WASHINGTON – While President Bush alternates between fishing, golfing, economic speeches, and Cabinet meetings on his 32-day "working vacation," members of Congress are "throttling down" during the month of August, ensuring that all work and no play doesn't stress tired lawmakers.
"This is family priority month," said Larry Van Hoose, a spokesman for Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., who is doing what most of his colleagues on Capitol Hill are doing this month -- mixing politics and leisure as much as possible.
"He's spent a lot of [recess] with his family," said Van Hoose, who added that the congressman has two children returning to school this week. "They miss him."
Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Conn., 63, also made "family time," tying the knot with Linda Holwick, 42, finance director for ex-presidential candidate Steve Forbes, and escaping to an undisclosed destination for a honeymoon.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., celebrated her son's birthday between town hall meetings and speeches throughout the state. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has been busy with his expanding family. His wife Eve gave birth to his first son, Elijah Harris, on July 31, joining 4-year-old sister Alexa.
"The timing was perfect," said spokeswoman Karon Spector, who noted that he too was meeting with constituents in the Pasadena district as much as possible.
While press secretaries spin the best face on their bosses' plans, emphasizing the work and skipping quickly over the play, even Cabinet-level officials in Washington are taking a little R&R to keep their powder dry.
After a military summit at the president's Crawford, Texas, ranch Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld headed to his Taos, N.M., ranch for a few days. Secretary of State Colin Powell decompressed for a spell at an undisclosed mid-Atlantic beach town this month.
But if the need to both work and play is strong, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., may be one of the luckiest members of Congress. His office is on Huntington Beach, moments away from his surfboard and the waves, one of his life passions.
"When you're right in the middle of Huntington Beach, it's hard not to go surfing," said spokesman Aaron Lewis. "But he's also smack dab in the middle of his constituency, and people are constantly popping in and out. He does have a pretty full schedule."
Right now, Rohrabacher is traveling in Russia with Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., and others on what is known as a time-honored "congressional delegation."
They won't be the only ones. After a month of stumping across his home state and campaigning for his friends, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., will be leading a "Codel" to Africa later this month.
Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., is finding that fun is indeed working most of his recess. According to spokeswoman Camden Hubbard, he joined federal labor and forest service officials on the annual Continental Divide Trail Ride, on horseback, which took place this year in Jackson, Wyo.
"A fact-finding mission, but fun too," Hubbard said.
Campbell, who is known for his Harley Davidson-riding ways, has nonetheless stayed close to home and on his own two feet during this recess, said Hubbard, choosing to host policy events and meeting with constituents.
"He's enjoying them, but they all benefit his district," she said.
Then there are those who insist that it is indeed all work and no play. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the only lawmaker who can't leave town to go home to her district because her district is Washington, D.C., keeps her office open and running for meetings with interest groups and constituents, said her spokeswoman Doxie McCoy.
"It's been more relaxed but by no means do we shut down," she said, noting that unlike previous years, there hasn't even been a "day or two" of downtime. "We aren't going anywhere."
The only non-work-related time Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., seems to have spent is with his daughter, driving her out of state to school, over the weekend.
Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-Texas, who like most lawmakers has been caught up driving across the district to meet and greet constituents, got to spend a little time with a school-bound daughter, painting her new apartment outside of Rice University, on the weekend.
Some lawmakers caught in tight election races this year really don't have the luxury of deciding whether or not to get a tan or stump for votes. Others spend a great amount of time not only pitching their own records in "town hall meetings" and "policy summits," but fund-raising for their colleagues and the party.
Greg Crist, spokesman for House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, who is retiring after this term, said his boss has been all over the country campaigning for his friends. "Many people think, 'Well, he's retiring,' and expect him to ease into an easy retirement," Crist said. "He made a commitment that this is going to be his most productive year."
He said the majority leader has been in Iowa, Kansas and California, raising money for state parties and candidates sweating out tight races, like Bill Simon, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in California, who faces a tough run against Democratic incumbent Gray Davis.
Crist said even when Congress and the administration is on recess, there is no way to "get away from it all." Almost every move is made with some sort of political end in mind, he said.
"When the House is on recess, you throttle down, but it doesn't mean you work less. It's still work, but on a different level," he said.