Kansas Lawmaker Asks Obama to Call for an Extraordinary Congressional Session

Sen. Jerry Moran says he's ready to get to work fixing the economy. If only President Obama would summon him back to Washington.

The Kansas senator, becoming the latest Republican to call on Obama to call on Congress to return, wrote in a letter to the president Monday that he wants to hammer out a "commonsense plan to grow the American economy and put Americans back to work."

People in Kansas "expect their elected leaders to take responsibility and deliver results, and are deeply disappointed with the ineffectual leadership coming out of Washington," Moran wrote.

So what's holding everybody back? To hear Moran tell it, the president's failure to invoke his constitutional authority to convene Congress at will. But under Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, the president can only convene one or both chambers of Congress "on extraordinary occasions."

The Constitution does not define "extraordinary." It's not clear whether the current climate would count.

Though unemployment is high, it's been high for a long time. And though the nation just suffered its first-ever credit downgrade from Standard & Poor's, two other top rating agencies have affirmed the country's AAA status. And it's not like a new jobs plan would change S&P's mind.

Obama said Monday he doesn't think an emergency session would do much good.

"Some folks were asking me, well, why don't you just call Congress back? And I said, you know, I don't think it's going to make people feel real encouraged if we have Congress come back and all they're doing is arguing again," he said at a Minnesota town hall meeting Monday afternoon. The meeting was his first stop on a three-state, jobs-focused tour through the Midwest.

Obama said lawmakers should instead go to their districts and talk to "ordinary folks" about their frustrations.

Despite recriminations, Congress doesn't need Obama to invoke his constitutional authority to return to Washington. It's not technically out of session. Lawmakers are in "pro forma" session this month, meaning a member of each chamber calls order every few days, but only convenes for a very brief and sparse session in which virtually no business is conducted.