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House, Senate May Leave Town a Week Early

Updated: 2:17 p.m.

House and Senate Democratic leaders are seriously considering adjourning a week earlier than planned — at the end of the month — to allow their vulnerable Members more time to campaign, several aides told Roll Call.

Congress is set to come back to work next week; it had been scheduled to adjourn Oct. 8. But with their majorities at stake and little on the calendar for the next work period, Democrats now believe their time may be better spent at home.

Senate Democratic aides acknowledged Friday that talk of cutting the planned four-week work period short is growing, and senior House aides said they don’t see any reason to keep Members in town if the Senate cannot get much accomplished beyond a small-business bill and a continuing resolution keeping the government operating past the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year.

That CR must be passed by the end of September, and once it’s done, Democrats said, there’s nothing that cannot wait until a post-election, lame-duck session.

The Senate has identified three issues it must tackle during the next work period: tax cuts, the small-business bill and the CR.

“It sort of depends on are we really going to be able to get anything done?” one Senate aide said. “If the assumption is no, then why should we be here so long?”

The aide said that leadership has started discussing the idea but needs to confer with Senators once they return next week. There’s also the possibility that some Members may not come back unless they are really needed for a particular vote, the aide said.

One senior House aide said there’s always a desire to rush to the exits in election years.

“No matter the side, no matter the climate, Members this time of year want to be home fighting their campaign. It’s called good politics.”

Another senior Democratic aide said House Democrats were prepared to go home early and blame Senate Republicans for blocking legislation.

But another House Democratic leadership aide dismissed the notion that Democrats would head out before Oct. 8, the target adjournment date. And Regan Lachapelle, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said, “We still have a lot to accomplish and the Senate is still planning on being in session through the beginning of October.”

Several lobbyists said that while no decision has been made, they’ve been told by Democratic and Republican staffers that they expect Congress to adjourn at the end of the month.

“I think leadership is in knots deciding what they want to do,” a Democratic lobbyist said.

“It’s a phantom supermajority right now,” another Democratic lobbyist said. “You don’t have an overwhelming majority in the caucus that’s in agreement in the direction we ought to be going. Members are going to stay true to their survival instinct at this point. It doesn’t lend itself to party unity going forward.”

Anna Palmer and Kate Hunter contributed to this report.

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