As schoolchildren head back to classrooms, member of Congress come back from their summer vacations to a full plate of contentious issues on Capitol Hill.
First, there will be a whole lot of chatter on Iraq. The House and Senate are holding hearings tomorrow and Thursday on Iraq's problematic political situation and security forces. Gen. David Petraeus is to give his long-awaited report next Monday.
The federal budget also beckons. The issue intersects with the Iraq debate when Congress looks at the Pentagon's budget and ponders a separate $147 billion emergency spending bill coming from the White House that would finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Senate will also vote on former Rep. Jim Nussle's nomination as White House budget director.
The issue of adding millions of children to a health insurance program will resurface as a final version of legislation is worked out between the House and Senate. The Bush administration has threatened to veto the bill in part because it would be funded by a large tax increase on tobacco products.
The Senate will look slightly different come autumn. Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig won't be around after the end of the month. He resigned last weekend after becoming entangled in a Minneapolis bathroom sex scandal. In addition, South Dakota Democrat Sen. Tim Johnson will be back in the Capitol after recuperating for nine months from a life-threatening brain hemorrhage.