After vowing to work five days a week in exchange for one week off every month, the Senate observed its first week of new self-discipline by meeting only four days as it recessed Thursday night for a long Super Bowl weekend.
Moreover, votes on Monday are expected to be delayed until afternoon to accommodate Super Bowl stragglers, including 10 or more Democratic members who are planning a fund-raising trip to San Diego over the weekend.
The three-weeks-on, one-week-off schedule was adopted late last year in response to frustration among senators over their time-wasting schedule. At the time, several senators expressed confidence that the recesses would last longer than the work schedules for Mondays and Fridays, which most senators were always angling to take off.
A Senate Democratic leadership source said the long weekend is possible only because the Senate finished work on a major civil rights bill earlier than expected Thursday evening and was procedurally barred from moving ahead with its next major order of business.
The main point of the new schedule was to get the Senate to do its business in an orderly, expeditious fashion and it worked, the aide said, noting that the lure of longer weekends could serve as a deterrent to foot-dragging.
In any case, the schedule still calls for more five-day work weeks, along with monthly week-long recesses, with the first of them to start at the end of next week.
The Senate did manage to impose some self-discipline as Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) won unanimous consent Tuesday for strict enforcement of a 15-minute limit on roll call votes, one of several proposals made last year by a group of senators who are looking for ways to improve the procedures.
As Byrd began to enforce the rule, several senators missed votes, leading to what one aide described as a "life-threatening stampede" in the subways to the Capitol as bells rang for roll call votes.