When you look at the congressional calendar for 2019, it is difficult not to have mixed feelings. It all depends on whether you subscribe the Founders’ concept of a part-time legislature composed of people from all walks of life or the more modern notion of a full-time legislature composed mostly of lawyers as political professionals.
The one thing that can be factually determined is that our national legislature does not like to hang around Washington too often. According to the 2019 Legislative Calendar, the Republican-led Senate will be in session for 158 days of the year.
The Democrat-led House has reduced their time in Washington to 122 days. This seems surprising since the newly empowered Democrats have been bragging about all the legislative work they have to accomplish – not to mention all those investigations of President Trump.
The Senate will be open for business with 25, five-day work weeks throughout the year. The House will have only one five-day work week for the entire year. The House will have a one-week recess every month, except for April and December, when they will have a two-week recess and June when they will actually be in session for four weeks.
Now get this. The House Democrat leadership says they are “offsetting” that four-week work month in June by extending the August recess from July 27 to September 8. They actually say July 29 to September 6 because they do not count the two weekend days at both ends. In fact, they recess on July 26 and return to work on September 9. There are no sessions for the House in August while the Senate puts in two days at the beginning before joining the House in recess for the remainder of the month.
And do not expect the House members to put in any overtime on the days they are in session. According to the Democrat calendar, there will no longer be any “late-night” votes – except for spending bills. That makes sense when you consider how Democrats love to spend taxpayer money. God forbid that they should go past the clock on matters like immigration reform, healthcare, justice reform or any of the myriad of other issues that impact the lives of we the people.
There is another dirty little secret in the schedule. So that legislators do not have to show up on the first day of a session – and can catch early flights on the last day — the first-day session will not begin until 6:30 p.m. and no votes will be scheduled after 3:00 p.m. on the last day of the session. And since they say that there will be no … none … zero … late-night sessions, you can safely consider the first day and the last day as merely another day of recess. That adds another 60-plus days of recess even as the official schedule shows the members in session – doing the work of the people.
According to Maryland Democrat and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the reduced time in Washington is out of deference to all the new members of Congress. Personally, I do not get it. Is Hoyer suggesting that the newbies are too fragile to handle the pressure of actual governing? In announcing the reduced schedule, Hoyer said:
“As we welcome a large class of new members, many with young families, next year’s schedule is focused on balancing time in Washington with time for Members to conduct work in their districts and spend time with their families.”
Work in their districts? Time with their families? Hoyer seems to have forgotten the most important activities when these legislators are back home – campaigning and fundraising. Because of the strict rules on campaign activities and raising money – which is not allowed on government property — it is very difficult to perform those activities from their offices in the Capitol Hill compound.
Of course, the members of Congress will tell you that being in the district or the home state is part of the job – and indeed it is. But we might be better off if they had jobs other than politics – as the Founders envisioned. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear a congressman say that when he got back to the district, he had to ploy the back-forty or a congresswoman say she had to run her greeting card shop?
Of course, there is that theory that the less time our representatives are in Washington, the better. We have to keep on mind that essentially they perform only two functions – spend our money and restrict our freedoms. There is a reason that the Founders drafted a Constitution that protects our liberties from … an oppressive federal government.
So, there ‘tis