What do we call that time between Independence Day and Labor Day — when everyone has work to do but is also desperately trying to expedite it so they can head to the beach, mountains, lakes or just a quiet spot? Let’s call it “Deep Summer.” As Congress looks to wrap up its legislative work period and head back to the states for primaries, constituent meetings and some R and R, that’s when things always get hectic.
So in the spirit of “Deep Summer,” Political Theater surveys how some of our own offerings of late, and some of our colleagues’, vibe with this unique time of year.
Must be nice
Have you found yourself wondering what it be like to be a schoolkid again, with long, extended summer breaks to look forward to? Well, don’t forget that Supreme Court justices also take a nice, long three-month break, with retreats to Italy and other summery climes. CQ Roll Call Legal Affairs Editor Todd Ruger and I discussed the charmed, extended breaks enjoyed by the people in robes.
Another summertime tradition — movies! And while “Thor: Love and Thunder“ was great, filmmakers Betsy West and Julie Cohen came on the podcast to discuss their latest film, about a real-life superhero: former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who survived a bullet wound to the head to become an advocate for gun safety and recently was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Or, if the ’70s are more your thing, this summer marked the 50th anniversary of the break-in at the Watergate, the dirty tricks episode that eventually brought down the presidency of Richard M. Nixon. Directors Anne Alvergue and Debra McClutchy stopped by to discuss their documentary about Martha Mitchell, one of the scandal’s most influential, and overlooked, characters.
Let’s not forget one of the breakout shows of the summer, a spinoff of the Trump Show with its own narrative and cast of characters: the hearings (some of them in prime time!) of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. Editor-at-Large John T. Bennett, who covered the Trump White House from soup to nuts, discussed just how thin the walls are in the executive mansion.
Feel the need for something lighter? How about Adam Conover’s brand of docu-comedy, which he plies in his new series about things you might not know about how government works, “The G Word with Adam Conover.” He was kind enough to chat about the series around Memorial Day.
Thursday night’s Congressional Baseball Game, traditionally played earlier in the summer, comes at the last available time when both chambers are in session before their big break. The House is scheduled to start its “Deep Summer” recess at the end of this week (although members might be back briefly sometime in August to vote on a budget reconciliation package). The Senate is looking to wrap up next week, assuming it can get enough senators out of COVID-19 isolation to vote on that same reconciliation package.
It will be the swan song for many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, with retirements and primary losses already thinning the roster that will be available next year. For instance, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, long a stalwart of the GOP team, is one of those retirees. On the Democratic side, Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado is retiring. CQ Roll Call Elections Analyst Nathan L. Gonzales, a friend of the podcast, breaks down who definitely will not be back and who, depending on how they fare in competitive races, also might be pulling on their congressional jerseys for the final time.
Another big “Deep Summer” in Washington tradition? Softball leagues, particularly those pitting congressional offices against one another. And you never know when one of your teammates on those teams will end up in Congress themselves. In our most recent Staffer News edition of Roll Call, Jackie Wang talked to Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota, who spent the summer of 1989 interning for Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., and played on the office’s softball team. Not only is he a member of Congress, he’s also on the Democratic roster for the Congressional Baseball Game, as a self-described “below average baseball player and an average softball player.”
To the grotto
Speaking of summer and ways to avoid the heat, our former colleague Katherine Tully-McManus, now at Politico, recently shared a Roll Call Undercover Capitol video we teamed up on a few years back about the Senate-side Summerhouse, also known as the grotto, which Frederick Law Olmsted designed to be a respite for the Capitol community. It’s been under repair for a while now, but once it opens, avail yourselves.
A hit and a miss
Things can get kind of heated in Congress. People come to fight for their beliefs, for their constituents, for what they think is right, and sometimes tensions spill over in public. Also: Sometimes they just say dumb things. Or funny things. Or things that make no sense. Our own Chris Hale puts together the best (and worst) of the utterances of members of Congress each week in “Congressional Hits and Misses.” And if you see one compilation of the many aphorisms of Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, make it this one.