(CNN)School and Congress are out for the summer, but congressional August recess is actually a relatively recent tradition. Lawmakers are sometimes given a grief for their month-long break from Washington, but there was a time when they disagreed on whether to take a summer break at all.
#TBT: The sweaty slog toward August recess
Until the 20th century, being a member of Congress was a part-time job, requiring only about six months of a member's time. Some people might like to joke that fact is still true today, but in 1963, Congress met for almost an entire calendar year with nothing more than a long weekend. As the sessions creeped into summer, members started to feel the heat.
The District of Columbia is hot in the summer, with temperatures ranging from "broiler" to "literal lava" when swampy humidity is factored in. Take a look at Vice President Charles Curtis in the photo above, sweating it out in 1929, the same year air conditioning came to the Senate. As happens to the best of us, DC's summer heat did not help members live their best lives.
In 1959, Sen. Margaret Chase Smith described "confused thinking, harmful emotions, destructive tempers, unsound and unwise legislation, and ill health" that resulted from being overheated. Politicians: they're just like us.
Another person who was not a fan of DC's swampy summers: Vice President John Nance Garner, who served under FDR in the 1930s. He very famously said, "No good legislation ever comes out of Washington after June."
Things got interesting in the 1960s. According to the Senate, younger members like Sen. Gale McGee lobbied for a summer break while veterans wanted to push through the heat.
The young guns won out in 1970 in the Legislative Reorganization Act, which put August recess on the books. Now, except in times of war:
"Unless otherwise provided by the Congress, the two Houses shall— (1) adjourn sine die not later than July 31 of each year; or (2) in the case of an odd-numbered year, provide, not later than July 31 of such year, by concurrent resolution adopted in each House by rollcall vote, for the adjournment of the two Houses from that Friday in August which occurs at least thirty days before the first Monday in September (Labor Day) of such year to the second day after Labor Day."
The first official August recess occurred in 1971. Even if no good legislation comes out of DC after June, at least lawmakers get a chance to start fresh in the fall.