House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Thursday morning released the 2012 legislative calendar, which maintains the 2011 schedule of keeping the House in for two or three weeks each month, and allowing members to do “constituent work” one or two weeks per month.
The schedule calls for more weeks in session in the first half of the year, culminating in a busy July and work in the first week of August in preparation for the August recess. The time spent in session then falls off, and the House will only be in for the first week of October, which will give members time to campaign.
The last week in August is designated as both a constituent work week and for the Republican National Convention. The first week in September is similar in that it allows for constituent work and the Democratic National Convention.
In a letter to his House colleagues, Cantor wrote that he believes the 2011 calendar “helped improve the legislative culture of the House.”
“Introduced bills now include constitutional authority statements, commemoratives have been eliminated, and the percentage of bills that have come to the floor under suspension of the rules has dramatically declined from 80 percent last year to 55 percent this year,” he wrote. “Combined, these reforms have helped fulfill the Speaker’s commitment to a more deliberative legislative process.”
By Oct. 14 of this year, Cantor wrote, the House had taken 800 roll call votes, as opposed to 565 roll call votes by the same date last year.
But House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) criticized both the 2011 and 2012 schedules for not allowing more time to get the “basic work” of the House completed.
“We’ve conducted legislative business a mere 111 days this year — nearly equal to the 104 days spent either in recess or in pro forma business,” Hoyer said. “And the schedule has been out of sync with the Senate, making it nearly impossible to coordinate. As a result, this Congress has seen only a small number of bills signed into law.
“I hope that next year, in spite of the lack of days in session, Republicans will put partisanship aside and work with us to address the challenges facing our nation and get Americans back to work.”
Cantor said that the House next year will continue to reserve the morning for committee activities, which means votes would start no earlier than 1 p.m. and end no later than 7 p.m., except in the case of appropriations bills, when votes can extend past 7 p.m.