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Washington (CNN) - It didn’t take very long for the House of Representatives to get out of Dodge. Within minutes of passing the debt ceiling legislation Monday night, they adjourned until Sept. 7. The August-plus-a-week-of-September recess has begun. Those members who could still get out of Washington Monday night bolted to Reagan National, Dulles or Baltimore/Washington Airport. The others waited until Tuesday.
Now that the Senate has passed the legislation, the senators are doing the exact same thing – rushing to get out of Washington for five weeks.
Critics will suggest that these members are simply going on vacation at taxpayers’ expense. My own sense is that that the across-the-board criticism is unfair.
Senators and representatives point out – accurately - that they are heading to their districts and states to meet with their constituents and handle local business. They will hold town hall meetings and try to appreciate the pulse of their communities.
The controversy arises when they start taking trips.
Some members will engage in what they call “fact-finding missions,” or what their critics charge are simply “junkets.”
Having covered these trips over the years, I can tell you both sides have a point.
There are missions and junkets.
A fact-finding mission is when a congressional delegation, or CODEL, as they’re called, goes to Iraq or Afghanistan to get an eye-witness account of what’s going on. They meet with troops and local government leaders. These missions often are dangerous and certainly not glamorous.
A junket is when these members go to London, Paris, or some wonderful island in the Caribbean for a conference sponsored by some non-governmental agency or think tank. They stay at beautiful hotels or resorts and can bring their spouses; all expenses are paid.
You get my point.
In any case, for those of us who live in the DC area, this nation’s capital – at least for the next five weeks - won’t be the same without them.
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