Unpleasant news – the slaying of 14 people in San Bernardino, California, coming not long after the horrific attack in Paris – has shifted public attention away from all other matters of public interest. Congressional offices have been flooded with calls and emails regarding gun control; the Senate took an unexpected vote on expanding gun-sale background checks to include names on the terrorist watch list. Any pressure on Congress to vote on presidential use-of-force authorization seemed to fade in the face of renewed urgency to fight the Islamic State. Presidential contenders, and the President himself in a Sunday evening televised address, spoke of the domestic dangers of international terrorism.

That has left few paying much attention to some significant developments – for good or ill – taking place in Washington.

President Barack Obama signed a five-year, $305 billion transportation funding bill on Thursday, a compromise that fell short of the six-year plan under consideration. Although a shorter time frame, this final version did come up with funding for the whole package. The failure of the original bill to do so had Michael Capuano of Somerville very wary just two weeks ago. But last week, Capuano was touting the $5 billion expected to flow into Massachusetts. Even both of the area’s Republicans, Frank Guinta of New Hampshire and Bruce Poliquin of Maine, joined the unanimous House Democrats voting in favor.

However, when the bill zipped through the Senate late Thursday evening, Massachusetts’s own Elizabeth Warren cast one of only two Democratic nay votes in either chamber.

In a message inserted into the Congressional Record, Warren bemoaned “more than a dozen goodies to financial institutions,” including one that creates a new application process regarding rural areas and qualified mortgage rules at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) – the agency Warren established and repeatedly defends against attempted encroachments.

In her Congressional Record statement, Warren said Republicans are trying to “bog down the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with needless paperwork and administrative tasks.” She accused Republicans of “cynical hostage-taking” in forcing such measures into this and previous pieces of popular legislation.

Next up, the big education reauthorization bill – replacing No Child Left Behind with a more decentralized model – also appears headed toward passage, in its final version reconciling the House and Senate versions. It cleared the House easily on Thursday, with Guinta the lone area member voting no.

The bill is expected to be passed by the Senate on Tuesday, according to education interest groups monitoring its progress. Obama has promised to sign it.

Once again, Warren’s vote might buck the overall comity. She voted against the bill when it passed the Senateearlier this year, and her office could not say as of this writing whether her civil rights concerns had been sufficiently met to change her vote.

By (barely) beating the depletion deadline for the Highway Trust Fund, and finally re-writing the government’s major education act -- along with passing the Defense Authorization Act, Export-Import Bank reauthorization, and raising the debt ceiling, that all adds up to quite a bit of disaster averted by Congress this autumn.

However, one big piece remains, and the terror attacks have also distracted public attention from increasing pessimism on Capitol Hill regarding the December 11 deadline to fund the government.

That’s right, the potential shutdown is back. Despite the grand bargain negotiated on John Boehner’s way out the door, Congress could be just days away from running out of money. And despite Republican leaders’ insistence to the contrary, evidence is mounting that an omnibus appropriations bill might not be passed in time.

Conservative Republicans still want to include defunding of Planned Parenthood, among other items, in that $1.1 trillion spending bill. That would almost certainly cost too many needed votes on the Democratic side of the aisle – including virtually all of those from New England. In other words, new Speaker Paul Ryan is having no easier time so far negotiating the problem than Boehner did.

That almost certainly won’t mean a shutdown on the 11th; Congress would almost certainly speed through a very short-term continuing resolution to buy an extra week or two.

But there is limited time to buy. Both the House and Senate plan to adjourn for the year just a week later, on December 18. One thing members of Congress agree upon across party and ideological lines: nobody wants their holiday break postponed.

Tough votes for Ayotte

Democrats love putting New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte into tough spots, where she must cast votes on issues that could hurt her in a tough re-election next year. They did it twice last week, during consideration of an Obamacare-repeal bill, which passed the Senate Thursday.

One of those votes was the measure noted above, on denying gun purchases to people on the federal terror watch list. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California offered it as an amendment, and it was rejected 45-54, almost exactly along party lines. Ayotte voted against it.

However, she did vote in favor of a different version, which also failed, that she argued contained due-process protections that Feinstein’s lacked.

The Obamacare-repeal bill also contains a provision to stop all federal funding of Planned Parenthood, shifting the funds to community health centers. Two different amendments – one from Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the other from Republican Susan Collins of Maine – sought to restore the funding to Planned Parenthood. Both failed, and Ayotte did not join Collins and two other moderate Republicans who voted for one or both measures.

In practical terms, these were all show votes; the legislation has no chance of getting the President’s signature regardless.

And Ayotte’s office argues that neither vote indicates Ayotte’s opposition to barring suspected terrorists from obtaining guns, or denying federal funds for women’s health services.

Nevertheless, Democrats in New Hampshire have already added those votes to their list of indictments – fair or not –  against Ayotte in their argument to moderate voters of the Granite State.

Social media photograph of the week

On the first night of Hanukkah, Senator Warren and Congressman Joe Kennedy joined Boston Mayor Marty Walsh for a ceremonial menorah-lighting at Downtown Crossing, captured here and tweeted by FOX25‘s John Monahan.

Hanukkah Menorah lighting at Downtown Crossing. Senator Warren, Congressman Kennedy and Mayor Walsh join in. #Fox25 pic.twitter.com/t2pJJdenXo