“Recess is over!”
That was a phrase that would always bring terror into my third-grade heart whenever I heard it on the school playground. There was always one more game to play, one more ball to kick, and one more swing to swing.
I don’t know if this phrase brings dread to the 532 members of the United States Congress, but as of Monday, September 8, those three words are in effect.
(Yes, I know, that there should 535 members of the U.S. Congress, but the House of Representatives has three vacancies courtesy of the empty seats in New Jersey (1st District), North Carolina (12th District), and Virginia (8th District).)
So what is one of the first things the legislators working under the dome of the United States Capitol do after spending nearly the entire month of August away from Washington, D.C. (The House adjourned on August 4; the Senate on August 8)?
They hold a hearing.
This one, held at 10:00am on their first day back, is brought to you by the House Committee on Natural Resources and it deals with the northern long eared bat. Testimony will be heard about the proposal to list the flying mammal as an endangered species and how that designation would affect Pennsylvania and thirty-seven other states. Representatives from power companies, farms, and energy companies will testify.
I wonder which of those invited groups will go to bat for the bats.
Back at the House, the whole gang comes together at 2:00pm (because who likes early meetings on a Monday…oh, apparently the Committee on Natural Resources does). The representatives dispense with the formalities such as the daily prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance in just under two minutes.
The House takes up their first real bit of business at 2:03pm when they officially receive the resignation of Eric Cantor (R, VA) from the House.
Five minutes into the new session, the House breaks into a round of one-minute speeches. The first comes from Frank Wolf (R, VA) who announces he will be introducing two bills “…to address the most pressing national security threat since 9/11, the rapid advances made in ISIS in Iraq and Syria, as well as territorial gains made by al Qaeda-affiliated groups in Libya, Nigeria, and Somalia.”
Lest you think that Representative Wolf’s introduction of legislation meant that perhaps Congress would do some work and maybe back away from verbally attacking the President, the next two speakers would disabuse from that notion. Let the record show that it took Congress under seven minutes to partake in potshots at POTUS rather than deal with unemployment, minimum wages, etc., etc., etc.
Representative Joe Garcia (D, FL) starts the ball with “…the President signaled that he would not move forward on comprehensive immigration reform, and we are deeply disappointed.”
Not satisfied by a mere statement of disappointment, the next speaker, Representative Joe Wilson (R, WI), took to the floor and said, “The President has been negligent for the past 2 1/2 years, as ISIS fought to seize control of the very country we liberated with our dedicated military…”
This goes on until a quarter past two and then the House knuckles down and passes legislation. Ladies and gentlemen of the United States of America, you can stand proud knowing that in their first day back after a grueling summer recess, the United States House of Representatives voted and passed S.231, the Multinational Species Conversation Funds Semipostal Stamp Reauthorization Act of 2013. This august piece of legislation means these types of semipostal stamps can continue to be sold for four more years.
Our long national nightmare is over.
Riding high on a postal wave, the House then went on a binge and, over the next six hours, voted to rename fourteen post offices.
Oh, there was other stuff discussed and more speeches given, and the gavel fell at 8:40pm and Congress called it a day.
While I have written about a great number of numbers (532 members of Congress, five minutes before the Obama sniping began, four more years for the semipostal stamp, fourteen renamed post offices), the number I want to highlight in this post is nineteen. An aspect of our federal legislative body that has always amused me is the amount of time they spend away from their primary workplace. As I wrote above, the House was out from August 4 until September 8 and the Senate was out from August 8. For the People’s Chamber, that means that they were away from the District of Columbia for twenty-three work days. Members of the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body were away from the nation’s capital for nineteen (there’s that number) work days.
But wait, there’s more.
After their exhausting schedule of two four-day work weeks (September 8-11 and September 16-19…hey that includes a four-day weekend!), the House takes the following week off before engaging in another grueling four-day work week.
Then they’re away from October 6 until Halloween. That’s a grand nineteen (there’s that number again) work days away from the workplace.
Oh, that can’t honestly be right.
Well, it’s good work if you can get it and avoid it.