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What can lame-duck Congress get done? Seven items on to-do list.

The lame-duck Congress returns to session Monday with a laundry list of things to do. Avoiding a government shutdown is top on the list. But there are other important items, too.

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START treaty. On other issues that Democrats hope to push through before a new Congress, Republicans are unlikely to lend support – especially in the absence of an agreement on tax cuts. At this late date, it’s not simply conflicts over policy, but also over time, Republicans say. Ratification of a new nuclear-arms reduction treaty with Russia will require weeks of floor debate, which will not be possible with spending and tax decisions still pending, said Sen. Jon Kyl (R) of Arizona, the deputy Republican leader, on Sunday.

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DREAM Act. Republicans also promise robust opposition to plans to bring new immigration legislation to the floor, notably the DREAM Act, which would open a path to citizenship to illegal immigrants who came to the US as children and now serve in the military or attend college. During his tough reelection campaign, Senate majority leader Harry Reid pledged to bring the DREAM Act up for a vote in the lame-duck session.

'Don't ask, don't tell.' A proposed repeal of the Clinton-era “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy will also be tough sledding. The Pentagon is expected to release its 10-month survey of the views of military personnel on the issue Tuesday. GOP critics say the survey focused too much on implementation of a proposed reform and not on the policy.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee’s personnel subcommittee, said on “Fox News Sunday” that a repeal of the ban on gays serving openly in the military is “not going anywhere.” The Senate Armed Services Committee begins two-days of hearings on the issue Thursday.

Food Safety Act. The Senate Monday takes up the broad Food Safety Act, which gives the Food and Drug Administration expanded powers to order recalls and inspections. It passed the House in 2009 but has been delayed in the Senate. The final amendments, unrelated to the main bill, include proposals to reduce reporting requirements for small business in the recent health reform bill and to ban earmarks through 2013.

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