(WASHINGTON) -- In a lame-duck session that will be anything but lame, the ties that bind the Democratic Party will be tested anew.
The week's big focus will be on the bipartisan summit to be held Tuesday at the White House -- a key indicator of how the president plans to govern under the new reality imposed by voters in the midterm elections.
But it's President Obama's relationship with his own party in its waning weeks of total control of Washington that still will determine a range of policy outcomes. Moves to the right in the coming weeks will be viewed with skepticism on the left, as Democrats still must guard against a revolt inside their ranks in their final weeks in control of the House.
Before a new House majority takes power, Congress convenes for a final burst of legislating with a crowded agenda that includes expiring tax cuts and unemployment benefits, a push to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and attempted ratification of a key nuclear weapons treaty with Russia.
In the middle lands the report of the president's deficit commission, the recommendations of which appear likely to provide a stark choice for a president who's seeking new footing.
The co-chairmen's initial recommendations were denounced by those on both sides of the aisle. Particular vitriol emanated by leading Democrats, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pronouncing the draft proposal "simply unacceptable."
The president has stayed mostly mum so far on the commission report. While he'll come under pressure to embrace its broad principles, Democrats will balk if he's seen as backing cuts to favored programs such as Social Security.
"Simply unacceptable" is also an apt summation of many leading Democrats' stance toward the likeliest emerging compromises on the expiring Bush tax cuts.
Top House Democrats continue to insist that the tax cuts for upper-income earners be allowed to expire. Republicans and some moderate Democrats want all the tax cuts extended. Obama has vowed repeatedly to allow them to lapse for couples making more than $250,000 a year.
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