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5 issues facing Congress that are even tougher than the sequester

March 2, 2013, at 1:55 PM

Members of Congress snuck out of Washington just as automatic across-the-board spending cuts took effect, and no one is quite sure what happens next. But when lawmakers return they'll find at least five pressing matters that require their immediate attention.

1. Gun control: The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to take up several proposals pushed by President Obama including enhanced background checks, an assault weapons ban, and a gun trafficking measure. There appears to be some agreement on background checks, but Democrats are less optimistic on the other measures. 

2. Immigration reform: Both parties see political benefits to passing comprehensive immigration reform, and unlike most issues on Capitol Hill, there are actually bipartisan talks on how to hammer out a deal. But until there's a deal, anything is possible.

3. Government shutdown: After dealing with the fiscal cliff and sequester, the federal government is now faced with running out of money unless Congress passes a continuing resolution to fund the government past March 27. Both President Obama and Speaker John Boehner have hinted they'll pass something well before the deadline.

4. Debt ceiling: Even if Congress can avoid a government shutdown, they'll face a new crisis in late May when the federal government hits its debt limit. The big difference this time is that lawmakers will not get paid unless both the Senate and House also pass a budget.

5. Confirmation hearings: President Obama's appointments for secretary of state and secretary of defense both passed, but a slew of other cabinet officials are leaving and their replacements must be confirmed by the Senate. The most controversial is John Brennan's nomination to head the Central Intelligence Agency, which is currently stalled in the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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