Whether the Democrats take control of one or both chambers of Congress this November, or even if they don't, little will happen in Washington, D.C. to solve most of the nation's critical domestic problems.
That's because no matter what happens come Election Day, there will be fewer consensuses and more partisanship, if that is possible, in the coming Congress than in the two years since President George W. Bush's re-election.
One exception might be immigration legislation. That is the issue on which the president and Democrats in the House of Representatives generally agree. Yet, the ability of a Senate minority, regardless of which party is in control, to block legislation could circumvent action there also.
Regardless of whether anything gets done legislatively, a sure bet is that if the Democrats do take control of either chamber they will use their majority to embarrass the Bush administration.
Majority status comes with the power to issue subpoenas. If in control, Democrats will hold high-profile hearings that will embarrass the president and his party, providing great television and even further sharpening the ideological divide.
The current GOP congressional majority hasn't been able to come up with enough votes to manage solutions to immigration, health insurance, or extension of the tax cuts that President Bush and most Republicans favor.
And if we see divided government — Democrats in control of one or both houses of Congress, and Bush in the White House — little legislation is likely on the big issues as both sides position themselves for the 2008 presidential election.
No matter what happens at the polls this November, President Bush will remain in the White House to veto legislation that might come out of Congress should the Democrats take control. The Senate rules that allowed the Democratic minority to frustrate GOP initiatives for the last two years would mean the GOP would certainly return the favor if they lose their majority.
And even if the Republicans retain power, their margin will surely be smaller than the past two years, when little was accomplished, and in that case the Democrats will be even better equipped to stop the GOP from enacting its priorities.
Immigration might be different because Bush's call for a guest worker program for illegal immigrants twins with Democratic thinking, and also some Republicans in the Senate. But the devil will be in the details, especially in what is likely to be a vicious political environment.
As for the war in Iraq, there is little legally that Congress can do to force Bush to modify his stated intention to remain there until the job is done. Bush has said he is happy to reassess tactics but not the U.S. commitment.
Of course, stronger public criticism of the president's policies and public hearings into his decision to go to war could exert significant political pressure that will shape almost everything that happens in Washington, D.C.
Despite the public view expressed in polls that a Democratic Congress can bring the troops home from Iraq, the chances it would end funding for the war seem slim and none. Republicans would no doubt portray such action as cutting off support for the troops, which would be a major political problem for the Democratic nominee in 2008.
And, of course, all this would be taking place during what can reasonably be expected to be a very nasty presidential campaign that has already begun, but will take center stage roughly 30 seconds after this November's election is in the books.
That doesn't mean the next two years will be dull in D.C.
Actually, the discussions will probably be more substantive than the last two years.
Democratic gains, even if they don't take control of either the House of Representatives or the Senate, will mean serious debate about the parties' sharp ideological differences. If they do take control, look for serious ideological warfare.
To be sure, Bush won't get the extension of his tax cuts he wants. But it is unlikely Democrats can raise the levies either, since Bush would almost certainly veto them, and give the GOP presidential nominee a valuable issue for 2008.
All of which means expect lots of sound and fury, but little real action from Congress no matter what happens Tuesday.