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The August Recess

Photo of Vice President Charles Curtis

By tradition and by law, Congress recesses for the month of August. During the Senate's early years, members attempted to adjourn in the spring, before the summer's heat and oppressive humidity overwhelmed them and their small staff. When the Senate moved to its current chamber in 1859, senators were optimistic about its "modern" ventilation system, but they soon found the new system ineffective. Long sessions were plagued by hot and stormy weather. The 1920s brought  "manufactured weather"  to the Senate chamber, but even modern climate control could not cope with the hottest days, forcing 20th-century senators to escape the summer heat. In 1970, finally facing the reality of long sessions, Congress mandated a summer break as part of the Legislative Reorganization Act. Today, the August recess continues to be a regular feature of the Senate schedule--a chance for senators to spend time with family, meet with constituents in their home states, and catch up on summer reading.

 
  

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