The Hill

By Rebecca Shabad – 01/01/15 – 06:00 AM EST

The federal budget is almost certain to be the central battleground between President Obama and the new Republican Congress in 2015.

The GOP has vowed to use control of the House and Senate to slash the size of government, with entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security a potential target for cuts.

But Obama has made clear he will use his veto pen against the GOP, forcing Republicans to tread carefully as they seek to avoid government shutdowns and recapture the White House in 2016.

Here are the dates to watch as the conflict unfolds.

February 2: Obama’s budget deadline

The president is required under the law to submit his budget proposal to Congress by the first Monday of February, which in 2015 falls on the second day of the month.

Obama has repeatedly missed the deadline during his presidency. Last year’s budget came a month late, in March, while the previous year’s was unveiled two months late in early April.

The president’s budget proposal for fiscal 2016, which begins in October, is likely to include more spending for the Pentagon than originally expected because of the new battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Obama administration officials have hinted that the proposed spending level for defense will bust the cap set by the Budget Control Act of 2011. If Congress doesn’t raise or remove the cap before next October, across-the-board spending cuts could take effect.

February 27: DHS funding runs out

GOP leaders will have two months to decide how to handle funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the rest of the fiscal year. The $1.1 trillion spending bill Congress passed at the end of the lame-duck session only extended DHS funding through February and did not allow for any spending increases.

Republican leaders chose the short-term solution to satisfy conservatives who demanded action to defund Obama’s immigration actions.

Their campaign to block funding might ultimately fail. A Congressional Research Service report from the October 2013 government shutdown found that even if the government closes, immigration-related services would continue to operate.

Democrats have argued that maintaining an outdated funding level for DHS prevents the administration from implementing new programs on cybersecurity and counterterrorism.

March 15: Debt limit suspension expires

Congress in February approved a “clean” increase of the debt ceiling that authorized the Treasury Department to borrow as needed, without limit, through March 15, 2015.

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