Loyal followers of our Political Insider blog, take heart. We’re hard at work making sure that, after the departure of our longtime correspondent James Besser, you will continue to receive well-informed insights about Jewish news on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. We’re revamping this blog to include both national news as the 2012 campaign shapes up and local political news from the greater New York Metropolitan area, so stay tuned.
Here’s the first blog from our new Washington insider, Douglas Bloomfield. Doug is a Capitol Hill veteran, having worked for Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey and Rep. Benjamin Rosenthal as well as serving as legislative director for AIPAC and DC represesntative for the World Jewish Congress. He’s been a syndicated columnist for years, and we’re proud to have his exclusive insights.
Congress In The Good Ole Summertime
Since they they’ve solved the economic crisis, eliminated the deficit, paid off the national debt, ended unemployment and passed a balanced budget, our overworked Congress has decided it needs a break.
With nothing important going on here in Washington, the House of Representatives is taking off this week and half next week, and the Senate is in session this week but out all of the week of July 4.
But don’t call it a recess. That’s what they used to call it, but that apparently reminded too many constituents of the time they were in grade school and couldn’t wait to hit the playground. So our hard-working lawmakers came up with a solution: call it "district work period."
When Republicans took over the House earlier this year they changed that again to "Constituent work week." But they’re still playing games.
The pols say it gives more dignity to what they’re doing, but for us old Washington hands it brings to mind the old question: "What’s the difference between the Congress and the kindergarten? The kindergarten has adult supervision."
Republicans are being careful to overlap the recess periods so neither chamber is actually off duty at the same time. That’s because they are afraid President Obama will make recess appointments (which bypasses Senate confirmation) of officials Republicans have been blocking for months, particularly Elizabeth Warren to head the new consumer protection agency, which the banks hate.
The new name notwithstanding, many won’t be going home to their constituents but jetting off around the world at taxpayer expense on what they euphemistically refer to as "fact finding missions." Here’s one fact: it ain’t cheap. I strongly believe travel can be very helpful for the serious minded who take a genuine interest in public policy issues. Here’s one way to tell how serious the Codel (Hill-ese for Congressional delegation) is: destination. Paris Air Show or Pakistan? Bahamas or Bulgaria? Rio or Rwanda? There’s always a Codel or three going to Jerusalem, but that’s always glatt kosher. Besides it’s really about domestic politics, isn’t it?
To avoid any risk of exhaustion, House majority leader Eric Cantor, who is in charge of the House calendar, has scheduled another "constituent work week" to begin July 18; then he’s bringing them back for a grueling three-and-a-half days only to send them home again for all of August, not to return until after Labor Day.
For all that hard work your senator and representative is paid $174,000 a year; leaders get another $19,500 and the Speaker an extra $49,500.