FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Congress at Recess

The worst part of it, of course, is that they can’t go out on recess.  They have to stay in the room until they have finished their assigned tasks.  Children in grade school know that that is a fairly severe penalty for failing to complete the assigned task on time.  Of course the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives try to avoid the word “recess.” Their members think that describing their not infrequent vacations as “recess” is too reminiscent of being in grade school (which their conduct causes many of us to think they are).  Thus Representative Eric Cantor in releasing the House calendar refers not to “recess” but to “Constituent Work Week”, thus making it sound like some constructive work House members are doing in conjunction with their constituents and not simply being out on the play ground, as it were.

The Senate calendar describes the time not in session as “State Work Period”.  That sounds like the Senators are off helping build roads and bridges and otherwise contributing to assorted capital construction projects in their states.

The official schedule for both houses, however, has not caught on to the game and continues to refer to the time off as Recess time.  That is in fact what it is.  It is time that can be spent,  if they go home, doing important things like talking with people back home  who will give them large amounts of money to help them keep their jobs.  If they do not go home they can travel  around the world on trips that the uninformed would consider boondoggles, but that, the travelers explain, give them first hand opportunities to visit the countries affected by our foreign policy

A 2009 Wall Street Journal report, attesting to their diligence, observed that  taxpayer funded travel by members of Congress had tripled between 2001 and 2009 and risen ten-fold since 1995.  In addition to Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan recent travel has also included such important destinations from as the Galapagos Islands and the biennial Paris Air show.

The dreadful thing about the legislative log jams that have confronted both Houses because of the intransigence of their members is not that funding for such trivial things as the FAA has been delayed at great cost to the taxpayers,  but that it has cut into the members’ recess time.

In 2010 their intransigence forced them to skip the Christmas recess and work through the Christmas holidays, thus missing the many fun parties that are normally given during the holiday season.   More recently they were close to being forced to work during part of the last week in September.  (The House managed to adjourn only one day later than it intended.  The Senate was forced to work a couple extra days.)  Both the Senate and the House had scheduled vacations for their members for the period from September 26 to October 2.  The members were sorely in need of time off since both chambers had been in session for approximately 14 days after returning from their month long summer vacation.  That 14-day period was so busy that neither Senator Majority Harry Reid nor House Majority Leader John Boehner gave their respective members time to report on “How I spent my summer vacation.”  Instead they immediately began being unpleasant to one another with the result that they were once again threatened with not being permitted to go out on recess until they resolved their differences.  As is often the case in contentious classroom situations, the principal, or in this case the president, is virtually powerless to restore order to the classroom.  That task lies with the respective leaders of the two classrooms and neither holds much sway over the folks in the room.  Accordingly, their recess time was slightly shortened.

Although all constituents, even the unemployed, will feel a touch of sympathy for their representatives when they are forced to work extra days, it is not as much of a hardship as some might think.  According to the Senate Daily Digest, during the last 20 years Senators have been in session between 123 and 191 days a year.  House members have probably worked about the same amount although a 20-year comparison is not readily available.  The rest of the time is recess time.

In 2011 House members expect to work about 123 days and will have 241 days of free time. Senators anticipate having to work for 120 days leaving them about 245 days of free time. Compared with how many days their constituents who are lucky enough to have jobs are  permitted to go out on recess, our elected representatives are faring extremely well.

It’s just the country that is suffering.  Given their behavior when they’re not out on recess, perhaps the country would suffer less if they simply stayed on recess the entire year.  They would not accomplish less than they seem to now and there would be a great deal less unpleasant squabbling in the classroom.

Christopher Brauchli is an attorney living in Boulder, Colorado. He can be e-mailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu.

More articles by:

December 13, 2018
John Davis
What World Do We Seek?
Subhankar Banerjee
Biological Annihilation: a Planet in Loss Mode
Lawrence Davidson
What the Attack on Marc Lamont Hill Tells Us
James McEnteer
Breathless
Ramzy Baroud
The Real Face of Justin Trudeau: Are Palestinians Canada’s new Jews?
Dean Baker
Pelosi Would Sabotage the Progressive Agenda With a Pay-Go Rule
Elliot Sperber
Understanding the Yellow Vests Movement Through Basic Color Theory 
Rivera Sun
The End of the NRA? Business Magazines Tell Activists: The Strategy is Working
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Historic Opportunity to Transform Trade
December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail