Is anyone in Washington minding the store?

As gas prices spike and confidence in the economy plummets, Americans looking to Washington for help would find no one is minding the store, reports CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes.

After barely averting a government shutdown, Congress is taking a two-week break, even though the nation is about to hit its debt ceiling and the Senate has failed to produce a budget for the second year in a row.

"This is the most dysfunctional place I've been a part of in my life," said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

Ten senators left for China along with their spouses and military escorts. Their taxpayer-funded 10-day trip includes meetings with Chinese leaders and a quick side trip to gambling Mecca Macao, home to several casinos operated by companies in Democratic leader Harry Reid's home state of Nevada.

Four more senators, including Republican leader Mitch McConnell are traveling through South Korea, India and Afghanistan.

"No one would run an organization like this. If the board of directors of a large company that's going broke took off for a trip to China for two weeks, the shareholders would be outraged and they'd demand that they all be replaced," said Tom Schatz, the president of Citizens Against Government Waste.

A glimpse at the Congressional calendar shows why it has been so hard for members to get things done. Of the 78 weekdays since January, the House has been in session only 44 days. The Senate - only 40 days. There's been an attendance rating just over 50 percent.

It hasn't gone unnoticed. Americans' approval of Congress plunged to 16 percent in the latest CBS News poll - down five points in just one month.

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The president has also been out of town, raising millions for reelection in California. He did direct the Justice Department to target fraud in gas pricing. But oil experts say it's just a gesture unlikely to make much of a difference.

"I see him kind of hitting around the edges with this manipulation fraud task force, again, we're glad he's doing it, but it's not going to be enough," said Tyler Slocum, with Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group.

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Members of Congress insist they need to take all these days off so they can spend more time in their home districts. It's going to be tough for them to come up with a compromise on the deficit if they are so rarely here to negotiate.

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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.