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Yash Gupta
Business School Dean

Yash Gupta

Yash Gupta is Professor and Dean of The Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

Congressmen and women need rest too

Q: With the economy slowing again, scores of nominations awaiting confirmation and major issues such a climate change and immigration unresolved, Congress has left town for its traditional 6-week August recess. Is that smart leadership? At what point should leaders upset well-established routines to signal that business-as-usual is no longer acceptable?

Yes, Congress has a full plate of pressing issues at the moment, but isn't that always the case? The House and the Senate don't have an off-season. If they delayed their vacations until their agendas were light, then they might never get out of Washington.

Being a smart leader includes taking care of your physical and mental health. All of us, whatever our professions, need occasional time to rest, recharge the batteries, and come back to work refreshed and with the energy to tackle our tasks anew. A tired employee is not going to accomplish much of value, whether he or she is an office worker or a member of the United States Congress.

Perhaps the argument could be made that six weeks is excessive, especially when the average American gets only about two weeks of paid vacation per year. Also, with so many Americans unemployed or underemployed, the long break taken by our elected representatives might rub some people the wrong way. But if we urged, only for the sake of appearances, that the six weeks should be cut to five or four weeks, that would seem an arbitrary step at best. Besides, Congress can always be called back to Washington in the case of an urgent matter.

Serving in Congress - serving the people of the United States -- is a special kind of occupation, a calling in many respects, and it involves long hours of studying complex legislation, traveling, providing constituent assistance, and campaigning, among other strenuous activities. Many of these elected officials have the training and skills to make a lot more money in less challenging jobs, so I don't think we should begrudge them their traditional summer break. It's ironic how, in surveys, the American people love to bash the institution of Congress, and yet they always give high marks to their own senators and representatives. We could show these officials our appreciation by letting them enjoy their six-week holiday before they get back to the serious work at hand. Insisting they stay tied to their desks like Bob Cratchit on Christmas Eve wouldn't do them or us any good.

By Yash Gupta

 |  August 16, 2010; 3:36 PM ET
Category:  Congressional leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Recess not only 'thoughtless' but 'irresponsible' | Next: The problem is Congress, not summer recess


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If only they were in Congress to serve the people of the United States. Today's member - either chamber, either side of the aisle - is only interested in photo ops, sound bites and perpetual re-election campaigns.

I do not see Congress willing to lead by example. They could cut back on junkets (excuse me, 'fact finding trips')with staff and family. They could answer constituent correspondence that addresses the issues raised rather than with a form letter, and they could worry more about the 1st, 4th and 5th amendments to the Constitution rather than knee-jerk reactions to the 14th. But they don't.

How about Congress meeting electronically from their states or districts with only a short session of a few weeks here in D.C.? Or would that put a crimp in their campaign fund raising?

Posted by: NoFanofMOPAR | August 17, 2010 7:25 PM
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They are not going home to rest. They are going home to campaign. What good is "leadership" if one cannot continue to be a leader?

Posted by: jrsposter | August 17, 2010 11:53 AM
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I think you missed something. How much time they have had away from Congress already this year. Did you already consider the recesses to other holidays. Do you know how much time they actual spend in Washington D.C. pursuing Congressional work? Get educated before you write your opinion. Hardly the Bob Cratchit personna you would like us to believe.

Posted by: gmt1e6 | August 17, 2010 11:27 AM
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