Oh, Good: Congress is Basically on Vacation for the Next Two Months

Daniel Doherty

11/26/2013 4:25:00 PM - Daniel Doherty

As if the American public needed another reason to hate the legislative branch.

National Journal reports Washington lawmakers have now given themselves so much vacation time this holiday season that they won’t even be in session long enough to conduct the people’s business satisfactorily, a job for which we pay them.

Do they even read public opinion polls anymore, I wonder? Or just not care? Hard to tell sometimes:

Congress will soon be forced to debate yet another short-term, stopgap bill to keep the government open, not because a budget deal can't be reached, but because lawmakers haven't left enough time to reach one.

The House and Senate have already left town for Thanksgiving. And once they return, both chambers are in session concurrently for just four days—Dec. 10 through Dec. 13—before Congress adjourns again for the holiday recess.

Simply put, there won't be enough time for budget negotiators to solidify the details of an agreement that sets spending levels for the rest of fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2015 – much less sell it to their respective caucuses – before a Dec. 13 deadline.

But that's not the only deadline being threatened by Congress's vacation schedule. Funding for the federal government expires Jan. 15. So if House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., fail, as expected, to reach agreement by Dec. 13, lawmakers will return to Washington the week of Jan. 6 staring down another government shutdown, with only about a week to do something about it.

All told, the two chambers of Congress have scheduled just 10 days in session together between Nov. 22 and Jan. 15, out of a possible 51 days, not counting Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.

Keep working, America. Someone has to while our elected representatives do…whatever it is they do when they’re not in Washington. Meanwhile, the author also points out lawmakers will probably pass a short-term, 90-day CR deal shortly after the Thanksgiving or New Years Day holiday. But that remains to be seen; after all, ten days isn’t a whole lot of time to reach an agreement.

In the past, there were lots of excuses lawmakers could employ to explain away legislative failures: partisanship, gridlock, or, my personal favorite, Republicans. But that’s unlikely to fly when the public knows you’re slacking off. How else to describe the fact members of Congress will only be in session for ten days over the course of a two month period? Needless to say, it doesn't look good.