on Thursday with President Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate are now explicitly campaigning against one of their potential colleagues, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — branded by one as a "sellout" for opposing filibuster changes to enact party priorities.

Why it matters: It's an evolution of an increasingly popular strategy among Democrats: turning legislative inaction to their advantage by casting themselves as the "50th vote" for programs or the filibuster changes needed to pass President Biden's agenda.

Sinema cites "disease of division," says she won't support changing filibuster rules

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) reiterated her long-standing support for the 60-vote Senate filibuster during a floor speech Thursday, dampening Democrats' hopes of reforming filibuster rules in order to pass voting rights legislation.

The backdrop: President Biden earlier this week threw his support behind changing filibuster rules in order pass voting rights legislation, and will attend the Senate Democratic caucus lunch later Thursday to make his case.

Biden hosts Manchin and Sinema at White House to push for voting rights reform

President Biden speaks to reporters after a meeting with Senate Democrats in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill Thursday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden met with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) at the White House on Thursday night to discuss voting rights after they reaffirmed their opposition to reforming the filibuster, per the White House.

Why it matters: Biden and other Democrats want the Senate's filibuster rules changed in order to pass voting rights legislation.