'Scrooge-tivity': Congress Irked by Fiscal Cliff Cutting Into Holidays

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It's not clear when lawmakers will come back to Washington to deal with impending austerity, but it's clear they won't be happy about it.

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While it's not clear exactly when lawmakers will return to Washington, one thing's for sure: Working the week between Christmas and New Year's sure does mess with the qi of this place.

It's almost unheard of that the Hill be open for business during that normally sacrosanct week off. Christmas has acted as a deadline in the past: Think health-care-overhaul vote on Christmas Eve 2009.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver is definitely not happy about the turn of events in Congress. When I told the Democrat from Missouri that I was writing about how Christmas was ruined, he responded, "You're talking to the right person."

"A high level of Scrooge-tivity instead of Nativity is the order of the day here in Washington," he said. "It may in fact be Christmas everywhere around the world except Capitol Hill, and I think we can leave off the first part of it and say on Capitol Hill we're not having Christmas, we're just having a mess."

The aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut, shootings has also left lawmakers on both sides of the aisle wanting -- like many parents and grandparents across the country -- to spend more time with their families around the holidays, Cleaver said.

Many on the Hill have anticipated an unpredictable holiday schedule, so it doesn't come as a total shock that folks will likely be trudging back before the year's end. But it still does sure mess with plans.

Rep. Richard Nugent, R-Fla., said he wasn't "grinchy" about the prospect of returning. But months ago, he planned for his entire family to go on a cruise the week of Christmas, including his three sons in the Army, one of whom is stationed in Germany.

"So what's going to happen is they're going to get to go on a cruise" without Nugent, he said. "While I'm disappointed, this is what I signed up to do. I don't get grumpy about things like that. That's just outside of your control."

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., says it's all just part of the job, but having to come back to Washington post-Christmas would be frustrating given the circumstances. "I don't mind coming back if it'll actually solve our problems before we leave at the end of the year. Right now it looks like we're going to come back and still fail to avoid the fiscal cliff," he said before House Speaker John Boehner's Plan B flopped.

House Rules Chairman David Dreier, who is retiring, was upbeat and somewhat zen about it all. Sure, he isn't happy the country is on the verge of going off the cliff, nor about the lack of tax or entitlement reform. But, "I've always subscribed to the view that I have two choices in life: Either choose to enjoy it or not enjoy it," Dreier said. "I choose to enjoy it. So if I'm going to have to be here, I'm going to do it enjoying it."

He sounds very glass-half-full, if I do say so.

Michael Catalini contributed

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Elahe Izadi covers Capitol Hill for National Journal.

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