In it, but not of it. TPM DC

WASHINGTON — The new Republican-led Congress marched right up to the edge of its first cliff, peered over the precipice and nearly jumped.

It came within moments of shutting down the Department of Homeland Security over an unrelated dispute about immigration, but managed to avert the crisis. And yet, that was one of the easier tasks facing Republican leaders.

If the first 10 weeks of 2015 are any indication, they have a rough ride ahead. Anxious conservatives see these essential items as their only vehicle to force reforms they yearn for in the face of implacable Democratic and White House opposition.

Here are five major "cliffs" — deadlines by which legislation must be passed in order to avoid disruptions in major federal programs — on the horizon.

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Kentucky Republicans are poised to grant Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) wish to hold a one-time party caucus instead of the usual Republican presidential primary, allowing the likely presidential candidate to circumvent a state law barring candidates from appearing on the ballot multiple times in the same election.

On Saturday the Kentucky Republican Party's executive committee unanimously endorsed Paul's proposal to hold the caucus. It's not official until the proposal is formally approved by the Republican central committee in August, but it appears likely Paul will be able to run for the GOP presidential nomination and his Senate seat at the same time. Still, that doesn't solve the problem for Paul on a general election ballot.

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Updated: 2:20 P.M. EST

WASHINGTON — Democrats rejected an offer by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Thursday to hold a Senate vote to strip out anti-abortion language from a stalled bill to combat human trafficking.

"The way to handle the issue is very simple: just take it out of the the bill," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said, upon objecting.

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WASHINGTON — A letter from 47 Republican senators to Iran warning that any deal with the U.S. regarding its nuclear program could be short-lived has endangered GOP hopes of securing a veto-proof majority for legislation to ensure that Congress signs off on any agreement.

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WASHINGTON — Democrats' hopes of retaking control of the Senate in 2016 may well hinge on the ability of a crop of previously defeated candidates to mount political comebacks -- and in some cases prevail against the very same Republican opponents they lost to in the 2010 tea party wave.

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At a New Mexico House Judiciary Committee hearing last week state Rep. Ken Martinez (D) said "rape is defined in many ways and some of it is just drunken college sex."

Republicans are hammering the state lawmaker over his comments, while Martinez is denying that his remarks were dismissive of the seriousness of rape.

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