In years past, the onset of the August Recess has been something most lawmakers in Washington cherished. However, this year’s break is shaping up to be one for the record books.
Usually consisting of a much-needed, five-week break from the day-to-day political wrangling of Capitol Hill, the August Recess has traditionally meant “down time” for Members of Congress. Their schedules generally included meetings with constituents, political events throughout the state or district, quality time with family, and town hall meetings during which politicians could rub elbows with supporters and other constituents.
This year, however, some lawmakers may be tempted to start throwing elbows, particularly if the intensity of certain town hall meetings gets any more heated.
Chaos has broken out during a few of these town hall meetings (generally involving Democratic members) where lawmakers have been rudely interrupted in mid-sentence, burned in effigy, and chastised by groups of shouting “constituents.” Whether these outbursts are the work of a well-organized opposition to President Obama’s push for health care, or average citizens’ fear of what reform might do to the level of service they currently receive, the intensity of the debate is real and has reached incendiary proportions at times.
While health care is an issue the SHRM Government Affairs Team (GAT) is closely monitoring, it has developed an advocacy strategy for the August Recess focusing on other HR public policy issues currently before the Congress. Working with a handful of SHRM state councils and chapters across the country, the GAT has targeted key lawmakers for face-to-face meetings with members to discuss the Society’s opposition to federally-mandated paid sick leave, the Employee Free Choice Act, and support for the establishment of a workable alternative to the I-9 employment verification process under current immigration law.
If your state council or chapter is interested in scheduling such a meeting or wish to talk to SHRM staff about these and other HR public policy issues pending in your state or in Congress, please contact Recardo Gibson, SHRM’s Member Advocacy Specialist.