Rep. Mike Michaud probably thought it was a good idea to sign on to a letter that implored House Speaker John Boehner to end the August recess and bring Congress back to Washington right away to work on the nation’s business.

We’ve got a better idea: Members of Congress should stay out of Washington for a while. The country deserves a break.

Haven’t the House and Senate done enough damage this summer? The tortured process that resulted in what’s usually a routine matter — increasing the debt ceiling — has already resulted in a downgrade in the nation’s creditworthiness according to one rating agency, and has sent consumer confidence and Wall Street into a tailspin.

In its explanation for dropping U.S. treasury bonds to a AA+ rating, Standard & Poor’s cited the apparent dysfunction in Washington.

That reputation would not be helped by letting senators and representatives spend another month pummelling each other in a partisan slugfest.

Conflicts like that may play well on C-SPAN and YouTube, but they just harden irreconcilable positions, and make it harder to ever reach a deal when it’s time to get something done.

Michaud gets credit for wanting to get back to work, but this recess doesn’t have to be a vacation.

The work that he and his colleagues should be doing is getting out among their constituents and listening to their concerns. That means not just making speeches to loyal followers, but making themselves available to a wide range of state residents.

They may just hear that people are less interested in talking points than in results, and would prefer to see progress through compromise than highly principled gridlock.

Maybe a month of this kind of conversation is what members of Congress need to prepare themselves to be more effective when they eventually return and they are tasked with taking action on a variety of issues.

The right kind of break now could mean a lot more work getting done in the long run. Members of Congress should use this time away from Washington wisely.