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:
June 19, 2018
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
We Can Thank Top Union Officials for Trump
Lawrence Davidson
The Republican Party Falls Apart, the Democrats Get Stuck
Sheldon Richman
Trump, North Korea, and Iran
Richard Rubenstein
Trump the (Shakespearean) Fool: a New Look at the Dynamics of Trumpism
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Protect Immigrant Rights; End the Crises That Drive Migration
Gary Leupp
Norway: Just Withdraw From NATO
Kristine Mattis
Nerd Culture, Adultolescence, and the Abdication of Social Priorities
Mike Garrity
The Forest Service Should Not be Above the Law
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Activism And Smears Masquerade As Journalism: From Seralini To Jairam Ramesh, Aruna Rodrigues Puts The Record Straight
Doug Rawlings
Does the Burns/Novick Vietnam Documentary Deserve an Emmy?
Kenneth Surin
2018 Electioneering in Appalachian Virginia
Nino Pagliccia
Chrystia Freeland Fails to See the Emerging Multipolar World
John Forte
Stuart Hall and Us
June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
Ajamu Baraka
North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization
Andrew Levine
Midterms Coming: Antinomy Ahead
Louisa Willcox
New Information on 2017 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Deaths Should Nix Trophy Hunting in Core Habitat
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Singapore Fling
Ron Jacobs
What’s So Bad About Peace, Man?
Robert Hunziker
State of the Climate – It’s Alarming!
L. Michael Hager
Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest
Dave Lindorff
However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump’s Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
Robert Fantina
Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return
Brian Cloughley
Sabre-Rattling With Russia
Chris Wright
To Be or Not to Be? That’s the Question
David Rosen
Why Do Establishment Feminists Hate Sex Workers?
Victor Grossman
A Key Congress in Leipzig
John Eskow
“It’s All Kinderspiel!” Trump, MSNBC, and the 24/7 Horseshit Roundelay
Paul Buhle
The Russians are Coming!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail