As Republicans left town for August recess Friday, they talked about what they've been talking about all week: Anything but the impending budget showdown set to take place this fall.
The Republican-controlled House focused this week on a series of messaging bills which stand little chance in the Senate but nonetheless provide talking points for members of Congress who will spend the next month conferring with constituents.
At the final press conference before members of Congress returned to their districts, Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., decried the federal government for making the lives of ordinary Americans more difficult; Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., said that the IRS had lost the confidence and trust of the American people; and Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., criticized the government for too-high taxes and too-dense regulations.
"We are hopeful that the Senate will take action," McMorris Rodgers said.
A brief back-and-forth with the press foreshadowed Republican messaging over the next month — and with it a tone sure to influence the coming showdown over budgets and how to fund the government beyond the fall.
Asked about how difficult it would be to cobble together a compromise that could appease now-divided House Republicans, considering that the House pulled a transportation appropriations bill off the floor this week, lawmakers pointed fingers of blame to the Senate.
"We had a lot on our plates this week," McMorris Rodgers said. "We need the Senate to act, we need the Senate to start working on their appropriations bills."
The president also was blamed.
"There's nothing phonier than the words that have come out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. ... He's not a uniter, he's a divider. He divides us on race, he divides us on income. He picks winners and losers," Kelly said.
And charges of Republican obstructionism were preemptively rebutted.
"If I can stop this great country from unraveling, then I want to be an obstructionist," Kelly said. "If that puts a target on my back for re-election, then put the target there. In fact, put it on my front too."
Still missing, however, was an explanation of how a divided Republican Party and a divided Congress would be able to negotiate a solution satisfactory to Republicans and Democrats, House members and senators.
And this fact portends a divisive fall packed with late-night negotiating sessions and frenzied finger pointing.
The House and Senate return Sept. 9.