Bring Congress Back? Only If There’s Something Constructive To Do

Should President Obama call Congress back into session? Not if there's nothing to do he shouldn't.

Ever since the debt downgrade, there have been pundits saying that the President should exercise his power under Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution and recall Congress to deal with the economic situation. Today, those calls were echoed by Congressman Charlie Rangel and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann:

A prominent liberal House Democrat is calling on President Barack Obama to bring Congress back from its August recess, joining a growing list asking the president to put lawmakers to work now to fix the economy.

“There’s no question in my mind” that lawmakers need to return to Washington, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said on MSNBC on Tuesday.

“The president should call us back and to recognize that as important as reelections are in the House and the Senate, the integrity of our country is far more important,” he said. “Just him bringing us together, saying that we are going to work to get jobs for the people and training for people.”

While skeptics are arguing that Congress won’t get anything done if it comes back from its vacation, Rangel said that the very fact that there’s skepticism underscores why his colleagues need to return to Washington before the end of the summer.

“If there’s no hope that we can do it, we’ve got to change our way of thinking about our country. Our country is not Obama, is not Pelosi, is not Boehner. It is a country with hope and vision,” Rangel said.

“We are the actors, the tools, that are supposed to present us as to what people are proud of, and when you lose confidence, you can’t buy it, you can’t elect it. Confidence is something that you feel.”

Making progress on efforts to cut costs and revenues would “give so much hope to people who have been without work for months and for some years,” he said.

Rangel joins a growing chorus that wants to see Congress return, including presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), former Gov. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe.

MSNBC’s First Read takes a look at the options facing the Administration:

On the one hand, the White House doesn’t want to look like it’s panicking (a la John McCain’s call to suspend his campaign after Lehman’s crash in the fall of ’08). And Team Obama’s first instinct is to always under-react; in fact, you saw that in his speech yesterday afternoon. On the other hand, the Obama White House needs to look like it’s in charge of the situation, even if world markets are reacting more to the debt crisis in Europe rather than the political situation in Washington.

The Obama White House’s pattern in the past has been to tune out the Washington chatter and then react to it on its own timetable. Perhaps they’ll be proven right in the long run, but it looks riskier today than it has before when they’ve chosen caution over a high-profile political/policy gamble.

It’s gamble either way, really. If the Administration does nothing between now and Labor Day, and the world financial markets continue to be in turmoil while the President vacations on Martha’s Vineyard, then they’re going to be accused of dithering while Rome burns. If they call Congress back without some plan about what’s going to happen next, then it will be a complete waste of time. More importantly, if they call Congress back without having some understanding with the GOP leadership over what’s going to be done then the entire thing is only serves to reinforce the negative (and correct) observations that S&P made in its report about the manner in which the political process in the U.S makes real progress on our long term debt problems.

So there might be a good reason to recall Congress, but there’s no point in actually doing so until you know what that reason is. This is not a time of national crisis, we don’t need Congress back in town to declare war. All we really need Congress to do is their jobs, something that they’ve been failing at for at least a generation (or more) now. Bringing them back into Washington during the August heat, which also means that all the staffers who work on Capitol Hill will have to cut their vacations short, is utterly pointless if all we’re going to get is a replay of the last six weeks.



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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. legion says:

    Indeed, I think the best thing that can happen to Congress right now (aside from spontaneous combustion) is for them all to go back to their constituencies and see just how upset, depressed, and disillusioned they all are after having been thrown under the proverbial bus for the appeasement of a handful of bankers. It’s possible that one or two of them might notice that every single, solitary thing this particular Congress has done has only made life worse for about 70% of all Americans.

    I may be cynical, but I can still dream.

  2. hey norm says:

    The Do Nothing 112th? WTF for? So they can make a bad situation much worse? Let the Tea-Babies stay at home. Maybe that dead-beat dad guy will visit his kids, or something else useful, instead.

  3. MM says:

    @hey norm: I’m sure there’s some symbolic abortion legislation that hasn’t gone through yet.

  4. Steve Verdon says:

    Hell, I say extend their Vacation…the bastards.

  5. jan says:

    @Steve Verdon:

    When you think about it…yesterday, Obama gave another speech to soothe the market and it tanked even more — over -600. Today, he left DC for Dover , while Michelle went to Oregon, and the market went into recovery mode, +400.

    So, it seems when politicians leave town there is a sigh of relief, and events tend to better themselves. Consequently, let the politicians stay and marinate in their own districts, receiving a taste of what normies really want.

  6. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Oh, come on, Skippy, there’s plenty that could be done.

    They could open up offshore oil drilling and create vast quantities of high-paying jobs. Then they could open up oil and shale leases in the Mountain States and create even more jobs. Then they could repeal the federal minimum wage and create still more jobs. Then to top it off they could repeal the federal excise tax on gasoline and with one stroke of the pen (i) eliminate a regressive tax that hurts racial minorities in inner cities, and (ii) simultaneously save consumers at large many billions of dollars per year.

    That’s just off the top of my head.

    Of course with Harry Reid in charge of the Senate and Rambobama in the White House none of these items are viable in real life. They’re not even open for a real discussion. Why pray tell do you suppose that’s the case, Princess?

  7. mike says:

    send them to London to help…

  8. john personna says:


    When you think about it…yesterday, Obama gave another speech to soothe the market and it tanked even more — over -600. Today, he left DC for Dover , while Michelle went to Oregon, and the market went into recovery mode, +400.

    It is one of the strange inversions that market boosters, perversely, believe government has greatest control over the markets.

  9. A voice from another precinct says:

    In this case, Congress’ individual members need to show that they get it by calling themselves into session. If Michelle Bachmann really believed that Congress needed to reconvene, she would return to Washington and continue doing her job and encourage her peers to do the same. I leave Charlie Rangel out of that equation because he simply points whatever way the wind blows and is saying what he is saying just to get quoted.

    Then again, considering what Michelle Bachmann seems to believe her job is, maybe Steve Verdon has the better line of thinking. A libertarian candidate for governor in my home state once opined to me that a better way to control spending might be to pay Congress delegates and Senators twice as much if they don’t convene. He may have been on to something.

  10. Mark W says:

    I thought Congress technically hasn’t recessed?

  11. mattt says:

    Job One: Eliminate the debt ceiling. Otherwise now that precedent has been set that it’s OK to threaten default in order to advance one party’s policies, doubt will always be there and the S&P’s recent action will only be the first of more downgrades to come.

    The Ceiling is probably unconstitutional anyway, given the clause that the US government’s repayment of its debts will not be questioned. Who would have standing to bring a suit that would get the question before the courts?

  12. Hey Norm says:

    Damn John…exposing that contradiction probably exploded her head.

  13. An Interested Party says:

    Oh, what’s this:

    In another wild day on Wall Street, stocks climbed, then dropped, then rocketed as traders did a double take on the Federal Reserve’s much-awaited statement on the economy Tuesday afternoon.

    The Fed announced that while it would not be coming to the rescue with some new program to stimulate the economy, it would leave interest rates unchanged for a couple of years.

    That sent stocks tumbling — until traders figured out that locked-in interest rates and cheap credit could actually give the economy a more solid footing. Minutes after the 2:15 p.m. announcement, the Dow Jones industrial average sped downward 1.7 percent. But stocks soon made a U-turn and roared through the rest of trading.

    Of course the uptick in the stock market had nothing to do with where the president was today…so sorry to burst your bubble, Jan…

  14. jan says:

    @Mark W:

    The House has about 8-9 freshman who are holding down the fort, so to speak, to avoid Obama making any recess appointments. The Senate, though, is gone.

  15. jan says:

    @An Interested Party:

    He was in Dover, as I already said, rather than making “who-can-I-blame-next” speeches. Ironically, the market does much better when President Obama is out of Washington.

  16. An Interested Party says:

    Ironically, the market does much better when President Obama is out of Washington.

    Oh really? Surely you can provide some evidence of this? A connection, perhaps? Or should we just assume you’re spreading more…fertilizer, as is your wont…