House lawmakers are scheduled to meet for 126 days in 2013, a slight increase from this year, but in line with the Republican strategy of giving lawmakers extended periods to spend back home.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) released the schedule for the first session of the 113th Congress on Friday. The Senate has not yet announced its 2013 schedule, but if history is any guide, senators will generally be in session for four-week stretches between recesses.
As with both sessions of the 112th Congress, the House will keep with a two-weeks-on, one-week-off plan that was a boon for the 89 GOP freshmen lawmakers who sought reelection this year. Democrats regularly bemoaned the schedule, arguing that lawmakers should have been spending more time in Washington working to address the nation’s struggling economy and that the time spent away from the Capitol contributed to the rancorous, partisan nature of most debates.
But Cantor said Friday that lawmakers need the time back home for what his office has dubbed “district work periods.”
“Time spent in the district between Monday and Friday is essential for meeting with small businesses, employees, seniors, veterans and other local communities during working hours,” Cantor said in a message announcing the schedule. “We will continue to accommodate Members with longer distances to travel home and provide at least one constituent work week each month, with the exception of June.”
Indeed, June 2013 will be the House’s busiest month, with a whopping 16 days scheduled for legislative work in Washington. Lawmakers will meet for 14 days in July and October, 12 days in the months of March, April and May and nine days next September.
The House officially convenes for the 113th Congress on Jan. 3, when new members will be sworn in. But there are only eight days of legislative business on the calendar in January and 11 days in February.
As the holidays approach next year, the House will convene for eight days each in November and December. Keeping with tradition, there will be two days of official business at the start of August, then lawmakers will leave for their summer recess.
The 126 days on the 2013 calendar is up from 107 scheduled for this year (a number that may increase as the edge of the “fiscal cliff” nears).
The Senate operates on a slightly different schedule, essentially holding about one week-long break each month, usually around religious or federal holidays. The presumption is that senators will meet for at least a part of any other weekday not listed on its official list of days off.
The Senate plans to reconvene Jan. 3 and break only Jan. 21 for Inauguration Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
In February, senators will take a week-long break for Presidents’ Day and a week-long break in late March and early April to observe Passover and Easter. May is scheduled to be a lighter month for senators, who will enjoy part of a “State Work Period” at the beginning of the month and around Memorial Day.
The Senate is scheduled to be in session for all of June, then break for a week to observe Independence Day in early July. The month-long Senate summer recess begins Aug. 5, and they will return Sept. 6, after Rosh Hashanah. There will be no meetings Sept. 14 for Yom Kippur. Finally, senators will have a week-long break in mid-October for Columbus Day and a three-day Veterans Day weekend in November.
View the full 2013 House calendar here or below:
Cantor said that mornings will continue to be reserved for committee meetings, with floor votes primarily scheduled in the afternoons. And to ensure that lawmakers can quickly leave Washington as a session ends (usually on Fridays), final votes will be held no later than 3 p.m.
“Combined, these reforms have brought increased predictability to Members’ schedules and efficiency to the committees and floor,” Cantor added.
But is it too much or too little time spent in Washington? The comments section awaits your thoughts.
This post has been updated since it was first published.
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