Dold’s House and Kirk’s Senate Take a Seven-Week Vacation After Doing Nearly Nothing All Year

Capture Congress Watch

By Laurence D. Schiller

The news headlines are dramatic: Shootings in Orlando, Baton Rouge, Portland, and Dallas, coastlines from the Atlantic to the Gulf disappearing as ocean levels rise, towns in Louisiana and Alaska literally having to be abandoned for the same reason, the Zika virus spreading through the US, lead-poisoned water in Flint and in Chicago schools—and Congress takes a seven-week vacation.


Wait, what? Yes, the Senate and House have recessed until after Labor Day, having accomplished hardly anything. Republican 10th District Congressman Bob Dold’s good buddy, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), even recessed the House a day earlier than the Senate.  Just one month after Orlando, two weeks after a dramatic sit-in by Democratic (and only Democratic) lawmakers, and a week after Dallas, Ryan continued to refuse to hold a vote on a commonsense gun bill that would deny access to assault weapons to suspected terrorists.

Meanwhile, Illinois’ Republican Senator Mark Kirk’s friends in the Senate majority continue to refuse to do their constitutional job to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.  Judge Merrick Garland has been waiting for hearings for more than four months, which is unprecedented.  And the Republican Senate majority is playing politics with the need for funds to fight the Zika virus, adding to the Zika funding bill Tea Party-backed amendments that would defund Planned Parenthood and loosen Clean Water Act regulations.

This 114th Congress has been the most unproductive Congress since the American Civil War. Neither chamber managed to pass more than a handful of the 12 annual appropriations bills this year.  The new fiscal year begins October 1, and Congress won’t even be in session again until after Labor Day.

And those appropriations bill the Republican Congress did bring up for a vote were larded with dozens of amendments attacking women’s health, defunding Planned Parenthood, and trying to overturn President Obama’s executive orders or decisions by the Supreme Court. For example, the House recently attached the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015 to a Senate bill called the National Sea Grant Act (S. 764)—a bill that, needless to say, had nothing to do with women’s health. And the Republican-controlled Congress has managed to send to the President only a temporary bill funding the Federal Aviation Administration—the agency that oversees airline safety.

So what about Bob Dold and Mark Kirk? Dold claims—in press releases and TV interviews—to support legislation to curb gun violence. But when Democrats staged a sit-in to try to force the leadership of Dold’s party to move such legislation forward, Dold was nowhere to be found. He’s neither protested his party’s cozy relationship with the NRA nor influenced Republican leaders to heed the people’s overwhelming desire for action. In fact, since the June sit-in, Dold has joined fellow Republicans in no fewer than seven party-line votes that prevented gun safety legislation from coming to the floor. CW2

On the Senate side, despite Mark Kirk’s very public meeting with Judge Garland, Republican Senate leadership stubbornly refuses even to hold hearings on the nominee.

 Dold and Kirk have tried to distance themselves from their party’s deliberately ineffective do-nothing Congress. But they have neither renounced that party nor moved it back toward the center. As longtime members of the Republican Party, which controls both houses of this deplorable Congress, neither Dold nor Kirk can duck responsibility for Congress’ failures.

Dold and Kirk excel at PR, but they’re failures when it comes to governing.  Why would the voters of the 10th District send either one of them back to Washington next year for more of the same?

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