House changes its mind, votes to adjourn until Sept. 10

The House on Tuesday morning quickly approved a resolution that calls for the adjournment of the lower chamber until early September.

The move, made by unanimous consent, took place despite last week's overwhelming vote against adjournment, in which every Democrat and 78 Republicans vote to stay in session during August.

Last week, most members opposed adjourning in large part to protest the failure of the House to bring up a vote on a long-term extension of federal farm programs. Several Republicans also indicated a fear that President Obama might make recess appointments while the House and Senate are out.

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Democrats argued that the GOP-controlled House was leaving at a time when it is unclear whether middle-class taxes will go up at the end of the year and there is an uncertain path toward renewing the Violence Against Women Act.

"The Republican majority is prepared to adjourn the House of Representatives to leave for the August district work period without accomplishing what the American people have sent us here to do," Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said.

But Tuesday morning, with the chamber nearly empty, none of those arguments came into play. Instead, the clerk read S.Con.Res. 59, which the Senate approved and allows for the adjournment of the House and Senate until Sept. 10.

"Without objection the concurrent resolution is agreed to and a motion to reconsider is laid upon the table," presiding officer Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said after the resolution was read.

The quick vote provides more evidence that last week's vote was a symbolic gesture at a time when members are more aware than ever of voters' impressions of Congress with the November election just a few months away. It also reflects the reality that there is very little difference between adjourning and not adjourning.

Without the adjournment resolution passed by both chambers, the House and Senate were required to hold pro forma sessions every three days, but no work was taking place in these sessions. The Senate's pro forma session last week lasted just six seconds; canceling the pro formas will save a few members the hassle of having to return to Washington to preside over these quick sessions.

But canceling the pro forma sessions for the rest of August and early September will have some effect on House GOP efforts to move a farm bill. Each pro forma session held would have advanced the legislative clock by one day and allowed members to try to force the farm bill out of committee on Sept. 13, just two weeks before federal farm programs expire.

But without the pro forma days, the House will be on track to recess for Jewish New Year at the end of September before the discharge petition ripens.


— Erik Wasson contributed.