WASHINGTON – You can still smell the jet fumes of the planes that ferried members of Congress away from Washington for their five full weeks of congressional recess Friday — but not everybody wanted to go.
Some members of Congress are still hoping that leadership may call them back before September, when they will face a looming deadline to agree on a deal to fund the government before the fiscal year ends on September 30.
Republican Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia spent the final few weeks before Congress went into recess calling for the House of Representatives to stick around and finish the appropriations process.
“By any objective measure, we have failed to perform our most basic legislative duties” and fund the government, Rigell told The Daily Caller.
The government is currently funded by a continuing resolution that expires on September 30. Between now and then, Congress must agree on another continuing resolution – no easy feat given the current divisions between the two parties – or pass appropriations bills, an even less likely outcome. And there is little time to do either: the House is in session for a mere nine days between now and the end of the fiscal year.
“Tradition has it’s place,” Rigell said of the traditional August recess. “But this idea that, well it’s tradition that we break for five weeks, well look, we’re not in normal times. … When you’ve got a fiscal morass, and you’re just in a real fix, to shut down and turn off the lights and lock the door? I can’t even begin to process it.”
Rep. Rob Wittman, another Virginia Republican, joined Rigell last week in voting against the rule that allowed Congress to recess for the month of August, something that is rarely done.
“We need to be here,” he told TheDC. “There’s so many things that need to be done. I’m concerned that with all the things stacked up with the September 30 deadline.”
Both said their colleagues were supportive of their idea to keep Congress open during summer break and that their idea had not made them pariahs.
“There is truly widespread agreement that breaking for five weeks is not the right thing to do,” Rigell said, noting that he had only spoken to Republicans about it.
“What I’m hearing is, ‘Well, Scott, you’re saying the right thing.’ Whether that translates into them taking the same step, I don’t know,” he added.
Even Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sounded on board with the idea in a press conference Friday shortly before members headed out of town.
“How do we explain to the American people that we’re going into an August recess and … we still have no jobs bill, we have no budget bill, and we have the threat of shutting down government and not raising the debt ceiling without repealing the Affordable Care Act?” she asked.
“I wish that we could stay,” Pelosi said. “Our members are prepared to stay and work.”