Monday, December 08, 2008

How Much Do You Work?

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

Here in the U.S.A. most people work a 5-day work week, 50 weeks a year. (Yes, I know, there's a recession and so those numbers may not be static next year). The House of Representatives, when controlled by the Republicans? Not so much.

Steny Hoyer has released the House schedule for next year, The House will be in session for 11 weeks of 5-day sessions, and 18 weeks of 4-day sessions, for the term that starts in January, and adjourns on 30 October.

The Office of the Clerk of the House has a neat table showing the sessions. The list of "days" indicates the total number of days during the stated session dates, and the far right column lists the dates that the House was not in session. The first official break was in December of 1800. As you go through the list, you'll get a sense of when the House was in session, and when they went home. List is here.

It appears that, under recent Republican control, the House didn't meet all that much. In fact, when the Democrats returned to power in 2007, "actually working" was a goal of the new leadership.

For example, in 2006, the House didn't meet in January, and in February met for three days, plus another three where there were no votes before 6:30 p.m. During those dark Bush years, the number of actual working days fell to below 250 (including those "no votes until 6:30" days, hearkening back to when Harry Truman referred to the 80th Congress as "do-nothing".

There are a number of reasons that Congress meets less now than they used to. First, it used to be a real schlep to get to DC: think horses and carriages. You came, you stayed. Eventually, you sent telegrams in lieu of messengers. Now, there is air travel, trains and cars, so it's easier to come and go. "Going home" is important to raise money, meet with constituents, and attend local meetings and events.

Well, it's important if you need to spend a lot of your time on running for re-election over staying in DC to undertake the job to which you were elected.

There is also this, written about the Republican Congress in 2006:

Then there is the strategy of the majority leadership. Getting bills passed, keeping party discipline and satisfying interest groups means folding legislation into a small number of huge omnibus bills, bringing them up with little notice and less debate, structuring the votes around restrictive rules that limit or forbid amendments, and demanding party fealty on the votes that take place by labeling them "procedural." The less time the members spend in hearings, floor debate and generally poking around the Hill, the easier it is for the leaders to get their way without scrutiny or challenge.

We'll see if that still applies in a Democratic Congress paired with a Democratic administration.

How about you?