Congress Breaks for Recess with Plenty of Business Left to Finish

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  August 5, 2013 at 9:35 AM EDT

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., Rep. Keith Ellison, D.-Minn., and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D.-N.Y., leave the Capitol as Congress begins its summer recess Friday. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Morning Line

President Barack Obama turned 52 Sunday, celebrating privately with family and friends at Camp David before returning to a Washington that is as divided as ever.

The nation continues to cast a skeptical eye at its government and its leaders, with voters consistently telling pollsters that Congress is ineffective and failing to meet its basic obligations.

That’s what lawmakers are facing as they spend time at home for five long summer weeks and with so many major fiscal battles awaiting their return.

Before Congress adjourned last week for recess, members worked out an agreement on student loans and the Senate approved a slew of Mr. Obama’s nominees, including Todd Jones at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Samantha Power as ambassador to the United Nations.

Speaker John Boehner told reporters that while it’s not ideal, he wants to see another continuing resolution to temporarily fund the government in lieu of members coming to an agreement on the bigger picture issues. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said on “Fox News Sunday” there is “a great opportunity” this fall for lawmakers to work with the White House on entitlement reform. Still, lawmakers left unfinished any agreement about spending and debt and the farm bill. Not to mention a lack of progress on immigration reform legislation the president had long said he wanted on his desk this summer.

Just as they have for eons, members of the minority party criticized the break as members beat it out of town.

Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, complained the GOP went home “skipping out on the American people for a five-week vacation without lifting a finger to fix the mess they have created,” and “leaving behind a wreck in Washington.”

Mr. Obama will likely offer a similar drumbeat as he keeps up his campaign-style appearances across the country. Tuesday he’ll focus on his plan to help homeowners while speaking in Phoenix before heading to Los Angeles to yuk it up with Jay Leno.

The Washington Post’s Matea Gold writes that just because lawmakers have managed to escape Washington, that does not mean they will be able to avoid interest groups eager to ramp up pressure on an array of pressing issues:

The sophisticated operations aim to drive a political narrative throughout the month, hoping to produce a strong display of voter sentiment that lawmakers will not be able to ignore when they return to Washington after Labor Day. At that point, they will immediately contend with a showdown over the budget, a House debate on immigration reform and the launch of new state health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act.

So this month, the pressure is on. At town hall meetings, lawmakers will face activists calling for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. On walks in local neighborhoods, they could run into gun-control advocates, who plan to blanket key districts with fliers. During visits to the county fair, they are likely to encounter voters demanding defunding of President Obama’s signature health-care law.

The president’s allies are just starting to ramp up efforts to raise awareness of the October enrollment period for Obamacare. Over the weekend, volunteers across the country met with people in their community about the health care law, with varied success.

The NewsHour will be examining Washington’s gridlock over the next few weeks. Tune in.

Editor’s note: For the rest of the summer, the Morning Line will only publish once a week, on Mondays. Visit our home page for news and show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

LINE ITEMS

  • Lawmakers from both parties over the weekend said they agreed with the Obama administration’s decision to close two dozen diplomatic posts across the Middle East and North Africa because of a potential security threat.

  • Former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Sunday that he would be open to running again in 2016. The former Pennsylvania senator will be in Iowa this week for a series of events, including a GOP fundraiser and the Family Leadership Summit.

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Democratic challenger in the 2014 Kentucky Senate race, Alison Lundergan Grimes, traded insults Saturday at the annual Fancy Farm picnic. McConnell took a shot at Grimes’ father, a former state Democratic Party chairman, joking that he made a pitch for the women’s vote by sending Anthony Weiner a check. Grimes went after McConnell’s record of obstruction, saying that if doctors told the Republican he had a kidney stone, he would refuse to pass it.

  • Jonathan Martin of the New York Times finds that there is little support among the country’s Republican governors for shutting down the federal government as part of an effort to block funding for the president’s health care law.

  • Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley told reporters Saturday at the National Governors Association meeting that he is laying the “framework” for a potential 2016 presidential bid.

  • A green car firm connected to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for its visa practices.

  • The wealthy donor at the heart of the probe into Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is cooperating with authorities, the Washington Post reports.

  • Arkansas GOP Rep. Tom Cotton announced last week he will challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor in 2014.

  • Former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s email and Facebook were hacked, and he denies rumors of an affair with a Romanian diplomat who he wrote to.

  • Same-sex couples in Minnesota were able to marry starting last week after the legislature voted to allow them in the spring. The Associated Press covered some of the ceremonies.

  • The Oregonian profiled Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, who revealed that Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

  • The New York Times examines the Huma Abedin-Hillary Clinton relationship.

  • Our partners at Louisiana Public Broadcasting crafted this detailed look at the life of the late Lindy Boggs.

  • Time’s Patrick Witty talks with White House photographer Pete Souza about his decision to join Instagram.

  • BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith will interview New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner next Monday.

  • Christina was on the Melissa Harry-Perry show Saturday, talking about Larry Summers and Congressional dysfunction.

  • The Hill proclaims the 50 Most Beautiful.

  • Catch up on your intern shenanigans.

  • The residents of Dorset, Minn., re-elected their 4-year-old mayor, Robert “Bobby” Tufts, on Sunday.

  • The Atlantic Cities found this excellent interactive map of Brooklyn that shows every building color-coded by its age.

  • Beyoncé proves she is awesome. Again.

  • Someone found a 15 million-year-old whale skull on the banks of the Potomac River.

NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

  • Whistleblowers tell the NewsHour that the National Security Agency collects “word-for-word” every domestic communication.

  • We got two takes on how to curb sexual assault in the military.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand explained her push here:


And Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., gave their take:


  • Sen. John McCain told Gwen Ifill that Sen. Chuck Schumer is Kennedy-esque when it comes to keeping his word and reaching across the aisle. Watch below.


  • Gwen dishes about her summer political reading list.

  • David Brooks and Ruth Marcus analyzed the week’s political news and weighed in on the Pope’s comments about gays.

  • The Solman Scale “U7″ — our more inclusive unemployment metric — ticked down to 16.15 percent, and business correspondent Paul Solman suggests baby boomer retirement may have something to do with it. He dug deeper into July’s unemployment numbers and a potentially slowing recovery on Friday’s broadcast.

  • Do zero-income-tax states know something the rest of us don’t? On the Business Desk, Reagan White House economist Arthur Laffer and Univeristy of Michigan tax economist Joel Slemrod debated the impact of eliminating state income taxes on states’ economic growth.

TOP TWEETS

Katelyn Polantz and Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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