CEDAR RAPIDS – Like about a million Iowans, members of the state’s congressional delegation plan to visit the State Fair, but their summer vacations won’t be all fun and games.
“I think I’ve got all of two days when I’m not doing my congressional job or campaigning or some combination of the two,” said 2nd District Rep. Dave Loebsack, an Iowa City Democrat running for a fourth term.
Like Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and Democrat Sen. Tom Harkin, Loebsack and 1st District Rep. Bruce Braley will be sampling the State Fair. There they will be serving up pork in the Iowa Pork Producers’ tent at the fairgrounds, taking a turn on the Des Moines Register’s soap box and, as Harkin said, “taking in the scenes.”
One of the original intents of Congress in scheduling an August recess was to escape Washington’s summer heat. Loebsack, a former meteorology major, thinks – hopes — they may get a break starting Sunday.
However, the heat and its companion drought likely will be a topic of discussion wherever the congressmen go.
Harkin, the senior member and former chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has scheduled a drought recovery meeting Aug. 6 at Maple Long Farms near Keokuk.
Grassley expects the drought to come up during at least some of the 21 town halls meetings he has scheduled to complete his annual 99-county tour.
Braley also will be talking about the drought’s impact on farmers and reaching out to congressional colleagues to build support for his discharge petition to force House leadership to bring the 2012 Farm Bill to the floor for a vote.
“And I’ll talk to Iowans about what’s on their minds, what things they think need to be done to improve the economy and put people back to work,” said Braley, a Waterloo Democrat.
That’s an important aspect of the extended district work session, Loebsack said.
“It’s an opportunity to hear from folks about what they think I should be doing,” he said. “It’s an opportunity know what’s going on outside of the ‘D.C. bubble.’”
Another reason for the August recess, which Congress formalized in 1970, was to give senators an opportunity “to spend time with family, meet with constituents in their home states, and catch up on summer reading.”
None of Eastern Iowa’s congressmen mentioned reading, but they are planning family time.
“There are five days that my wife and I have nothing scheduled,” Grassley said. “I don’t know what we’re going to do. I don’t care if we don’t do anything, but she always thinks we ought to do things.”
Harkin will travel to Brussels, Belgium, to participate in the Aspen Institute congressional conference on economic development and national security issues facing the U.S., Europe, and Russia.
Then it’s back to Iowa for more meetings and “I may even take a couple of days off,” he said.
Braley also is looking forward to “spending August in my home” and reconnecting with his wife, Carolyn, and their three children.
There’ll be no rest for Loebsack, however.
“No. None at all. There’s no time,” he replied when asked about a vacation.