Democratic group way off in comparison of Obama, Congress vacations

President Barack Obama “has taken less vacation days than any other president in a generation,” while Congress “has taken more vacation days than any other Congress in history.”

— Occupy Democrats on Saturday, August 20th, 2016 in a posting on Facebook

When President Barack Obama was vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard and his critics were chastising him for not visiting flood victims in Louisiana, the liberal group Occupy Democrats created a message on their Facebook page trying to contrast Obama’s work record against the Republican Congress.

Below a photograph of Obama are the words, “Has taken less vacation days than any other president in a generation.” Below an image of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan are the words, “Have taken more vacation days than any other Congress in history.”

The introduction to the Aug. 20 image insists, “The numbers don’t lie.” It had been shared 45,470 times by Sept. 6, 2016.

Bad grammar aside (it should be “fewer” vacation days, not “less”), we wanted to know if the data checked out. We repeatedly contacted the group but didn’t hear back.

Presidential vacations

First, it’s important to realize that if you’re only going back a generation (20 years), you’re only comparing Obama to two other presidents — Bill Clinton who took office in 1993 and George W. Bush, who was inaugurated in 2001.

We turned to Mark Knoller, White House correspondent at CBS News, the zen master of data on all things presidential such as vacations, trips, news conferences and even teleprompter use.

He told us via email that Obama has been on 28 vacations (including long weekends) spanning all or part of 217 days. The president has just over four months left in his term.

His predecessor, Bush, made 77 visits to his Texas ranch spanning all or part of 490 days. There were also 11 visits to his parent’s home in Kennebunkport, Maine, spanning all or part of 43 days. Total: 533.

But by Knoller’s count, Clinton took the fewest — 174 days of summer vacations on Martha’s Vineyard and at Jackson Hole, Wyo.

So the first part of the Occupy Democrats post is wrong.

(It’s also worth noting, as Knoller does, that a president never really goes on vacation. The job goes with him.)

Congressional vacations

We didn’t have to go very far back in time to discover that this part of the Occupy Democrats meme is wrong as well.

Defining vacation days for Congress is harder than for a president. After all, when members don’t have to be in Washington for a vote, they may be in their districts, meeting with voters, or attending to official duties. And let’s be real here — they might also be treating it like a vacation.

As of Sept. 6, 2016, the House had been in session 94 days. The Senate had been in session 114 days. We decided to start by looking at House calendars.

This year, the House is scheduled to be in session for another 32 days. That means House members will have been officially working in Washington for a total of about 126 days.

That’s more days on the calendar than in 2008, when House members met for 119 calendar days, and in 2006, when they met for 104 days.

The House looks even less lazy if you look at 2015, the first year of the current Congress. That year, the House met for 157 calendar days, more than in 2014 (137 days), 2012 (153 days), 2010 (128 days), 2008 (199 days) and 2006 (104 days).

Alternatively, we looked at the data in two-year blocks, which would be full sessions of Congress. The current House (the 114th session, 2015-16) has met or is scheduled to meet for 283 days. But in the 109th session (2005-06) it met for 247 days, which is 36 days fewer.

In fact, the current session is slated to have more days than the 105th, 106th, 107th and 108th Congresses as well.

We found the same pattern in the Senate, which has met, or is scheduled to meet, for 156 days this year. It didn’t matter whether we looked at projected days this year or actual days last year. Since 2000, there were at least six years the Senate met fewer times.

And when we combined House and Senate tallies, the current 114th Congress is on track to have officially worked in Washington more days than the 113th, 109th, 108th, 107th and 106th Congresses.

Our ruling

Occupy Democrats says Obama “has taken less vacation days than any other president in a generation,” while Congress “has taken more vacation days than any other Congress in history.”

The post is wrong for Obama. It is ridiculously wrong for Congress.

We rate it Pants on Fire!