It’s August and if you think it’s hot and miserable here, you should go to Washington, D.C. If you’ve ever been in our nation’s capital in August you know. If you haven’t, take it from me it’s about the most miserable place in the country this time of year. Geographers can give you all of the reasons for Washington’s summer discomfort. I don’t really care about the particulars. Suffice to say that the heat and the humidity are stifling.
Here in East Texas the weather in August saps your strength. In Washington, the August weather saps your courage.
For this reason, since early in the 20th century, Congress has observed the August Recess. The recess serves a number of purposes, the first and original being the escape from D.C.’s stifling misery but also so that members could return to their states and districts, meet with constituents, maybe take a vacation without having to miss a vote and, every two years, do a little campaigning.
I plan to take a little August recess in a couple of weeks and go somewhere with more pleasant weather myself. And toward that end, I’m already working ahead so that the things that are expected of me won’t go undone while I’m gone.
Not so your representatives. They’re going on vacation and coming home to ask you to rehire them for two or six more years having accomplished astonishingly little and having left at least two vitally important pieces of your business completely undone.
The first job the Congress has left undone is its most basic function – funding the government. For the first time in 60 years, which is to say for the first time in my life, the Congress has not passed a single appropriations bill by the August recess to keep the government running. Not one. Having not done so, they will return to work in September and have less than a month to debate and pass 12 spending bills.
Mark my words and watch what happens, Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi will stuff all 12 appropriations into a single spending bill, cram that bill full of pork and bad policy and waste and noxious politics and present it to President Bush on a take it-or leave it basis. The president can either sign the bill and in so doing enact laws he would otherwise veto or veto the entire bill and shut the government down on Oct. 1.
The second thing Congress has left undone is deal with the price you’re paying at the pump. The majority of the country now says that it’s time to drill offshore and in the Midwest shale and in ANWR. Reid and Pelosi will not allow a single bill that provides for such exploration to even come to the floor for debate. The president lifted the executive order that banned offshore drilling and the price of oil dropped that day. Imagine the impact on prices if the Congress removed the legislative ban and actual exploration began. The Democrats always say they’re out to help the poor and downtrodden. But it’s the poor who suffer disproportionately when it costs more than $60 to fill up the average-sized car.
When the majority of us tell our representatives we want something, it’s their job to deliver it. That’s why they’re called representatives.
So what are we going to do? I have an idea and I need you to get a pen and paper ready. I’m going to be giving you a phone number in just a minute.
Article 2, Section 3 of the Constitution gives the president the power to screw up our esteemed solons’ vacations. It says, in part, “…he may on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses or either of them…” Put simply, the president has the constitutional authority to order the Congress to return to Washington. Harry Truman, citing the do-nothing Republicans, did it in 1948, earning him the nickname of “Give ‘em Hell Harry.” Truman was expected to lose the election in 1948. But instead we’ve all seen the victorious Truman holding up the front page headline, “Dewey Defeats Truman.” Just like in 1948, calling the Congress back into session so that the members can do their jobs is good policy and good politics.
So here’s the number: 202-456-1414.
Call the White House and ask for the comment line and urge the president to call the Congress back to Washington. I’m not leaving for vacation until the work I have to get done is done.
Neither should Congress.