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Scott Rigell: Cancel the August Recess

GOP Rep. Scott Rigell is asking leadership to call off the August break so the House can work on spending bills.

“We are in a serious, serious financial condition,” the Virginian told CQ Roll Call on Friday. “And there is this belief that this bumpy, painful path that we’re on is the new normal — that it is acceptable and inevitable. They are neither acceptable nor inevitable, and I reject the premise.”

Although Rigell has not offered any legislation to force the House to stay in session — such a bill or resolution would almost certainly be ignored by leadership — he has communicated this idea, repeatedly, to leadership and the GOP conference.

First he spoke to leaders privately. When, as expected, he didn’t get the answer he wanted, Rigell spoke to the GOP conference at its Tuesday closed-door meeting, having a spirited exchange with Speaker John A. Boehner. When that didn’t work, he went to the House floor.

“It may be House tradition to break, but I submit that it’s not wise,” he said in his floor speech.

Rigell notes that only four of 12 appropriations bills have passed the House chamber, and that only 13 legislative days remain before the fiscal year ends and a continuing resolution would be required to fund the government. (The month of September is expected to have only nine legislative days given week-long recesses around the Sept. 4 start of Rosh Hashanah and during the week of Sept. 23.)

On the House floor, Rigell called a CR “wholly inadequate as a financial vehicle to fund this government.” CR’s have been used more and more in recent years to keep the government funded. However, they most often do not set new spending priorities for government agencies, like regular appropriations bills do, because they are designed to simply continue current priorities.

“Every time we pass a continuing resolution our military reels with uncertainty,” he said. “We have a deep obligation to the young men and women around the world who are keeping this country safe, to use every dollar wisely to ensure that we get the very best equipment and support to each of them.”

Leadership’s response to Rigell was that even if the House did pass all 12 appropriations bills, Congress would still have to wait on the Senate, and that the August break is a tradition — a tradition leadership won’t veer from.

But Rigell said he rejects the idea that the August recess is “calcified in tradition,” and said what the Senate does — or doesn’t do — is their problem.

“If that’s our basic operating premise, then we’re done,” Rigell said.

The Virgina Republican noted that Boehner said he is doing his best to advance appropriations bills, but that a continuing resolution is the likely end.

“Our failure to follow regular order is hurting our country,” Rigell said.

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