The 5 Moments of Congressional Recess That Matter So Far

In a five-week break, Congress gets a chance to reconnect and make news outside the Beltway.

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Finding senators to back his plan has been hard to do, but the plan has caught fire at town halls across the country. From Illinois to Oklahoma, congressmen and senators have been forced to engage in tactical discussions with rowdy and disgruntled constituents. In 2010, the tea party members were giving Democrats a hard time for health care. Now, the tables have turned and the GOP is under fire for not going along with Cruz's plan.

4. Lamar Alexander Calls Out the Tea Party: Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., took the opportunity this recess to vent some of his frustrations about the ideologues in his GOP conference. In an op-ed in the Tennessean newspaper, Alexander responded to calls to retire because he is too much of a compromiser in the U.S. Senate. The senator is seeking a third term in 2014.

"I know that if you only have 45 votes and you need 60 senators to get something important done like balancing the budget and fixing the debt, then you have to work with other people — that is, IF you really care about solving the problem, IF you really want to get a result, instead of just making a speech," he wrote.

[MORE: Summer Town Halls Pit GOP Lawmakers Against Tea Party]

It matters because Alexander will face a tea party opponent in the 2014 primary and has faced a lot of criticism by the far right in Tennessee. Polls show Alexander with a comfortable lead against his opponent, but in the past, lawmakers facing tea party challengers chose to move to the right in an attempt to keep their seat. Alexander has chosen instead to respond to the criticisms head-on.

5. It Will End: Perhaps the most significant point of recess is that it is only temporary. All of the glad-handing, stump speeches, fundraisers and town halls will come to an end. In a few weeks, Congress will be back to the grind, facing deadlines to keep the government funded and missing other deadlines all together. In the end, lawmakers will have to emerge from their gerrymandered districts to the halls of the Capitol where they will have to reach across the aisle to convert their legislative promises into meaningful laws.

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