House bill would require five-day workweek for lawmakers

Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) plans to introduce a bill that would require the House and Senate to work five days a week.

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Congress is on a five-week August recess, which prevents Nolan from introducing his bill until the House comes back into session on Sept. 8.

The House and Senate rarely work five days a week in Washington. Each chamber typically is only in session for two full days and two half days per week, and lawmakers often spend the remaining half of the week back home in their districts.

Nolan's bill, which will be formally unveiled when the House returns in September, would enforce "regular order" by requiring all legislation on the floor to be considered under an open amendment process.

Such a process would extend the amount of time needed to consider legislation, but Nolan said his proposal would give all members an opportunity to shape the bills Congress produces, rather than only a few selected party leaders.

"With some exceptions — including our full and open committee debates on the farm bill and the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) — Congress has become a decidedly undemocratic institution where a few leaders make big decisions behind closed doors while the rest of 535 elected representatives of the people wait outside," Nolan said.

Under Nolan's measure, all bills would have to be considered in committee first before reaching the House floor.

Meanwhile, conference reports could not be considered on the House floor unless conference negotiators have met at least three times with all members present and resolved all differences with votes.

Nolan said his bill would largely enforce the House's current standing rules.

"We call it a return to 'Regular Order,' which simply means that the U.S. House will be required to abide by its own standing rules — centering on open, bipartisan debate, up or down votes on amendments, and every member’s opportunity to fully participate in the process," Nolan said. 

Over the past year, Democrats on the House Rules Committee have highlighted that the chamber has approved more closed rules prohibiting floor amendments than in any other session of Congress.

But House Republican leadership has also allowed a multitude of amendments on a variety of legislation, such as regular appropriations bills. The House has considered more than 1,000 amendments since January 2013, according to Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) office.  

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