Some Loop Fans called last week wondering why Congress was in such a frenzy to leave town and take a couple of months off and complaining that most taxpayers don't get such long vacations, so why should our august lawmakers?

Ah, but these callers are so very wrong. True, our exhausted lawmakers are rushing to get out of town, but they are most assuredly not going on vacation. Au contraire. They're going to be working harder than ever for all of us.

For example, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) is taking 13 colleagues, their spouses, 10 staff members and three military aides on an 11-day jaunt to Japan, Australia and New Zealand on Saturday. This promises to be a fine trip, our sources tell us. Trade is the issue of the day with Japan, the first stop, although some Japanese officials may be en route to Seattle for the big trade conference starting that weekend.

From Japan, our intrepid travelers head to Darwin, Australia, the jumping-off point for our troops working the East Timor situation. This visit from home undoubtedly will be a huge morale-booster. Then, it's on to Alice Springs for a stopover at Ayres Rock, the Australian rock formation that's a bit like Devil's Tower in Wyoming.

Rep. Steve Largent (R-Okla.), according to a preliminary itinerary, may take off with four lawmakers and spouses to Sydney for a four-day prayer meeting, flying commercial. The rest of the group, however, moves on to Canberra for a jampacked half-day of important meetings with officials. The group then reunites in Sydney.

There will also be a stop in New Zealand, fast becoming a critical place for lawmakers and aides to visit. Ambassador Carol Moseley-Braun no doubt will offer tea.

And then it's home on Dec. 7 or so. So far, those signed up on a tentative list--but people have been known to drop off--are Hastert and Largent, as well as Reps. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio), Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Jerry F. Costello (D-Ill.), Bud Cramer (D-Ala.), Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio), Tom Coburn (R-Okla), Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), his third try for Australia after dropping out of earlier trips.

A White House Aide's Mad Dash

Speaking of travel, there was White House aide Justin Coleman Thursday night, sprinting to Dulles Airport with a copy of the continuing resolution for President Clinton to sign in Greece to keep the U.S. government open on Friday.

Coleman, after the hurry-up call from the White House to the House clerk, got the document close to 8:30 p.m., so it was a harrowing trip to get there in time for a handoff to Chief of Staff John D. Podesta for the 9:50 United flight. But Coleman made it, and Podesta, riding in tourist class, delivered the goods.

To Be or Not to Be Confirmed

The stage was set last week for a bitter showdown between the White House and the Senate over recess appointments. The White House sent a list of 13 potential recess appointees--who could serve until about next fall--for nominees the Senate failed to approve this year. Some will be no problem, but a group of Senate conservatives vowed war over five others including: Sally Katzen as deputy director for the Office of Management and Budget; John Holum as undersecretary of state for arms control; Carl Spielvogel as ambassador to the Slovak Republic; Jay Johnson as director of the U.S. Mint; and Bill Lann Lee as assistant attorney general for civil rights.

Among those unlikely to draw opposition are Mark Schneider, director of the Peace Corps; Frank Holleman, deputy education secretary; Robert Walker, veterans affairs undersecretary; Leonard Page, general counsel, National Labor Relations Board; Cliff Stewart, general counsel, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; and Delmond Won, U.S. Maritime Commission. More recess appointments are likely.

Before leaving town last week, however, the Senate did confirm a batch of Clinton nominees including: Ivan Itkin for director of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management at the Energy Department; Neal S. Wolin as general counsel at Treasury; Paul Steven Miller for the EEOC; Irasema Garza as head of the Women's Bureau at the Department of Labor; T. Michael Kerr to run Labor's Wage and Hour Division; Alan P. Larson to be undersecretary of state for economic matters; Susan Wachter as an assistant secretary of housing and urban development; and Linda J. Bilmes to be an assistant secretary of commerce.

Eating His Words, With Resignation

Amos Eno, executive director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation whose ethnic shot--"damned chili eater"--at former interior secretary Manuel Lujan Jr. sparked a firestorm, has resigned.

Eno, who immediately apologized for the remark and said he had no intent to be racist or offensive, had been placed on administrative leave without pay until Dec. 1, pending a review.

But last week, Eno, in a letter given to the Portland (Maine) Press Herald, said "events and circumstances" forced him to quit.

Railroad Panel Chairman Confirmed

The unions shot at her. Major rail shippers shot at her. Key senators wanted her head mounted on their wall. But Linda Morgan--with strong backing from former boss Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.)--was confirmed last week to succeed herself as chairman of the Surface Transportation Board, which presides over the little regulation left over railroads.