During recess, some lawmakers travel far and wide, and some just ‘hang out’

Before Congress broke for recess last week, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) summed up how people were feeling at the end of a six-week stretch of intense legislative work.

“I’m getting irritable, so I need some time off,” Sessions said, expressing how many of his colleagues looked and felt after the grueling daily budget fights and bailout disasters.

However, the only firm plan Sessions had for recess was a congressional delegation trip (codel) to Afghanistan with Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Reps. John Kline (R-Minn.) and Jane Harman (D-Calif.). Asked whether he would have time for any rest and relaxation during the break, he could provide only a forlorn “I hope so.”

Members of Congress have fanned out over the country and world for the next two weeks. Many of them are continuing their official work in their districts or on international trips. Others are taking on extra duties or campaigning for their next public-office pursuits. Some are looking forward to spending quiet time with their family. And one just wants to finish reading a book.

The double-timers

While many lawmakers seemed excited about the change of pace and scenery the recess would provide, a handful looked stressed when asked about their plans for the break. They would be those members of Congress who are also running 2010 campaigns for governor or Senate.

Rep. Gresham Barrett (R-S.C.), looking as though every moment of his time is precious, could barely slow down when asked about his recess plans.

“Combination of congressional, gubernatorial and family stuff — all at the same time, unfortunately,” the Palmetto State gubernatorial candidate said over his shoulder as he speed-walked through a hallway off the House floor.

Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), also a candidate in his state’s gubernatorial race, said, “I am literally all over the state, [attending] multiple events” for his campaign.

Wamp did say he would take off Good Friday to spend with his family and Easter to attend the Masters golf tournament as a birthday gift to his son.

“My son and I get to walk Augusta National [golf course] to possibly see Tiger Woods win another [championship],” Wamp said.

The only lawmaker who might be busier than these two is Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), who, looking tired before the break had even begun, said he is not only using recess to campaign for the 2010 Senate race but will also accompany President Obama to Trinidad for the Summit of the Americas.

The codel crew

Along with Meek, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said he would join the delegation to the Summit of the Americas. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) was off to Cuba with some of his colleagues, Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) said he would accompany House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on a trade trip to an undisclosed location, Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.) said she and Reps. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) were headed to Ethiopia, Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) said he and Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) would be in India as well as other locations that aren’t “the most stable,” and Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) said he would be with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on a trip to the Middle East.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she was going it alone. After a week in Southern California, she will fly to Rome to be the sole congressional representative at an international conference called by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

One member taking an international trip for personal reasons is Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.).

“I’m going to take a 20th anniversary trip with my wife [to Italy],” he said. When he returns, he’ll embark on an old-fashioned road trip, starting in southwest Virginia to “take a trip on I-81 all the way up.”

 Family folk

Other members have family on their minds for recess.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) said he will be preparing for a new addition to his household.

“I’ve got a 2-year-old daughter, and we’re expecting another one in May, so I’ll be helping my wife get some things done around the house,” he said.

Scalise also plans to fit in work events — and might be attending two of the more unusual recess activities.

“We’ve actually got two tea parties in my district to protest the federal spending and the borrowing, so I’ll be speaking at those,” he said. He clarified that organizers don’t go so far as to mimic the Boston Tea Party by dumping tea in nearby waters.

“They ceremoniously drop tea bags in the water and pick them back up because they don’t want to be fined for polluting,” he said.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) said she also plans to spend time near water.

“I’m headed back home to work, and actually I’m going to go canoeing with my kids on the Buffalo River,” she said, boasting of one of Arkansas’s national parks.

She and other lawmakers also plan to cook holiday meals for their families, either for Easter or Passover.

“I’ll be celebrating Passover with my family,” said Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.). “The first night at my mother-in-law’s, and the second night, I’ll probably be doing it. So I’ll be doing a little cooking over the break.”

Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) just wants to make his mother happy during recess.

“I’ll probably see my mother on Easter,” he said. “For years she’s been telling me to go to church. So I think I’ll go to church to prove that you can be resurrected, even if it’s not on the third day.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), on the other hand, will likely be expecting her family to keep her happy. She was scheduled for surgery on April 7 after blowing out her knee in a skiing accident last month.

“I’m feeling so ready,” said Murkowski, who had been rolling around the Senate in a wheelchair for the past several weeks.

The homebodies

Other lawmakers had no big plans aside from a normal work-life schedule at home.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) said he plans to “resume our family tradition of our three-dog-night cinema,” during which he and his wife Elizabeth curl up with their beagle and cocker spaniel to watch movies.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s (D-W.Va.) recess goal was simple.

“I’m reading a great book on Abraham Lincoln, that Ronald White book, and I want to finish it,” he said.

And Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) might be the envy of any lawmaker wishing for a low-key two weeks.

“I’ll just be hanging out,” he said.

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