Brief History: Congressional Recess

Brad Markel / Getty

12/15/98 - Washington, DC. Empty Chamber of House of Representatives.

Health care, appropriations, financial reform, global warming: Congress has a lot of work to do. Starting Aug. 3, lawmakers began to decamp en masse from the nation's capital for a five-week break. What gives?

Despite the name, summer recess is often as much work as it is play: Congress's members must press flesh back home to remind voters of all the good work they've been doing and to raise vital campaign funds. The Legislative Branch has made a tradition of taking August off, going back to the first Congress, in New York City in 1790. Back then, the break lasted until...

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