Odd year

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

If you think it’s been slow-go­ing on Capi­tol Hill since the new Demo­crat-con­trolled Congress con­vened in Jan­uary, of­fi­cial Wash­ing­ton has re­ally ground to a halt now that the leg­isla­tive body has ad­journed un­til Sept. 4 — its mem­bers flee­ing town like spooked an­i­mals.

Whether or not you think our elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives de­serve a long sum­mer hol­i­day, it so hap­pens that their an­nual Au­gust re­cess is now re­quired by law.

It was 36 years ago Aug. 6 that the Se­nate and House took their first “manda­tory” 30-day sum­mer re­cess, as re­quired by the 1970 Leg­isla­tive Re­or­ga­ni­za­tion Act. Ac­cord­ing to the Se­nate his­to­rian, ex­ist­ing law had pro­vided that Congress “shall ad­journ sine die not later than July 31 of each year,” un­less the two houses pro­vided oth­er­wise.

“But the last time Congress had man­aged to com­plete its work at the end of July had been in 1956,” says the his­to­rian. “On even-num­bered years, Congress usu­ally man­aged to ad­journ by early Oc­to­ber to ac­com­mo­date mem­bers run­ning for re-elec­tion, but in odd-num­bered years, it had be­come stan­dard to work un­til De­cem­ber, with lit­tle time for mem­bers to plan for and en­joy fam­ily sum­mer va­ca­tions.” So the new law has helped? “Al­though Au­gust re­cesses since 1971 have been ab­bre­vi­ated dur­ing elec­tion years, the 1970 act’s re­cess pro­vi­sion has been car­ried out faith­fully dur­ing odd-num­bered years.”

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