4. Debt ceiling: A budget agreement passed last month by Congress might have settled the question of government funding through much of 2015, but lawmakers must still wrestle with how to authorize increased borrowing to meet the government's existing obligations. Raising the debt limit is likely the more vexing question, though. "We don't want nothing out of this debt limit," Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan said last month in anticipation of the mid-February deadline by which Congress must approve new borrowing. "We're going to decide what it is we can accomplish out of this debt-limit fight." Obama, however, remains steadfastly opposed to negotiating over the debt limit, setting up a frenetic few weeks of posturing and negotiations on the issue.
5. Farm bill: House and Senate negotiators have been working since October to hammer out their differences on a farm bill, a massive piece of legislation affecting food and agriculture policy. Spending levels remain the largest holdup between the Republican House and the Democratic Senate, including some $20 billion in cuts to food stamp programs favored by the GOP and decried by Democrats. Negotiators in a formal "conference" committee to produce a final compromise bill say they're nearing an agreement, but the longer they wait, the larger the consequences—like a projected spike in milk prices—for farmers and consumers alike.
6. The next Fed chair: Before departing for the holidays in December, the Senate scheduled this week's final confirmation vote for Janet Yellen to become the next chair of the Federal Reserve Board. Though some conservative detractors of the Fed and its efforts to prop up the economy, last month's vote to end debate on her nomination all but ensures Yellen will win the majority needed to ensure confirmation.
(Read more: Fed's Plosser at odds with Yellen's policy approach)
—By Carrie Dann and Michael O'Brien of NBC News