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Steelman calls for Congress to get back in session, offers to drive members back

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 10, 2011 - Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sarah Steelman may be campaigning, but she says it's unseemly for her two rivals already in Congress: U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Wildwood.

Steelman, Missouri's former state treasurer, said the duo -- and their 533 colleagues -- should be back at work in Washington dealing with the nation's economic problems.

"Last Friday our nation's AAA rating was downgraded for the first time in history because of the complete incompetence of Congress," Steelman said in a statement emailed around the state to supporters and the press. "Today we learn that Sen. Claire McCaskill and Congressman Todd Akin are vacationing and throwing $5,000 a plate fundraisers. I could not imagine a more perfectly stated encapsulation of the problem in this nation. Congress should be ashamed."

Actually, McCaskill has been traveling this week to meet with businesses around the state, while a spokesman said Akin -- who also is running for the U.S. Senate -- has been holding tele-town halls this week with constituents. Both did hold major fundraising events Tuesday night.

Steelman said she "was outraged'' by the five-week recess, which she dubbed "a five-week paid vacation."

"Congress has spent us into a $14 trillion hole; unemployment is over 9 percent; our creditworthiness is now ranked behind Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Luxemburg, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, and we still don't even have a budget for this year or next," she said.

"People are fighting to be able to pay their bills, and Congress is on a five-week vacation and out raking in more millions for their campaign accounts. If airfare is a problem, I'll drive them back to Washington myself."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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