Capitol Correspondence - 08.19.19

August Recess – What Is It and What Is Happening in September?

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Congress is officially on August recess until September 9 when they have a large list of items to accomplish. By the end of September, Congress needs to finalize a budget – their biggest lift. We are also keeping an eye out for potential confirmation hearings for a new Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor in the U.S. Senate, Congressional passage of a large Medicaid extenders package, final passage of the Autism CARES Act and more!


In the meantime, enjoy this interesting read on August recess just published by Fortune, on its history and why it exists.


As mentioned in the article:


“By the early 20th century, legislative sessions had become longer and longer, and Congress met for the majority of the year. Sessions hit a record length in 1963.

According to the Senate, that year’s session met from January to December with no break longer than a three-day weekend. By 1970, Congress mandated an adjournment as part of the Legislative Reorganization Act.


The law stipulates that “unless otherwise provided by the Congress,” both Houses must adjourn no later than July 31 each year or the first Friday in August that occurs 30 days before the first Monday in September, until the second day after Labor Day. The only exception is if the U.S. is in “a state of war.” Such a declaration hasn’t happened since 1941.


Sen. Gale McGee championed the idea of an August recess and the first official recess began in August of 1971. Since then, the recess has only been effectively canceled on one occasion, in 1994. Both chambers remained in session that year until late August.


Members of Congress also have the option to delay the start of the recess or call either chamber back into session. In some instances, Congress has had to return mid-recess, such as in 2005, when members returned to pass legislation to aid Hurricane Katrina victims.


So what do they do while on recess?


Recess doesn’t necessarily entail not working. While the Senate website says it’s “a chance for senators to spend time with family, meet with constituents in their home states, and catch up on summer reading,” some lawmakers use the time to campaign or raise money if they’re up for reelection, or visit offices or hold town halls. Offices are also still open to receive mail and take calls from constituents, but there is no activity on the House or Senate floor throughout the month.


There is one other thing that can happen during a recess: a president can execute a pocket-veto or make recess appointments.”