So it is that, with former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s testimony in the books and with more than 100 members of House pushing for impeachment hearings targeting President Trump, the House Democratic majority has rung the school bell and cranked up the Alice Cooper. Originally scheduled to be working through Friday, the House instead cut out on Thursday. Don’t worry, though: They’ll be back in the second week of September.
It’s not like this is the first Congress to take a midsummer break. Congress is usually off for most of August. By “off” we mean that they aren’t in session, a state that defenders of the institution will insist doesn’t mean they aren’t doing any work. They may be having meetings in their districts and so on! To which we respond: If your boss said you didn’t have to come in during August but could do some work at home if you wanted to, how much work would you do?
By the way, it’s not uncommon that the House schedule would say one thing and the body would do something else. Comparing the announced schedule from the beginning of 2018 through last week, the House has been in session 90 days when it wasn’t scheduled to be and was scheduled for 13 days that it wasn’t in session (including Friday). The Senate’s had 60 days that it was in session when it wasn’t scheduled to be and 46 days that it was scheduled to work but didn’t.
In a remarkable coincidence, 37 of those 46 days were Fridays.
Anyway, you can see all the August breaks on that first chart. At first glance, though, the break the House will enjoy this year might not stand out. (In evaluating these breaks we’ve used scheduled days, not days in session.)
(In 2011, the House did the be-in-session-every-few-days tactic that the Senate popularized to keep the president from making recess appointments. They weren’t really in session, though.)
If we reorganize those breaks to compare them, it looks like this. The House’s scheduled break of 44 days is already the second-longest in four decades — but, again, it’s a 45-day break.
If you are curious, which we were, the overlap between a Congress that isn’t in session that much and a president who himself likes to get out of town on not-rare occasion is not small.
Since Trump took office, there have been 365 days when both chambers of Congress were in session and Trump didn’t visit one of his properties. This includes days when Trump went to his hotel at night or days when he traveled to his properties in Florida or New Jersey, mind you. But it also means that there were 551 days when either both chambers weren’t in session or Trump was visiting a property.
It also includes weekends. Excluding weekends, there have been 362 days on which Trump didn’t visit a Trump property and the House and Senate were in session. There have been 292 weekdays in which one of those conditions wasn’t met.
Most of those were because one of the branches of Congress was not in session. You can see why they would need some time off.
It does seem a bit odd to take Mueller’s testimony and then scoot. There’s no follow-up that partisan Democrats are hoping for? One Democrat, after all, said that Mueller’s testimony “raises serious concerns about the national security implications of this President’s actions — or more often inaction — with regards to Russia.” Is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi comfortable letting her caucus hit the beach for the next month, given rhetoric like that?
Apparently. She said it.