By Molly K. Hooper - 12/09/10 02:00 AM EST
House Republicans on Wednesday unveiled a 2011 schedule that will keep lawmakers in the nation’s capital for shorter periods of time, allowing them to travel home more frequently.
The schedule represents a major change from how Democrats have run the lower chamber over the last four years.
Incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the new schedule would create “certainty” for members.
House’s first day in the 112th Congress will be Jan. 5, well before
President Obama delivers his State of the Union address. Usually, when
the president’s party controls Congress, there is a relatively light
legislative schedule before that speech.
Republicans in control of the House next year, the plan is to hit the
ground running next month. An exception to their two-weeks-in,
one-week-out rotation will occur in January, when the House will be in
session all month.
Instead of the normal target adjournment
date of Sept. 29 (aimed to coincide with the end of the fiscal year),
Cantor expects the House to be in until Dec. 8. In prior Congresses,
targeted adjournment dates in odd-number years were rarely met and
regularly extended into December.
Intent on winning back
their majority, Democrats will be targeting many Republican freshmen in
the new Congress. Politically, Republicans believe that allowing
members to go home to their districts more will keep them in touch with
the needs of constituents and increase their chances of reelection in
Cantor noted that the House would meet for about the
same number of days as in previous odd-numbered years, but would see
its weeks in session decline from previous years by 11 percent. Cantor
said the schedule will lower member travel expenses, which are paid by
“In total, it contains 123 days and 32 weeks of
session,” Cantor said in a letter to members that was released to the
media. “While the number of days in session is consistent with first
sessions in years past, the number of weeks in session represents an 11
percent drop, resulting in less travel for members and potential
savings to the Member’s Representational Allowance.”
countered Cantor’s announcement by pointing out that the House was in
session for 152 days in 2007 and 148 days in 2009.
be a two-week recess in April, and the August recess will be scaled
back to a little more than four weeks. The House is scheduled to
adjourn Aug. 5 and return Sept. 7.
It is normal for the
incoming majority party to put its imprint on the schedule. After
winning control of the House in 2006, Democrats established five-day
working weeks by scheduling votes Monday through Friday. Democrats
subsequently scaled their workweeks back, especially in the election
years of 2008 and 2010.
Cantor’s intention, as explained in
his “Dear Colleague” letter, is for the House to consider bills for
more time as part of an effort to “stress quality over quantity.”
Republicans also adopted changes to their internal rules for the 112th
Congress at a closed-door meeting on Wednesday. Those changes will make
it more difficult for members to create programs and take votes on
Republicans retained their rule on
limiting chairmen/ranking members to six years, but did not adopt any
term limits for leadership lawmakers.
On days when the House is in session, votes should not occur later than 7 p.m., or 3 p.m. on the last day of the week.
Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said he is glad to “know what’s going on” in
his schedule that will allow for him to make flights home on the last
day of votes each week.
“As long as I can get out here and
make votes, and as long as we get out by a certain time that I can make
my flight home without having to wait until the next morning, then I’m
fine,” Hunter said.
At least one member was concerned that the House is slated to be in business during the week of Memorial Day and July 4.
think [the new schedule] will give us an opportunity to be very
productive. I do have some concerns with coming back on weeks of
holidays. It’s going to make it more difficult. We’re in those weeks of
the holidays, we’re out the week before,” Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa)
said. Latham is a close friend of Speaker-designate John Boehner
Democratic Rep. Lacy Clay (Mo.) was skeptical about being in session so often during January and February.
it’s different as far as the scheduling for January and February.
Normally we are not here that much, but it seems as though the new
majority intends on us doing quite a bit of committee work and quite a
bit of floor votes, so I’ve never been one to shy away from an honest
day’s work,” Clay said.
Transparency was a major theme in Cantor’s announcement.
with the House GOP’s “Pledge to America,” Cantor promised that
legislation would be made available three days before a committee
markup and three days prior to floor consideration.
together, these reforms will allow more time for quality consideration
while increasing the House’s efficiency and guaranteeing the public’s
right to know,” he said.
The House GOP Transition Team’s
recommendation to post internal party rules online was also adopted as
part of the new package to attain the same goal.
leadership staff and members of the GOP Transition Team gathered input
from Republicans and a few Democrats in their effort to amend internal
rules and the legislative calendar.
Cantor told incoming GOP lawmakers on Tuesday of his “Cantor Rule” for the next Congress.
Congress is going to be about cutting spending, reining in government
and reform. … Each day, I wake up with a guiding rule and a few
questions that will help us further our goal of getting people back to
work and returning this country to the land of opportunity,
responsibility and success.
“We must ask ourselves, ‘Are my efforts addressing job creation and the economy? Are they reducing spending? Are they shrinking the size of the federal government while protecting and expanding liberty? If not, why am I doing it? More, why are we doing it?’ ” Cantor said, according to a leadership aide in the room.
This story was updated from an 11 a.m. version