A frustrated Congress has quit the nation's capital with at least one hope -- that the stark choice in the upcoming election will give lawmakers some clarity about what Americans want from their government.

Dave Huss, Getty Images

They desperately need some direction.

Lawmakers will return to Washington in about seven weeks facing a crowded list of must-do items, topped by avoiding what's become known as the fiscal cliff. That refers to the expiration of George W. Bush-era tax cuts, along with looming automatic spending cuts that could drive the country back into recession.

Two years of rancor and a divided government resulted in one of the least productive, least popular Congresses in history. The Senate wrapped up in the middle of the night by passing a six-month bill to keep the government operating.


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