Of course, I use the term “work days” loosely, as many of our Congressional representatives define their jobs as not deliberating, not voting, not even meeting—and instead spending the bulk of their “work” days at fundraising events. The little on-the-record “work” that Republican lawmakers have done in the past six years has consisted mainly of finding ways to block anything that President Obama proposes or that might be good for the country and reflect positively on the President.
Just for the record, the schedule that they cancelled was very, very sparse to begin with. There were 10 scheduled work days in September 2014, of which Congress completed seven before cancelling the rest. Only two work days were scheduled for all of October, and they, too, now have been erased.
The cynics among us—me included—can argue that Congress not being in session is not a big change from business as usual, judging from its glaring lack of productivity in recent years. We can also argue that the country is actually better off when this particular Congress—dominated as it is by nihilistic, right-wing Republicans—is offline: fewer opportunities to do damage.
Ironically, cancelling its remaining, pre-election schedule might qualify as the most decisive action Congress has taken this term.
But why now? One reason might be that the trumped-up “scandals” Congressional Republicans have tried to promote have run dry: Benghazi is dead. Obamacare—despite 50+ just-for-show attempts to repeal it—is alive and well, becoming an accepted fact, and an increasingly lousy issue to run against. So there’s no longer much reason to stay in Washington for show-trial, time-wasting, endless hearings that might not be beneficial in their re-election bids.
But it’s not as if there’s nothing to talk about. We’re bombing Iraq and Syria. We’re sending troops to African nations to try to fight Ebola. Russia is saber rattling. Our college-age kids are drowning in debt. We’re experiencing wild weather swings, unprecedented flooding and wildfires. Millions of people are living below the poverty line and sinking faster every day.
None of these pressing issues—all of which scream for discussion and responsible, legislative solutions—seems to bother our current Congressional representatives. What concerns them, apparently, is getting re-elected, so that they can do more nothing in the next Congressional session.
But here’s another possibility: Earlier this week, in an unusual spasm of attention to its actual job, Congress voted to authorize the U.S. to train and arm “moderate” Syrian rebels and to conduct airstrikes against ISIL. The decision to flee Washington came right after that vote. At least one Republican Congressman has said that it could be advantageous to his party to give President Obama the authority to move ahead militarily in the Middle East and then to watch what happens:
In what has been called “a remarkable bit of honesty,” Congressman Jack Kingston [R-GA] recently said:
A lot of people would like to stay on the sideline and say, ‘Just bomb the place and tell us about it later.’ It’s an election year. A lot of Democrats don’t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.
The sudden “school’s out” move by Congress should be seen as an embarrassment and a fraud. And I’m fairly sure that, if a Congressional sub-committee was investigating “welfare fraud,” and “government corruption,” and found a worker with a salary of say, $174,000, who was not showing up for work, they’d have a name for that: deadbeat.
[Ironic update, Sept. 20, 2014: Yesterday, Speaker of the House John Boehner said the following, regarding work:
“This idea that has been born, maybe out of the economy over the last couple years, that you know, I really don’t have to work. I don’t really want to do this. I think I’d rather just sit around. This is a very sick idea for our country,” he said.
“If you wanted something you worked for it,” Boehner said, adding, “Trust me, I did it all.”