KATIE ZERR: Shouldn’t Congress spend time working on our problems?


Candidates, news networks talking heads, Washington insiders and just about everyone else is saying that Washington is broken. Not everybody agrees on what it is going to take to fix it, but there isn’t much argument that there is a problem.

There is a multitude of problems in the nation’s capitol, starting with the permeating attitude that the number one duty for the Republicans in Congress this past four years was to guarantee this president failed and to get him out of the White House. No matter what cost.

To hell with the economy, the job market, people’s life savings, homes and security, if it makes this president look bad, it is fair game.

That is what is wrong with Washington. It has been that way for many years. The Democrats did it to President Bush and the Republicans did it to Presidents Clinton (although he was pretty good at making himself look bad.)

But none of that was on the scale of what has happened in the past four years. It is disgusting.

Another of the major problems in Washington is that Congress doesn’t stay in Washington to get their work done. Members of Congress will tell us that when they leave the capitol, they take their work back to their home states. We know that is partly true because we see members of our Congressional delegation making appearances here. Especially during this election year.

But, Congress spends the majority of its time in recess; a good majority.

To put that in perspective, wouldn’t every worker like to earn a week’s vacation for every two weeks of work? We could if we were members of Congress. According to the legislative calendar that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor a Republican from Virginia set in 2012, House lawmakers in Washington were in session for two consecutive weeks, then took a week off.

At a time when Congress should be finding solutions to promote job growth, strengthen the economy, reduce the deficit, and help get this country back on track, how is that possible when they spent so little time in session?

When the calendar was criticized by fellow House members, Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring justified the number of vacation days by saying “More days in session has always resulted in bigger, more intrusive government, not more production. What matters is who’s in charge and the process put in place, not the number of days in session.”

The House was scheduled to be in session 123 days. That gave Congress 242 days to listen to their constituents tell them they were disappointed in the job that was being done and to get back to Washington to fix it.

It looks like they were shaking hands and nodding heads but the message never sank in.

It wasn’t always this way. During the 107th Congress, between 2001 and 2002, the Senate majority changed three times while Republicans maintained control of the House. It was also a time of political unity after the 9/11 attacks. During that Congress, lawmakers enacted the No Child Left Behind Act, created the Department of Homeland Security and authorized the use of military force against Iraq among other pieces of legislation.

In all, that Congress passed 377 measures.

The 111th Congress in 2009, a Democrat-controlled Congress, passed the health care reform law. The controversial measure’s passage ushered in a new era of tea party-backed Republican freshman and gave the GOP control of the 112th House in 2010. And those freshman Congress members and the “Stop Obama” attitude has taken Congress hostage and brought any progress to a screeching halt.

So when these members come back to work in their home states during their 242 vacation days, isn’t it time we hit them where it hurts?

It is time to tell Congress members they better enjoy their vacation because if they don’t start listening, those days will be short-lived.


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