The new Congress has a lot before it – the regular business of government, which in any case it rarely finishes; debt reduction; tax reform; getting a grip on medical costs; realigning our defense posture to meet new threats; and reviving the economy to meet global competition.
You would think these tasks would be enough to keep Congress working day and night. You would be wrong.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has published the House calendar for this year (MajorityLeader.gov), and using the word “leisurely” is to inflict an injustice on the concept of lassitude. For what comfort it’s worth, no member of Congress will die from overwork this year.
The average American works just over 40 hours a week and 48 to 50 weeks a year.
The House this year – the Senate tends to closely follow suit – plans to work 33 weeks, most of them four-day weeks (there are no five-day weeks on the calendar) for a total of 122 days. This month the House will work one two-day week and two three-day weeks. And the first day and last day of the weeks tend to be half-days to give the lawmakers more travel time.
The House will decompress from its herculean labors by working only eight days in November and eight days in December. That pales in comparison to August when the House plans two days of work before knocking off for the six weeks from Aug. 3 to Sept. 9.
The House leadership likes to describe this downtime as “district work periods” and they are if you count fundraising and getting a running start on the next election as work. Rather inconveniently, the Founding Fathers and the Constitution put the real work of Congress in Washington and assumed the members would show up in the capital to do it and stay there until it was done.