Americans persist in believing in Congress' incompetence - just 17 percent of Americans approve of the job they're doing, according to the latest CBS News poll - in spite of the fact that the House and Senate have had a surprisingly productive year so far.
They revised and extended the Patriot Act, gave the president fast-track authority on a major trade deal, passed a measure to give themselves a say in the Iran nuclear deal, and permanently fixed a problem in the way Medicare pays doctors.
Still, when they return from their August break, budget battles and the debt ceiling await them, in addition to the Iran deal. In the last weeks before recess, their work pace slowed down, and Democrats and Republicans began to settle into their familiar gridlock.
What Congress didn't get done
Cybersecurity legislation: The data breaches at companies like Target, Anthem and Sony Pictures that compromised private information of tens of millions of citizens seemed to spur Congress to try do something to protect Americans' personal information from data thieves.
One clear problem for investigators is that companies often wait too long to report breaches, losing valuable time in tracking the hackers and repairing the systems. As a result, the House passed a bill that would give companies liability protection if they shared information about cyber threats with the government.
But the bill got tied up in the Senate when senators couldn't agree on exactly how much information the government should have. And after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided to take up a vote to defund Planned Parenthood (which was blocked by Democrats) they ran out of time for cyber security.
"I'm surprised it didn't move faster after the hack on the Office of Personnel Management," James Thurber, the Director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, told CBS News. That hack compromised the personal data of 21 million people. Although the legislation wouldn't have been able to prevent the incursion, Thurber thought it would at least have helped define the threats to Americans' personal information online.
Transportation bill: Everyone says they're concerned about the nation's crumbling infrastructure, but no one can agree on an approach to repairing it. The Senate passed a bill that would provide long-term funding for six years, but the House wouldn't take it up. Instead, unable to resolve their standoff, they settled for a brief three-month extension, giving themselves until Oct. 29 to solve the problem.
The main point of disagreement is how to fund it, Norm Ornstein, a political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute, told CBS News. He thought that because there was so much support from the business community, and infrastructure runs through every district in America, that Congress might find a way to agree. But the most reasonable approach, he says, is raising the gas tax, which isn't bringing in enough money to fund needed repairs. The tax is 18.4 cents a gallon, and it hasn't been raised since 1993. "If you don't do a gas tax," Ornstein says, "you're just stuck in a bad place."
The renewal of the Export-Import Bank (which the Senate added to its highway bill) has had to wait so long for congressional action that its charter expired in the interim. The bank loans other countries money so that they can afford to buy U.S. products. It's a contentious issue among conservatives, who consider it "corporate welfare."
Boeing might be the first major company to feel the consequences of the bank's expiration. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported last week that satellite provider ABS cancelled a Boeing contract worth several hundred million dollars because of "uncertainty about the future of the U.S. Export-Import Bank." The Senate passed measure to revive the bank, but the House isn't expected to act until September, at the earliest.
Sanctuary cities: In July, when Kathryn Steinle, a San Francisco woman, was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times, the incident started a firestorm over sanctuary cities, where local officials refuse to cooperate with federal law enforcement on immigration matters.
The House passed a bill to strip federal funding from those cities, but a similar bill in the Senate had to be put on hold when lawmakers adjourned for the August recess.
And that's just what lawmakers couldn't before the recess. Even without the items they've delayed, Congress was already looking at a packed schedule when they come back in September.
Upon their return
The budget: Will there be another government shutdown? Congress is struggling to come up with a way to increase spending for defense that Republicans want, as well as for the domestic priorities the president and Democrats want, all while providing other cuts to offset the increases.
The president says he'll veto a bill that only increases defense spending, and that would trigger a government shutdown when the government runs out of money on Sept. 30.
McConnell and Boehner have pledged to work together to avoid a shutdown, but squabbles with their own party and with Democrats make that a tough promise to keep.
"It looks like it's going to be another major confrontation," Thurber said.
Boehner has suggested a short-term extension may be the best way to avoid a shutdown, although he also said recently that "no decisions have been made about that."
Some Republicans are also itching to use the spending fight to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
They are threatening not to support any bills to fund the government until Planned Parenthood is defunded. And some in the GOP are prepared to argue that Democrats are to blame (should there be a shutdown) for choosing Planned Parenthood over keeping the government running.
The nuclear deal with Iran: Lawmakers have until Sept. 17th to vote on the nuclear deal with Iran, and it has become the source of a major lobbying campaign by both supporters and opponents of the deal. That pressure is expected to continue over recess as groups fan out across the country to build public support.
The Republican House and Senate are almost certain to disapprove of the deal, and the President has promised to veto their disapproval. The administration will be working feverishly to drum up enough Democratic support to sustain is veto - if Congress overrides him, he will be unable to waive U.S. sanctions on Iran, thus killing the deal.
The debt ceiling: Nearly every time in the past few years that Congress has had to extend the U.S. borrowing authority, it has sparked a fight in Congress. The U.S. will hit that limit again sometime this fall -- likely in the heat of the 2016 campaign primary. It isn't entirely clear how Congress will act here, but it seems likely that they will want to avoid a fight in order not to draw the political spotlight from the presidential race to congressional dysfunction.
Finally, "If you take the list...and then throw in the Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi, it's not likely to be a deeply productive fall," Ornstein said, referring to the House investigation into the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi that resulted in the death of four people, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state during the attack, is scheduled to testify before a special House panel Oct. 22. She has been fending off criticism mostly about the private email server she chose to use while she was in office, rather than the State Department's.