August recess is the sacrosanct break in the congressional schedule that allows members to spend time with their constituents and take a vacation - whether deserved or not. With the downgrade in the U.S. credit rating and the stock market in turmoil, some rank-and-file members think it makes sense to break with tradition and bring Congress back.
Rep. Jack Kingston wants his colleagues in the House to reconvene, but only to take up necessary budget reforms.
"We have to come back to town with a real purpose," he told The Washington Times in an interview. "If the speaker said, 'We're going to vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment. I'm going to renegotiate with the president and urge the Senate to take up Cut, Cap and Balance,' that would be a strong signal to the markets."
Mr. Kingston recommends debate on "all ideas out there," including the Gang of Six proposals and his own bill which would limit total federal spending to 18 percent of the gross domestic product, enforced by across-the-board cuts if Congress fails to keep spending within the limit. Thanks to President Obama's spending spree, outlays are now 25 percent of GDP with the debt nearing 100 percent of GDP.
The Georgia Republican is one of a handful of members who voted against the debt-ceiling bill last week because it didn't go far enough. "The market and S&P and the economy in general have rejected that Aug. 2 deal," he said.
Mr. Kingston wants the new joint select committee to start right away to cut spending, instead of waiting until September to meet and until Nov. 23 to produce a result. "Let's move up the entire calendar by one month," he said. "Not only would the markets say, 'these guys are serious,' but the results could happen sooner."
The 10-term member foresees a disaster if the usual procrastination is allowed to set in. "I fear that we're going to have on Oct. 1 a big continuing resolution, omnibus meltdown again that will lead to a repeat of the pre-Aug. 2 hysteria," he said. "It's a bad atmosphere to do that."
On the Democratic side of the aisle, four moderate Blue Dogs wrote a letter to House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco Democrat, asking them to call the House of Representatives back to Washington.
"Our fiscal and jobs situation is dire and both deserve the full and immediate attention of Congress," they wrote. "We can't afford to wait until September to get back to work."
Liberal Rep. Charlie Rangel called on Mr. Obama to recall Congress, although the president has no constitutional authority to do so. The New York Democrat is, however, less interested in action than appearance. "Even if we don't do anything, the president should call us back," he told MSNBC.
Of course, whenever politicians are in D.C., their tendency is to expand the size and scope of government. These are extraordinary times, and it's time for a show of leadership. The Republican House majority needs to show it's serious about cutting spending by passing real reform legislation, and this must include entitlements.
Let the Senate Democrats explain why they won't do what the markets and the public demand.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.
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