Against Congress's Summer Vacation
Newsweek's Katie Connolly -- actually, their style conventions appear to make that NEWSWEEK's Katie Connolly, which is so much more emphatic! -- has a smart take on the looming August recess:
Many moons ago I worked in a consulting firm. We worked against strict deadlines. Some days we just couldn’t work fast enough. On those days we didn’t get to go home at 8 p.m., have dinner with our loved ones, and get a good night’s sleep. We just kept working. Sometimes till 3 a.m., sometimes all night. We simply weren’t allowed to miss a deadline. We couldn’t tell clients that our discussions had taken too long. They were paying us to produce, and produce we would. If you had a vacation planned but your work wasn’t done, forget about it. Here at NEWSWEEK, if we are running late on a story, we don’t skip publishing that week’s magazine. We have a commitment to our subscribers. Even when I was in high school, if we didn’t finish our work, we’d have to stay after class. I think you get the point. The comparisons are endless. So here’s my argument. Congress has a commitment to voters and to the health of Americans. It also had a clear deadline. So why should it get to have an August recess?
The August deadline, I fear, is actually getting a bit confused. The point isn't that the bill needs to be done by Aug. 6, and no other date will do. It's not about an arbitrary point on the calender. If Aug. 161were no different than Aug. 6, it wouldn't matter which date saw the completion of the process. But Aug. 16 is not the same as Aug. 6. Aug. 16 is part of Congress's month-long vacation.
Right now, whatever its dysfunctions, there's a certain rhythm to health-care reform on the Hill. The committees have been working on this for months. There's back-and-forth with the Congressional Budget Office, there are ad hoc coalitions of interested senators, there are negotiations and amendments and draft proposals and discussions. It's not pretty stuff, as each day's headlines show. But it's the stuff of progress. To be so close to a finished product and a mark-up and a vote and then, for no actual reason, abruptly stop, is insane. It means a cessation to discussions, negotiations, relationships, hearings, to the work of legislating. It means that the hard work of creating this policy will stop for a month and give way to the politics of fighting over it. That's not healthy. "Ideas can melt in the sun," Nancy Pelosi said when I interviewed her Wednesday, "especially in August."
Photo credit: Melina Mara.
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