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Unemployment, Healthcare on US Congress Agenda

The U.S. Congress, back to work Monday after the holiday break, has a list of potentially contentious issues to consider in an election year that will determine control of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

One of the first items up for a vote is the extension of emergency unemployment benefits. A Senate vote on the extension is scheduled for Monday. Majority Senate Democrats need just a handful more votes from the Republicans for it to pass.

However, the extension must also pass through the Republican-controlled House. There is little interest among Republican lawmakers to extend the federal financial aid to the 1.3 million Americans whose benefits stopped on December 28, unless there are cuts elsewhere.

President Barack Obama, who is pushing for an extension of benefits, has scheduled an event Tuesday at the White House with some citizens whose benefits lapsed last month.



Republicans will continue their focus on every facet of the president's health care law, beginning with the introduction of data security legislation they say is aimed at protecting the American people "from the harmful effects of Obamacare."

Congress is also facing a January 15 deadline for a vote to keep the government running or else face a partial government shutdown. The bill is likely to pass after lawmakers' ratings plummeted after last year's shutdown.

Democrats plan to present a bill that would raise the national minimum wage.

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