Snowe Voices Frustration With Congress’ Early Recess Idea

Photograph by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Olympia Snowe in Washington, DC.

Let’s assume Senate Democrats can work with their Republican colleagues to pull off a six-month stopgap measure to keep the federal government operating past Oct. 1. If they kick that can down that road, Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois said party leaders would like to recess by Sept. 21.

And they wouldn’t return until after the Nov. 6 election.

The recess not only allows lawmakers up for re-election to campaign for six weeks on their home turf, it would provide a “cooling-off period,” according to Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat. Lawmakers are waiting until after the election to try to reach a deal on sequestration and on extending the Bush-era tax cuts.

But not everyone is convinced a Sept. 21 recess is a good idea. Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine said Congress has already has wasted valuable time dealing with pressing issues, and leaving D.C. then would just add to the public’s frustration with lawmakers, she said.

With one exception, Snowe said, you have to go back to 1948 to find a time when Congress adjourned so early. “We’ve lost two years. We’ve lost two years in the life of America just stalling, obfuscating, delaying, denying,” said Snowe, who is giving up her seat in this election after 18 years in office. “That’s a tragedy for America. We certainly can do far better.”

Calling the suggestion to adjourn early “unbelievable,” Snowe said her August trip to Europe with fellow lawmakers gave her a glimpse of the front lines of the Euro zone debt crisis. “That’s not a place we want to be,” she said. “We’re ignoring all the warnings, we’re not putting our country in a position to withstand any major event or even minor event” that could create a financial crisis.

Heidi Przybyla and Kathleen Hunter contributed to this post.

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