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Recess in House just isn't the same

By By SONNY CALLAHAN
U.S. Representative
Many years ago, when I was a small child in elementary school, recess was an important word n a time each day to get out of the classroom and enjoy some fun with my classmates before returning to the grind of multiplication tables, spelling tests, and memorizing important dates in history.
Now that I'm a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, recess is still an important word to me that still means "a break."  However, it now simply means a break from the daily challenges that each member faces on Capitol Hill.
By no means does the work end for representatives and senators when they return to their homes, for they still have meetings to attend, constituents to meet, and important decisions to make that we hope will benefit our respective districts.  In fact, recess is formally known as "district work period."
Working out of the office
Back at the beginning of this month, the president also left Washington for a much-deserved break from our nation's capital.  He will get to spend some time with his family and try to get some rest after seven straight busy months at the White House.
However, he has received a certain amount of criticism from various sectors of the public and members of the media who state that he is "just taking a month off." 
It certainly goes without saying that if there is any one person who cannot "take a month off," it's the president of the United States. 
The president doesn't have the luxury of having his mail stopped for a few days, or of having his neighbors pick up his newspapers, or even of leaving a message on his answering machine stating that he will call back when he gets back in town.
The most powerful person in the free world is on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  He is constantly being advised of events occurring across the country and around the world.  He constantly has decisions to make and is this country's around-the-clock watchdog. 
Basically, this trip to the family ranch in Crawford, Texas, is anything but a vacation. He may be out of Washington, but he's certainly far from being away from work.
Successful seven months
Regardless of whether he is ever truly on vacation, the president more than anyone else deserves some time away from the office. He worked his way through some difficult issues during his first seven months in office and has probably experienced one of the most successful stretches for a first-term president in recent memory.
His accomplishments during the first half of this year have equaled the number of legislative victories that some former presidents took much longer to achieve.
The tax reform bill signed into law earlier this year was a significant enough victory.  However, when coupled with recent successes of his education reform package and the HMO reform legislation passed by the House of Representatives just a few short weeks ago, anyone can see that Mr. Bush came to Washington with his sleeves rolled up and ready to go to work.
Stem cell speech
In a highly anticipated speech last week, the president addressed what has become a very volatile topic with Americans across the country n that of stem cell research.
I don't think any of us can even begin to comprehend the difficulty of the decision he had to make on this issue. 
However, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with his statements regarding this matter, we should all give him credit for making a very thoughtful decision based on scientific information and ethical principles, rather than polling data or special interest pressure.
In just a few short minutes before the American people, the president got right to the heart of an issue that has the potential to significantly impact the future of medical research into many serious diseases and disabilities that thousands of Americans live with on a daily basis.
While he certainly recognizes the scientific and technological importance of this research, the president also has taken into account ethical and religious concerns regarding this issue.
The continued use of federal funding for research on already existing stems, while disallowing funding for research on newly-destroyed embryos or for the cloning or creation of embryos, is a decision that walks the difficult line between the two sides of this debate.
In addition, the creation of a special presidential council to monitor this research and the funding allocated for it shows this is not a decision made and then quickly forgotten. It clearly demonstrates that Mr. Bush's concern for this issue will extend far beyond a 15 minute televised address.
A president has to make extremely difficult decisions on a daily basis. Undoubtedly, this will go down as one of the most difficult that President Bush will have to make, and we can be proud that it was made with concern, thoughtfulness, and with the best interests of all Americans at heart.
Until next week, take care and God Bless.