Thursday, August 7, 2008

Congressional Games

When little kids take a break from their schoolwork and go on the playground to play games and let off some steam, it's called, "recess." When members of Congress take a break from their work, it's also called "recess." I wonder what games our lawmakers play during their recess. Maybe "hide and don't vote," "take the stuffed envelope," or the word game, "talk long, but say nothing." When kids have recess, it only lasts a matter of minutes. Congress' recess is for the whole month of August. I understand why kids need their break, but why do members of Congress need theirs? And is this really the right time for them to be taking a month off from work?


Generally, when Senators and Congress-men and -women are working, they only work three or four days a week. I understand that it's important for them to get out of Washington and spend time with their constituents at home. And I guess if I felt that every member of the Senate and House were sitting down every day with his or her constituents discussing the issues, I'd understand the importance of their recess. Call me "cynical," but I don't think that's what these men and women are doing all day.


Do you know anybody in any other profession that gets as many vacation days as those who represent us in Washington? As is usual in politics, things are backwards. Shouldn't those who've been entrusted with the responsibility of keeping our country safe and secure work more not less than people who have other jobs? The only people who work less than those in Congress are those who have been put out of work by those in Congress.


I agree with John McCain on this one. I think the recess should be cancelled and Congress should go back to work now. Even if it's just for the sake of appearances, with all of our problems -- the economy, the war, the environment -- is this really a time for our elected officials to say to us, "We sure hope things don't get worse while we take our break. See you after Labor Day?"


Historically, the summer recess came about because of the oppressively hot weather in Washington. But now I think they could survive there, because they've got this new-fangled invention called "air conditioning."


As much as I am for this idea, I'm aware that it is not such a simple, clear-cut issue. There are some benefits to having the Congressional recess. In the past, I have pointed out that the fewer days that Congress is in session, the fewer days the lawmakers have to mess things up. While they're away, they can't vote for invading a country, they can't raise taxes on the poor or lower them on the rich, and they can't vote themselves a raise. And I don't think it's just my imagination, but each day that they've been out of Washington, gas prices at the pump seem to go down a couple of cents.


But there's one aspect of this that pushes me over to the side of "recess is over, get back to work." John McCain has said that if Congress goes back to work, he'd suspend his campaign and he challenged Barack Obama to do the same thing. That sounded like the best idea I've heard from either candidate. If they both suspended their campaigns and went back to work in Washington, the American people would get a "recess."


We'd get a break from this interminable campaign. Sure, they could still make commercials and hold news conferences. But if the candidates were really busy doing their job, they wouldn't have as much time to deride each other and assault the airwaves with hundreds of thousands of words repeating their messages over and over again. There would be no front page and prime time analysis of everything every family member or friend of the candidates says or does ... or wears. We could still be responsible citizens and not think about this presidential campaign for a month. That's the kind of recess this country could really use.



1 comment:

  1. It seems a touch hypocritical on McCain's part, considering he's missed over 60% of the Senate's votes since the 2006 elections.

    ReplyDelete

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