While thousands of people poured out of Washington DC’s metro stations Tuesday morning to return to work after the holiday weekend, the halls of Congress remained empty and quiet.
Lawmakers were last at work on July 15 (with many of them gone the day before) and did not return until after 2:00 PM Tuesday, which shocked some visitors to the region, including Crystal Tapanot from France.
“We have a lot of vacation for our kids and for school but not for Congressmen,” she said.
Lynette Craig, with DC Families for Gun Safety had set up an exhibit outside the Capitol and said there have been 2,391 gun violence deaths in the United States since lawmakers left town on July 15.
“I think if they could get more done while they were here it wouldn’t seem so long,” Craig said.
A recent Gallup poll showed just 18% of Americans approve of the job congress is doing. While that was an increase from July, the rating that has remained under 20% for years.
Georgetown University Government Affairs Institute’s Laura Blessing said while lawmakers do work hard, they have too many other pressures.
“If you define a thing by that which it does, I’m not sure that legislators is the most descriptive term for members of congress - campaigners fundraisers communicators, yes, she added.
Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Virginia) said Congress should be focused on just two things.
“We have to fund the government because we run out of money on Oct 1. And secondly we’ve got to address the Zika crisis.”
Asked whether or not they would deliver he responded, “if you’ve got 4 weeks and you’ve got two priorities, even Congress should be able to handle that.”