No, August recess doesn’t mean Congress is going on vacation

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Welcome to the (quasi-)recreation of August. No, there will be no kickball.

Congress is ready to go home to address voter concerns, cut ribbons and eat lots of fried food at state fairs and community carnivals for a few fits and starts in the coming weeks. With Election Day just under 100 days away, this local trend is coming to a crucial window. Sure, it looks like the House — or at least enough of the proxies — will return the second week of August to possibly pass a tax, climate, and infrastructure bill, but you’ll be hard pressed to find any. many legislators who linger. DC this month to pick up where the Senate left off. The reasons are as pragmatic as they are political: Washington has no significant voters, DC is extremely miserable right now, and even the most stable seats can end up in play if an incumbent overlooks them.

Congress has long faced a branding problem of its own making. “Recess” conjures up images of dodgeball, “horse riding” under hoops and hopscotch. It sounds childish to most, and suggests lawmakers are venting after a PB&J and before an afternoon of spelling drills and math problems. But the reality is that many lawmakers would rather avoid the hellish ride home and stay in Washington. After all, most lawmakers find deeper pockets in Washington donors than at home, people looking to grind their ears have a much more nuanced patience for legislative realities than their constituents, and it’s hard to take your dinner around the corner without at least someone acknowledging you and launching you into a social media-informed two-bit tirade. This final showdown can make Lunchables much more appealing.

But the time spent away from Washington has a lot of real value. Of course, getting a grip and a smile at the local dog shelter makes for great times during the midday newscast, which usually comes right after the weather and before the local high school sports report. But if you’re a military veteran struggling with red tape, a tax agent in a small community trying to get an answer from an accounting bureaucrat in a regional office, or a high school student trying to earn a recommendation at a military academy elite, having your congressman nearby is invaluable. As much as Americans like to ridicule Congress as callous and out of touch, when lawmakers get wind of an opportunity to look good, they cling to it. It’s good politics to unclog a political drain, and proximity makes things urgent.

Much of the armchair politician class derides August recess as a holiday by any other name. Lawmakers are getting the hang of it and have even started calling it a “district work period,” trying to prove to the handful of voters who know where to find the floor schedule on the Majority Whip’s page that they won’t pass. not the weeks to doze.

There is some truth in that. The best democracy is one that is practiced with direct contact with voters and is the home of most legislators. It’s easy to ignore a line of comments, but hard to dodge a local fire chief who wants to know why his department didn’t get the same money as his freeway buddy. When a member is at home, they spend approximately twice as much time working on church work for constituents as when they are in DC. In other words: the fact that the member is sleeping at home means that does more work than voters say they want.

So while there will be plenty of stares and sighs about the perceived laziness of Congress, they still work more than most people: 59 hours a week when they’re in their districts, compared to 70 hours when the Congress is in session, according to a survey. It is therefore unlikely to be any kind of break from the requirements of the concert. It’s just that their bosses – the people – are much closer.

And the entire House and a third of the Senate have a performance review in November; it’s called an election.

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Write to Philip Elliott at [email protected]


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