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""Public Service" pays.  In  1996, "Scranton Joe" and Jill Biden bought this 6,850 sq. ft. home in Delaware.  In 2017, they added a beach home for $2.7 million

Wouldn’t We All Enjoy an August Recess?


Both houses of Congress began their August recess on July 28.  It’s called an August recess, but it actually lasts about 6 weeks.  They’ll return in mid-September.  The fact that government funding expires on September 30, leaving only 12 days for the House and 17 for the Senate to pass the 12 appropriations bills necessary to fund the government did not keep them from their recess.  In fact, the House was so embroiled in conflict over the appropriations they decided to bug out a day early.


It would take a lot to keep our “public servants” from their recess.  They codified it into law in the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970, which requires a recess in August unless there is a declared war or “congress otherwise provides”.  It does not appear that will be happening.


There was a lot of handwringing and breathless reporting by the media about the devastation that will be visited upon the American people if the government is not funded by September 30.  They seem to have forgotten that we are threatened with this fiscal cliff every funding cycle, and, at this point, it barely elicits a yawn.  Members of Congress always have the continuing resolution in their back pocket, which allows them to continue funding the government while they play games with appropriations. I had to laugh when Senator Chris Coons, Joe Biden’s pal from Delaware, said of the impending crisis, “We’re going to scare the hell out of the American people before we get this done”.  What world is he living in?


Our elected officials’ idea of work is unrecognizable to everyday Americans.  Whatever job one has, the only measure of value is results and Americans are justifiably disgusted with Congressional performance.


This year’s Congressional calendar shows the House in session for 127 days and the Senate for 154 days.  Hard working Americans, who have full time, five-day-a-week jobs, work 260 days in a year. For many, the work that needs to be done dictates a work schedule that spans every day of the week and all hours of the day. Monday through Friday is a foreign concept to them, much less time off that is carved in stone.


Most members of Congress are paid a salary of $174,000.  It’s a number that wouldn’t raise too many eyebrows on its face, but it’s their “expense accounts” that fund a very comfortable lifestyle and mask most of what they really cost us. House members receive a “Member Representative Allowance” (MRA) of $994,671 a year and Senators receive a “Senators’ Official Personnel and Office Expense Account” (SOPOEA) ranging from $3.8 - $5.9 million a year depending on factors like the size of the state they represent and its distance from Washington DC.  These are theoretically necessary to cover essential expenses.  However, if you want a lesson in Congressional accountability, try to get your Senator or Congressman to give you a detailed accounting of how they spent this money.


There are reasons so many elected members of Congress fight hard to remain career politicians rather than the citizen legislators envisioned by our founders.  Money and power. It’s a bipartisan issue in both Houses. Chuck Schumer, Majority Leader of the Senate and in the Senate for 25 years, has a net worth of $81 million.  Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader of the Senate and in the Senate for nearly 40 years, has a net worth of $34 million.  Neither of these men ever worked in the private sector.  They have amassed their wealth while living off of us. Wisconsin’s own Paul Ryan, Congressman from Janesville, has a net worth of $10 million. He spent 20 years in Congress beginning when he was just 28 years old.


Just before leaving town, Kevin McCarthy, Speaker of the House, said he and Chuck Schumer were negotiating to start the work of funding the government as soon as possible once they return to Washington.  Most of us would think doing their job by never leaving in the first place would be most appropriate.  Wouldn’t we all enjoy an August recess?  Why do we tolerate this?

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