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Meaning: A recess is a brief break in a legislative session. Recess does not indicate that business is complete; participants simply have a predetermined amount of time off before restarting the session.

Used in a Sentence: Every August, Congress takes a month-long recess during which Senators and Representatives return to their home states and districts to meet with constituents before finishing the legislative session.

What it really means: The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 stipulated that each August, Congress would take a break not fewer than 30 days long between July 31st and Labor Day. At the time, legislative sessions had become very long — in 1963 an entire year-long session ended with only one three-day weekend for a break.

Congress takes several recesses throughout the session, primarily around federal holidays, but the August break is the only one that is legally required. Prior to the start of the summer recess, Congress passes a concurrent resolution stipulating that the House and Senate are conditionally adjourned until a specific date, usually the week after Labor Day. The resolution allows for their return during the period if necessary.

The break is often used by Members of Congress to return to their districts to campaign, meet with constituents in town hall meetings, and vacation. Democratic and Republican party retreats also often take place during this time period. While Congress is not in session, many staff members remain in Washington to prepare for September.