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Congressional Recess Isn't A Cease-Fire; It's A Chance To Reload

Bill O'Leary
The Washington Post via Getty Images

As Congress heads off for its 2013 summer recess, who could blame a citizen for thinking that maybe the slogan above the House dais should be changed from "In God We Trust" to "Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here."

Experts in government like Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann have repeatedly warned that compromise, the lubricant that makes the U.S. system work, has been a missing ingredient in recent Congresses, especially in the House. And there were no signs Friday that anything will be different when Congress returns in September from its five-week break.

Instead, the last vote taken by the GOP-controlled House Friday indicated the kind of fall it's likely to be. The House took its 40th vote to undo President Obama's signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act. The vote on the bill, which would ban the Internal Revenue Service from enforcing Obamacare's individual mandate provision, was a two-fer.

The bill took aim at two subjects anathema to many voters in the Republican base — the same IRS that targeted conservative and other groups, and Obamacare. The bill passed by a 235-185 vote.

But the vote was strictly symbolic. The Democratic-controlled Senate will ignore it, so President Obama doesn't even have to worry about vetoing it. And that won't matter to GOP lawmakers: They'll be able to tell their constituents back in their home districts that they're fighting the good fight nonetheless.

Democrats, meanwhile, will use the recess to claim they are on the side of angels against an obstructionist Republican Party that can only be stopped if Democrats are again given control of the House.

More fights, good or otherwise, are due upon Congress' return from recess. There will be a battle over funding the government past September and another over raising the federal debt ceiling, in which another GOP attempt to defund Obamacare may figure.

If there are any compromises between Democrats and Republicans out there, they're so far over the horizon as to be impossible to see at this point.

The congressional recess, then, is properly seen as a chance to reload. It's not a cease-fire.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.
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