When Congress returns to work on January 17 after their winter recess, they will return to the agenda they left before the end of the year. This includes focusing on tax policies, EPA regulations, deficit reduction strategies, jobs and the economy.  Nothing new to this agenda fromt he past several Congresses, but now 2012 begins the election season in earnest with the first election (okay caucus) on January 3rd in Iowa and New Hampshire Primary on January 1o. As the campaigns focus on the caucuses and primaries, so too will the rhetoric as the GOP candidates continue to battle for the nomination. Candidates will focus on spending cuts, deficit reduction plans, smaller government, fiscal responsibility and other issues that will lead to new jobs.

While the candidates talk politics, Members of Congress (who also are up for re-election) will talk policy. Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, for example, will focus on overhauling the nation's tax policy, and linking tax policy with job creation efforts. The income tax rates established in the George W. Bush Administration, for example, will expire at the end of 2012. It is the goal of Camp's committee to keep those tax cuts in place.

On Energy & Commerce, another Congressman from Michigan, U.S Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) will look at the FDA and how it regulates food and pharmaceuticals. In addition, Rep. Upton wants to remove the "road blacks" in place to energy devleopment.

Other issues Congress must tackle this year (or just pass an extension which is punting the issue) include the expiring aviation and highway surface transportation bills which expire in January and March, respectively, as well as education reform.

So as Congress begins to tackle an election year agenda it is important for their constituents to keep them accountable and remain focused on getting our country back on track economically, while preserving and protecting our democratic system.