“I’d say that we ought to come back to work, but I’m afraid they’d just downgrade us again.”
-- House Republican leadership aide joking with Power Play about the prospects of lawmakers cutting short their August recesses
After a brutal legislative month surrounding the federal debt limit, House conservatives want lawmakers to return to Washington to try to press their advantage against a weakened President Obama.
With the downgrading of federal debt for the first time in history, markets in turmoil and a super committee on deficits soon to convene, fired-up conservative lawmakers say that this is no time for a recess.
“In many ways, it’s a golden opportunity. America is waking up to the consequences of this madness,” a conservative House freshman told Power Play. “We have a chance to shift the discussion and do something about the fiscal recklessness of this administration.”
So far, though, House leaders have been cool to the suggestion that lawmakers return.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor sent a lengthy policy memo to members on Monday outlining where the GOP stood on the downgrade, spending, tax reform and a host of fiscal issues. But this was intended as summer reading, not a call for a special August session.
“We delivered a win for the American people in the battle against out-of-control Washington spending,” a leadership aide said. “And there more battles ahead: the end of [the continuing resolution funding the government until Sep. 30] and the joint commission on debt reduction. We need to be ready for those.”
Tea Partiers calling for a return to work for lawmakers may have an unlikely ally in their effort: Obama himself. The president, facing a crisis of confidence and an economic stumble midway through his third year, needs to look busy.
The president is set to begin his Martha’s Vineyard vacation later this month after a three-day campaign bus tour through the Midwest and his fundraising schedule continues unabated, following up his birthday cash blitz of last week with big-money events in Washington on Monday.
Since his own schedule calls into question Obama’s self-described new “laser focus” on job growth, the president has continued in his speeches to suggest that he is only waiting for Congress to act. He frequently mentions legislation to streamline the patent process, a subsidized “infrastructure bank” and the extension of lower payroll tax rates as key measures he wants Congress to take up.
Obama hasn’t yet resorted to comparing House Republicans to dallying schoolchildren as he did during the debt-ceiling showdown, but he is clearly looking to shift some of the blame for the faltering economy to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Some in the House fear that being in recess plays into the president’s hands.
“This is no time for a vacation,” the House member said. “A lot of American families can’t afford a vacation this year, so I think the least we can do is get back to work trying to help them. Let the president go to Martha’s Vineyard, but we can still do our jobs.”
Those who favor a return argue that by working through the traditional recess, Republicans can turn the tables and highlight the president’s absence in the New England vacation spot.
The concern about the idea is twofold: First, that lawmakers would lose their best time to get home and reconnect with constituents, and second, that overheated tempers from the debt debate need time to cool down.
“We we’re already in the red zone when we left,” the leadership aide said, referring to the ugly rhetoric from Democrats. “Once you’re gotten to ‘terrorist,’ it might be a good time to back off a little bit.
“We could go back and grind our gears for three weeks, but that’s not going to put anybody back to work.”
And Now, A Word From Charles
“He went out there with the Dow minus 400. After he spoke it went down to minus 600. He looked weak, plaintive, and small: weak and plaintive because he comes out there and he blames the Tea Party, Europe, Japan, Middle East -- probably God because he's the author of earthquakes -- everybody except him.”
***Today on Power Play Live at 11:30 ET: Chris talks with former Sen. Al D'Amato. How does he think Congress is handling the economic crisis? And with only a few days to go until the Fox News GOP presidential debate in Iowa, Chris and "Special Report"anchor Bret Baier give their predictions on who will and who needs to stand out. Don't miss a second at live.foxnews.com***
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.