Steny's schedule

If you like three-day workweeks and would enjoy having more vacation time than you could possibly use, I have the job for you! Become a member of the 110th Congress. Quick!!

There are not many openings right now, but you might consider sending your representative a nice fruit basket with a note that says something subtle, like Resign Now – I’m taking your job!

The 2008 House schedule, recently issued by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), is like one of those top-secret, redacted government documents with pages and pages containing nothing. Hoyer could have saved paper and printing costs, and helped the Capitol Greening project, by simply putting signs on all the Capitol doors announcing: “Closed until further notice!”


Maybe it’s part of a Democratic plan to get gas prices below $3 a gallon. Keep members away, ground Air Pelosi, cancel all those fuel-wasting cross-country airplane trips, and don’t unshackle the Capitol’s doors until oil is selling for $39 a barrel.

With all this time blocked off on the schedule, Congress has a day or so for each of the required spending bills, and a few left over for some of those other essential items — like the recently passed bill to honor the University of Hawaii for its 100 years of commitment to higher education. No disrespect here, but committing to higher education while sipping Mai Tais on Waikiki Beach isn’t what I call hardship duty.

All that is to say, if you have a post office to name, a state cocktail to commemorate or a junior high school wrestling team to honor, you better track down Hoyer and get it on the schedule, pronto.

All the no-vote Mondays and Fridays, district workweeks and retreats in the calendar mean lawmakers will have gobs of free time on their hands; they’ll need new hobbies or to learn how to cook.

But there is a serious point here, and it is this: Hoyer is no amateur political chef, he’s a professional, and he knows the essential ingredients of a presidential year, not to mention an election year for all 435 members of the House. The congressional schedule shows that he was quick to feel the early breezes of change and knows that they could become a gale by Nov. 4.


This election cycle has all the makings of another 1992, when 110 new members blew into town. There isn’t yet a central casting Ross Perot-type character to point up the issue — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is sometimes tapped for that role — but there is evidence that voters are restless and that being an incumbent, Democrat or Republican, could be a kiss of death.

So, from an electoral point of view, it’s time to batten down the Capitol’s hatches and let members stay back in their home districts to slap up the political equivalent of plywood on any exposed areas so they have a chance of surviving the storm to come.

Reform-minded presidential contenders increasingly will be bashing the evil federal city from coast to coast, so Hoyer, who has only just started running the majority and seems to like the job, is doing what he can to make sure he stays in it — letting his caucus members get out of town to keep their voters sweet.

It could be tricky for a 30-year incumbent to hoot and holler at a political rally with his or her party’s reform-minded presidential candidate standing there leading thousands of supporters in a rousing rendition of “Throw the Bums Out!”

I said tricky — not impossible.

Perhaps this anticipated do-as-little-as-possible congressional schedule is the reason why Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) recently sent around a press release bragging about 130 “Key Measures” that Democrats passed their first year on the job — a promises-made, promises-kept sorta thing.

Funny thing, though: The Speaker forgot to include her proud achievement of replacing the GOP’s do-less-than-nothing work schedule with her bona fide, work-like-hell five-day week. I tried to stop by and mention it to her personally, but all the lights are out and the doors are sealed up real tight.

Mills is a staff writer for The Hill.