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As Congress returns to Washington on Monday, Republicans and Democrats expect to pass a continuing resolution in the coming weeks to keep the government open.

Unlike recent years, when we’ve had our share of partisan economic drama, this fall looks calm as we approach the midterm elections. 

Politically, that’s smart, says American University Professor James ThurberWith an approval rating in the cellar — nearly 8 out of 10 Americans think Congress is doing a bad job — you want to tread lightly.

Thurber says passing a continuing resolution to keep funding the government is the epitome of treading lightly. “A continuing resolution, or a CR, which continues spending at the same level, avoids making hard choices,” he says.

This approach means federal programs that are performing well don’t get extra funding, and the programs that need to be eliminated keep getting cash.

Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution says it’s nice to have less drama in the early fall air. But he recommends the public guard against any sense of optimism.

“What [is really going on] is just another indicator of how our government can no longer work when power is divided between the two parties,” he says.

Mann says given the general dysfunction, Congress isn’t expected accomplish much else in the coming weeks, when members have campaign trail commitments. 

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