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Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014 12:01 am

Do-nothing Congress takes a vacation

 Gosh, has it already been three weeks since Congress took a vacation?

Those poor stiffs must be pooped from trying to catch up on all the heavy lifting that piled up while they were away from their lawmaking duties. And – gosh, again – in just a few days, Congress will go back on vacation, this time for a five-week summer recess. So much to do; so little time.

That’s why GOP Speaker John Boehner is now cracking the whip. He’s spurring his colleagues to pick up the pace and stay focused on his No. 1 national priority – namely, suing the president of the United States. It seems that Obama has had the audacity to try to do something about some of the bubbling crises – immigration, living wage, student loans, etc. – with which Congress (or more specifically the House, or even more specifically Boehner and his Republican stalwarts) has been ignoring, stalling or playing politics. So, of course, the president must be sued to prevent him from ... well, from taking actions to help people.

The speaker’s logic might seem a tad confusing or just plain weird to you, so I’ll let him clarify his meaning: “The legislative branch,” Boehner intoned in a recent op-ed, “has an obligation to defend the rights and responsibilities of the American people.”

Huh?

“Defend” the “responsibilities” of “the American people”? What does that mean? I’m pretty sure that they also have an obligation to help pass legislation, too. And speaking of obligations, doesn’t the top official of the House of Representatives have an obligation to at least try communicating with the people in sensible English sentences?

But then, if your ideas are gobbledygook, your explanations will be, too. He’s wasting legislative time and frittering away taxpayer dollars on a frivolous lawsuit, while refusing to lift a finger for America’s sinking middle class. Just as Nero fiddled while Rome burned, Boehner is suing while Americans fume.

Which is why when I heard that our congress critters are going to take that extended vacation for all of August and part of September, I had two incongruous reactions: Anger ... and then gratitude.

Gratitude, because their vacation gives us a five-week break from the spectacle of right-wing mad dogs in the House yapping, foaming at the mouth and running around in circles. “Kill the minimum wage,” they howl, “repeal Obamacare, deport immigrant children, re-invade Iraq,” and, of course, “impeach Obama”... and yada yada.

Yet, nutty as they are, it’s also infuriating that these pampered politicos feel entitled to such a vacation. It’s another sign of their total disconnect from the hard realities of the workaday majority they’re supposed to serve. EARTH TO CONGRESS CRITTERS: Most American families are being hosed out of the middle class. More and more of your constituents are struggling just to make ends meet, having to work harder and longer for less pay, no benefits and not even two weeks off, much less a five-week getaway.

In the spirit of fairness, though, I should concede that the current do-nothing House has been setting an eight-year performance record in one category of congressional activity: Junkateering. Yes, not only does this bunch love to vacation, but it also tiptoes around the ethics rules so lobbyists can pay for their trips. Not since the sleaze days of pay-to-play uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff have House members taken as many junkets, financed by corporate interests.

Oh, excuse me; they’re called “fact-finding missions,” not junkets. By whatever name, nearly 1,900 of the free trips were enjoyed last year by lawmakers, their spouses and staff – paid for by private entities seeking legislative favors.

Adding to the disgust, House leaders very quietly axed an ethics requirement this year that would require lawmakers to disclose these travel freebies in their personal financial reports. And yet, they wonder why their public approval rating is in the ditch.

Jim Hightower is national radio commentator, columnist and author.

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