Pardonez moi, this is not France, everyone! Congress should work in August
One of the big issues swirling around the current health care debate is whether or not Congress will be able to take action (on what specific legislation no one is sure) before the August congressional recess. Which got me to thinking. Which, as usual, can only lead to trouble. Just why is it that in ...
One of the big issues swirling around the current health care debate is whether or not Congress will be able to take action (on what specific legislation no one is sure) before the August congressional recess. Which got me to thinking. Which, as usual, can only lead to trouble.
Just why is it that in the middle of the greatest economic crisis since before Alan Greenspan learned to count that the honorable men and women of the United States Congress think that they should be taking time off? It’s a crisis, people! Times like these call for extraordinary measures. We know because that’s what the members of Congress keep telling us. The times are so extraordinary that they justify spending trillions of dollars, of casting fiscal responsibility to the wind, of taking over major chunks of American industry, of rethinking the regulatory structure of all of global finance…but apparently not extraordinary enough to motivate members of Congress to keep working a couple extra weeks a year.
Americans have fewer days of paid leave or paid vacation than the citizens of any other OECD country. In fact, we get about a third of what they get in France. What’s more Americans tend to be so committed to work (or possibly feel they need to work so hard) that they leave something like a million and a half years worth of unused vacation time on the table every year.
But Congress has schedule breaks in their annual calendar totaling around 10 weeks. Depending on the year, four to five weeks alone at the end of the summer. This might work just fine for the Asemblee nationale but we are quite a distance from the Palais Bourbon…and from the time when part time work did the trick in Washington.
While there’s a case to be made that representatives should spend time with the people they are representing, the reality is that given modern technology and modern congressional agendas, most of the time they are with people they are talking not listening and most of the feedback they get comes via email, phone messages or snail mail. And again, these are unusual times, I’m not saying that they shouldn’t get to be back in the districts more when they have taken care of the people’s business in Washington. But they haven’t done that yet, have they?
The 50 million Americans without healthcare can’t put their medical needs on hold. The economy needs fixes now, not later. Congress should spend this August getting reacquainted with one of America’s top tourist destinations: Washington, DC.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
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