And there's the matter of trade deals, which both sides say they want to get done. McConnell will presumably allow a vote on fast track trade authority, which the White House needs to complete Asian and European trade deals. But Democrats and even some Republicans could stand in the way, saying the deals are bad for American workers.
That would leave Republicans with only very small-bore proposals on the economy that could conceivably get to the president's desk, including repeal of the medical device tax under Obamacare (which almost everyone hates) and approval of the Keystone XL pipeline (which most beyond ardent environmentalists like).
Neither of those things would have a big impact on the economy, which created another 214,000 jobs in October but once again failed to provide any significant boost in take-home pay for workers.
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As I wrote at greater length in Politico this week, Republicans' best hope for boosting the economy—which voters desperately want them to do—is to make sure Congress functions without manufactured crises over the debt limit and government funding.
Boehner and McConnell pledged to do this. But it might not be as easy as they think. Since Republicans lack a filibuster-proof majority, they could still view showdowns or funding the government and raising the debt limit as their best tools to force Obama to accept changes he doesn't want on spending levels and Obamacare. And the 2016 presidential race will soon begin to weigh heavily on congressional politics.
Democrats, who see a much better Senate map in 2016 and a presidential-year electorate that should be much more friendly to them, are not going to want to hand vulnerable blue-state Republicans any wins on major bills.
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And firebrand Republicans eyeing presidential bids, including Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, are going to want to demonstrate toughness to the base by taking on Obama possibly including through debt limit and government shutdown fights.
All of this means that beleaguered American voters who hope Washington can function and get a few things done next year are likely to be disappointed yet again.
—Ben White is Politico's chief economic correspondent and a CNBC contributor. He also authors the daily tip sheet Politico Morning Money [politico.com/morningmoney]. Follow him on Twitter @morningmoneyben.