While Congress Was at Recess


After a five-week recess, Congress returned yesterday to Washington prepared for a pre-election session. Just 57 days before Election Day, Congress ends its hiatus – but how exactly do lawmakers leave their posts during times of this nation’s of peak political engagement? And, when they do, what do they miss?

Besides active campaigning by both parties throughout the month of August, it seems our lawmakers left Washington just as the election excitement energized nationwide.

At the end of August, Mitt Romney accepted the Republican Presidential nomination at the 2012 Republican National Convention, while President Barack Obama formally accepted his nomination at the 2012 Democratic National Convention last week. After both conventions, Gallup noted that, “President Barack Obama got a modest bump in support immediately after…with 50% of registered voters now saying they would vote for him if the election were held today.”

Three percentage points higher after conventions, in fairly static polling results over the last few months, forces the question:  Could Congress have predicted where the national opinion would stand today in comparison to its status prior to their five-week recess?

While the truth is that many legislators returned to their home states during this recess, their duty as lawmakers did not cease when congressional sessions did. In fact, some legislators have been meeting in pro forma session, every three days as if all members were present. The ones who were not may have been home, against the reasonable opinion of some that there is a critical list of issues, like tax cuts and the defense budget, that should be resolved before the election.

Now, Congress has less than a month to resolve issues that could be seen in an arguably different political climate than the one left in Washington five weeks ago. With a laundry list of congressional work to complete, in addition to general election anticipation, a lack of progress on pressing issues would not be astonishing.

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