A Democratic congressman has blasted Congress for going "AWOL" by taking its annual Fall recess, which is mandated under law.
Rep. John Larson of Connecticut told MSNBC, "Congress has been off for more than six weeks. Some have said, and I can't disagree with them, that we're AWOL."
In an apparent effort to blunt criticism from Republicans about President Barack Obama's extensive vacations, Larson said foreign policy concerns such as the conflict in Iraq and Syria "cannot wait till next week" and added, "We ought to be back there making sure that we're meeting as a committee of the whole and debating and defining this issue clearly."
His comments echoed those of Obama, who called Congress's annual recess a "vacation" in his weekly address on Aug. 2, saying, as reported by Politifact
, "House Republicans actually got together this week and voted to sue me for taking actions on my own, and then they left town for the month without settling a bunch of unfinished business that matters to working families across America. And when they return from vacation next month, instead of trying to pass partisan bills on party lines, hopefully we can come together with the sense of common purpose that you expect."
A week later, the Obama family left for a 10-day vacation
in Martha's Vineyard.
"Obama sought to paint congressional Republicans as being derelict in their duty by leaving town for the summer recess," Politifact noted.
"Today is Labor Day, where we celebrate work and we celebrate the efforts of those who labor throughout the year," Larson said. "Congress is not at work.
"I agree with the premise that these are issues that have to be debated and the time is now, and Congress has a responsibility and an obligation to the American people."
However, Linda Killian, senior scholar with the Woodrow Wilson Center, told the Wall Street Journal
that the annual recess is legally required by the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970, and isn't really a "vacation" for most members of Congress.
Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute told Politifact that members of Congress "use this time to travel to trouble spots or to go back and campaign or do meetings in their home districts or states. They are not laying back in the sun, but working.
"I would prefer more time in Washington legislating, and less time back in the district. But calling this a five-week vacation is a distortion."
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