Lawmakers exit Washington to campaign

After just eight days in session following a five-week summer recess, the House and Senate have adjourned until after the midterm elections so members can hit the campaign trail.

Both chambers are scheduled to return Wednesday, Nov. 12.

{mosads}House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) office announced Thursday that, in a departure from the original schedule, the House would not be in session Friday or the week of Sept. 29.

Senators were in just as much of a hurry to leave Washington as soon as they cleared a stopgap funding bill to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1 with an authorization to arm Syrian rebels to fight Islamic extremists. With little other “must-do” legislation left on the agenda, both chambers of Congress closed the brief, yet intense, September session.

The recess between now and the week after the Nov. 4 elections will last seven weeks, which is even longer than the five-week August break. 

Those seven weeks will be the last critical stretch of campaigning for incumbent lawmakers, especially Senate Democrats trying to keep control of the upper chamber.

House Republicans are not expected to lose their majority in this year’s elections, but members in a handful of competitive districts were hard-pressed to wrap up work in Washington.

House Democratic leaders called a press conference Thursday designed specifically to chide GOP leaders for leaving Washington this week — nearly two months ahead of the Nov. 4 elections.

“The American people have to ask: ‘What do you do for a living?'” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, further piled onto House Republicans for leaving town as soon as members passed a measure to prevent another government shutdown.

“House Republicans are now abandoning any pretense of doing actual work for the American people, skipping town one day after doing the bare minimum required to keep the government functioning but blocking any progress for the middle class,” Israel said.

Still, some House Republicans wouldn’t object to Congress being in session for more days before the elections.

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said he still plans to return to Washington the week of Sept. 29 to conduct a House Oversight subcommittee hearing on wasteful spending at the Department of Homeland Security.

“My preference would be they stay in longer, but I don’t make those decisions,” Mica said. “I’d like to go ahead with a hearing I planned to do anyway that week.”

Mica maintained that he works long hours regardless of whether he’s in Washington or his district.

“I’ve never found a time when I don’t have an active schedule. When I’m in the district, I go from 7 ’til 11. When I’m here, I go from 7 to 10,” Mica said.

There is precedent for Congress to cut the fall session short so members can hit the campaign trail earlier. In 2012, the House was in session for eight legislative days. GOP leaders ultimately canceled the session scheduled for the first week of October.

— Mike Lillis contributed.

Tags Appropriations Islamic State of Iraq and Syria John Mica Kevin McCarthy Nancy Pelosi Steve Israel

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