Top issues for the next Congress

It’s not just the rules that are changing on Capitol Hill. The 112th Congress will be a whole new ball game.

With Republicans controlling the House and Democrats the Senate, it’s unclear how much legislation will actually pass.

“Congress will be more an arena for staging disagreements and arguments leading up to the 2012 elections than for enacting new law,” Thomas E. Mann, senior fellow at the centrist Brookings Institution, predicted.

But at least one looming deadline will require action: The outgoing Congress did not settle on a budget for this fiscal year, leaving it up to the incoming batch to do so.

Both parties also have ambitious agendas laid out during midterm elections that aim to boost the ailing economy and tidy up the nation’s finances.

Here are some of the top items for the new session.

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