• August Recess FAQ: How You Continue the Work We Started in D.C – at Home

    Every August, Congress takes a break. Lawmakers go back to their home districts and use this time to reconnect with their constituents. Here we answer your most frequent questions, including why the month of August is so important to what we do as an Academy on the federal level.

    What’s the August Recess?

    It’s a mandated summer break made into law in 1970 by the Legislative Reorganization Act. Lawmakers don’t have to go home, but they can’t stay in D.C.

    Why August?

    Because it’s really hot in D.C. Seriously. Before modern air conditioning, the Senate chamber in particular was considered so unbearable in the summer months lawmakers would rush to finish their July business so they could get out of town. In fact, the August heat was on House Speaker John Nance Garner’s mind in the 1930s when he said, “No good legislation ever comes out of Washington after June.”

    So Congress goes home. Do they really meet with constituents?

    They do! American democracy rewards those who connect with their voters early and often. So while there’s nothing going on in the nation’s capital, there’s a lot of business to be conducted locally.

    How do I set up a meeting?

    You start early. You figure out when you’re available, after your vacations and other obligations, and you work with Academy staff to get on your lawmaker’s calendar in their district office.

    What am I supposed to talk about?

    Daniel J. Briceland, MD, right, the Academy’s senior secretary for advocacy, with Sen. Corey Booker, D-N.J.
    Daniel J. Briceland, MD, right, the Academy’s senior secretary for advocacy, with Sen. Corey Booker, D-N.J., during a chance meeting at the airport.

    It varies from year to year, but the Academy typically identifies several issues that we can expect Congress to mobilize on when they return to Washington, D.C. This year, we’re going to be talking about access to prescription drugs and prior authorization reform.

    Can you help me?

    We can! In fact, the Academy has a grassroots coordinator, Megan Tweed, who can get you started with scheduling, provide talking points and other issue resources, and help walk you through your August recess meeting. You can reach her at mtweed@aao.org.

    What else should I know?

    We can’t overstress how important local meetings are. The relationships you make at home are memorable to both the lawmaker and their staff. You’ll suddenly find yourself a resource for health policy and a sounding board when the office has questions or needs a physician’s perspective.