The conflict in eastern Ukraine. The threat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. An immigration crisis on the border. Militarized police in Ferguson, MO. These issues, and many others, await members of Congress as they return to Washington Monday after a five-week summer recess.
But there's not a lot of optimism that the 113th Congress will actually manage to address any of these issues before the midterm elections in November.
NBC: "This Congress is looking at the next two weeks where they're on the Hill as sort of a lame duck period, and trying to do the bare minimum."
FOX NEWS: "Even if they're going to be back for two weeks, I mean, what are they going to get done in two weeks?"
Instead, the expectations placed on Congress are fairly simple — keep the lights on. Congress needs to pass an appropriations bill to keep the government operating after the fiscal year ends. Since, presumably, no one's looking to repeat last year's exhausting government shutdown drama, a short-term compromise bill seems likely.
Congress has a time limit to address two more measures — the Export-Import Bank, and the federal ban on taxing Internet access. Again, short-term extensions are the most likely solution, but each issue contains potential controversy points which could stall legislation.
Beyond that, both chambers have lined up a battery of symbolic, politically charged bills to debate — none of which are actually expected to pass. That's due to both lack of political will and lack of time; after all, Congress isn't planning on sticking around for long.
With the midterm elections just two months away, legislators are itching to get back home and campaign for re-election. That means this Congressional session's only going to last three weeks, with copious half-days and long weekends. The New York Times notes, "Discounting the days with a late start or an early ending, Congress may have just four full workdays over the next nine weeks."
Lest we forget, Congress' approval rating is still hovering near historic lows — the latest Gallup poll shows just 13 percent of Americans think the institution is doing a good job.
Despite the short sessions, both House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have promised to make the most of their brief time back on the hill; Boehner told reporters this week to expect a "brief but busy" session, while Reid previously stated there will be "no weekends off" for senators.
Absent Congressional approval, there isn't likely to be any high-profile action from the White House, either. President Obama has already deferred any action on addressing the immigration crisis until after the midterms.
This video includes images from Getty Images.