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Republicans Debate: Fight The President Now, Or Fight Him Later?

Republican Senator-elect Thom Tillis of North Carolina says he expects his party to challenge the president immediately on immigration, and that he hopes President Obama's Defense and Justice nominees will be acceptable to both parties. Davis Turner/Getty Images hide caption

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Davis Turner/Getty Images

Republican Senator-elect Thom Tillis of North Carolina says he expects his party to challenge the president immediately on immigration, and that he hopes President Obama's Defense and Justice nominees will be acceptable to both parties.

Davis Turner/Getty Images

Congress returns for its final session of the year on Monday afternoon, and lawmakers have a big to-do list ahead before they can adjourn for the holidays.

First on the agenda is a government spending bill, which needs to be finished before Dec. 11, the expiration date for the current funding. The Wall Street Journal reports that the current Republican plan to fund the government involves an "omnibus measure," which would patch together several bills to fund the government — with some contentious caveats — until the end of the fiscal year in September 2015.

Threatening the civility of the work session is deep disagreement about President Obama's recent executive action over immigration, which has angered several conservatives in Congress. There is talk of tying the spending bill to halting funds for the planned immigration reform, specifically by excluding the Department of Homeland Security from the government funding. Fox News reports that the president might veto such a bill, a disagreement that could cause another government shutdown.

On Sunday, Senator-elect Thom Tillis, R-N.C., told CBS' Face the Nation he's prepared for a battle.

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"I think we're going to complicate it," says Tillis. "We could end up having a contentious debate that could be avoided."

The GOP leadership is hoping to avoid a shutdown, as the previous one in 2013 hurt public opinion of the party's ability to govern. Peter Wehner of the Ethics and Public Policy Center told The Wall Street Journal that "public opinion tends to favor a president over Congress" during a shutdown.

At the center of this tension is House Speaker John Boehner, whom The New York Times reports "does not want to be remembered as the Shutdown Speaker."

"Mr. Boehner and his fellow Republican leaders are working to persuade the rank and file — furious over President Obama's executive action on immigration — that engaging in a spending confrontation is the wrong way to counter the White House. That would set the wrong tone, they argue, as Republicans prepare to take over Congress and fulfill promises to govern responsibly."

Confirmation proceedings for President Obama's nominees to lead the Department of Defense and Department of Justice could also be sticking points after Republicans take control in 2015.

Tillis says he hopes the nominees will please both parties.

"I think it's a great opportunity out of the gate for the president to identify consensus nominees that we can all get around and support. Those are very important jobs. They need to be filled.

"But they need to be filled with someone who can take in to account both sides of the equation, both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue."

Also on the list of key items for Congress: an annual defense-policy bill; renewing temporary tax breaks; and addressing an insurance program for terrorism prevention that will expire in the new year.