WASHINGTON — Outside the Capitol, the lights on a towering Christmas tree are flipped on each evening, giving the Engelmann Spruce a festive twinkle; inside the marble halls, wreaths and garlands decorate doorways and alcoves ahead of the holidays.
But the spirit of the season has been punctuated by other sights: a giant video board parked across from the Capitol reflecting pool broadcasts images of young immigrants who face deportation; Little Lobbyists, children with complex medical needs, joined a recent news conference; protesters filed into the visitor galleries to shout against the tax plan.
While it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Capitol, it's also shaping up to be a holiday season of protest.
"THIS IS WHAT 30 OFFICES LOOKED LIKE TODAY!" tweeted United We Dream, the immigrant activist group, with a picture of youths crammed into a lawmaker's office Tuesday on Capitol Hill to protest the lack of action on proposals to extend the protections against deportation for young people who came to the U.S. illegally as children.
"Hundreds of immigrant youth have come from all over the country to take over Washington, D.C. We are making our demands clear: we need a Dream Act before the holidays. We need a #DreamActNow!" the tweet declared.
Capitol Hill police lined hallways Tuesday evening, plastic handcuffs at the ready, ahead of the late Senate vote on the tax plan. The officers knew what to expect: Protesters had interrupted House speeches earlier in the day, shouting "Kill the bill!"
Across the street at the Supreme Court, people camped out in line overnight for the chance to hear arguments in the case of the Masterpiece Cakeshop baker who refused to make a cake for a gay wedding. Down Pennsylvania Avenue, protesters rallied outside the Federal Communications Commission offices against its plan to undo net neutrality.
The end of the year is often a dash to the legislative finish, with lawmakers hustling to accomplish must-do agenda items, hoping to secure some political and policy victories before they flee for the holidays.
But this year, President Donald Trump's first in the White House, appears to be ending much the way it started, when post-inauguration protest marches ignited a resistance movement now making the case directly to Congress.
Of all the activist groups, the immigrant "Dreamers" — who received temporary permits to work and stay in the U.S. under President Barack Obama's DACA program, which Trump is ending — have been the most visible advocates.
Nearly 800,000 recipients of DACA's two-year permits are now at risk of deportation after the program ends in March. That gives Congress a deadline to devise a legislative alternative. Congress, though, has stalled so far.
The immigrant activists are pushing and pleading with lawmakers not to leave town without coming up with a solution. Buttons read "122" — the number of DACA recipients losing their protected status each day, according to activists. That could swell to 1,700 in March.
The young people and their allies are staking out the offices of lawmakers, both Democratic and Republican, urging them to withhold votes on must-pass spending bills unless they include immigration reforms.
A "Dreamer Tent" set up outside the Capitol has become a must-visit stop for elected officials to pop in and show support, even if they cannot guarantee their vote.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., stopped by in recent days, as did Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.
There have been arrests.
"Folks getting arrested in front of Senator @MarkWarner's office because he wouldn't take five minutes out of his day to meet us DREAMers," tweeted advocates from HANA Center, a Chicago-based organization that supports Korean Americans and immigrants.
Congress, though, has other priorities for now, and likely will punt the immigration issue to the new year.
Republicans, who control the House and Senate, were more focused on pushing their tax plan to the president's desk. Negotiations are needed for year-end agreement between Democrats and Republicans to keep the government funded past Friday, averting a federal shutdown.
And lawmakers frantically are trying to get home for the holidays, where many protesters likely will greet them at the airports.