Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 04.30.12
Just Outside Washington


Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go

This could be applied to the men and women in the U.S. House of Representatives. How else to explain Congress' decision to give itself a seven-day recess in honor of Presidents Day. Or a two-week break for Easter and Passover, which was followed two weeks later by a second two-week break.

Congress will work just three days in the entire month of August, which has no official holiday at all. (The Congressional schedule is on-line and it is different for the House and the Senate.)

The 2012 schedule for the House was established in October 2011 by Eric Cantor, the House Majority Whip and schedules 109 legislative days in 2012. Cantor defended the schedule:

    "As with this year, the goal of next year's calendar is to create certainty and productivity in the legislative process, protect committee time and afford members the opportunity to gain valuable input from their constituents at home,"
But that is not all -- a "workday" in Congress is now what we are used to. On Mondays they start "work" at 2 PM; Tuesdays noob or 2 PM if there was no business on Monday; Noon on Wednesday and Thursday; and 9 AM on all other days. That leaves Friday! Even though it is a "workday" many members of Congress do not show up until Tuesday and leave Thursday night.

Generally, Congress doesn't work on the weekend or late on any of the days stated above unless absolutely necessary. And when they do it makes headline news.

For all this hard work, members of Congress are being paid $174,000 a year. On top of this there the benefits including: health care, personal staff allowances, expense allowance, free postage to mail in the US, domestic travel, foreign travel, and retirement benefits

Today is a tough day in the House; there are 10 committee meetings. On the floor, as far as I can tell, they are just milling around. Maybe you can see a higher purpose to today's floor activity:

But then there is fund raising, surely that must be counted as "work"?