112th Congress to spend more time in home districts

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Following the recommendations from Utah’s Rep Rob Bishop, incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor released the new and improved schedule for the 112th Congress, which convenes in January.

Until now, the schedule has been a bizarre “consolidation” during which the only full day Members are guaranteed to be in town is Wednesday. Committee meetings? Wednesday. Floor votes? Wednesday. (Along with at least part of Tuesday and usually Thursday.) Meet with constituents in DC? Wednesday. Get information from lobbyists? Wednesday. And fundraising events? Yep. That’s Wednesday too.

What that schedule has meant is that committee meetings are only regularly attended by the Chair, the Ranking Member and a bunch of staffers. Even then, the meeting might get interrupted or cut short by the ring of the bell calling for a vote on the Floor. Being in DC from Tuesday to Thursday each week frequently means that more time is spent in the air than on the Floor. Very little time is left to actually attend events or meet with people in the home district.

The 2011 calendar was drafted with 4 goals in mind:
1. Certainty for members, their families, their staff and the public.
2. Increasing efficiency and productivity
3. Protecting Committee Time
4. Listening to the American people

Over the last 10 years, the House schedule has been unpredictable, frequently adding or canceling voting days, scheduling unexpected late night votes, and giving Members little notice of changes. That has created a fair amount of difficulty in planning for all concerned. However, the entire 2011 calendar is now set. Voting will begin at 6:30 pm the first day of the week and end by 3 pm the last day of the week.

During the 110th Congress, the House considered 2,185 bills on the floor. A full 70% of were debated on the suspension calendar, meaning they suspended the rules for the normal process and passed them quickly. This past year, during the 111th Congress, more than half of all suspension bills named a post office or building, congratulated an individual or team, or supported the designation of a particular day, week, or month. What a waste.

The Majority Leader-elect said the goal for this Congress is to “stress quality over quantity.” He’s apparently been listening to Congressman Chaffetz as well, since Cantor is determined to eliminate congratulatory resolutions and significantly reduce the proportion of time spent on post office namings.

Cantor is also creating “protected committee time” where bills can actually be heard and debated by the members of Congress and not just their staff. More and better quality committee time will enable Congress to better perform its oversight function. Rep. Darrell Issa, incoming chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Panel, criticized the 111th Congress for “the emergence of a large accountability gap” during which comparatively few oversight hearings were held. In addition to doing a better job with committee work, Cantor said that as a body, “we will hold ourselves accountable in conducting meaningful and deliberative work by posting committee attendance and votes online.”

Finally, Representative Cantor has responded to the clear message sent last month by the American people. Among other things, members of Congress need to do a better job of staying in touch with their constituents. To that end, the new schedule will include a guaranteed monthly five-day work week in the home district. That time is meant to be used to meet with constituents and work on district issues. The increased availability will undoubtedly be well-received by the many individuals and groups who want to talk with their Rep and have not been able to squeeze in an appointment.

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7 Responses to “112th Congress to spend more time in home districts”

  1. rmwarnick Says:

    Holly–

    Any comment on the McConnell-Obama tax cuts for the rich? The Tea Party Patriots are calling Congress right now to oppose the deal.

  2. Ronald D. Hunt Says:

    Really, the $12.50 a week tax cut pittance they proposing for the middle class itself with cost $3 trillion to the deficit and they can’t pass that without another $1 trillion in cuts for the upper brackets.

    They can keep the money I would rather a balanced budget, more extensions to unemployment insurance, maybe a bit more stimulus for infrastructure we could use a transcontinental high speed rail road and a smart super grid, and more state aid.

  3. Pops Says:

    How about we keep more of our money and they balance the budget by cutting spending.

    PS “Not raising taxes” is not the same thing as “tax cut”.

  4. rmwarnick Says:

    When a tax cut expires according to law, instituting a new tax cut in its place is called a tax cut.

    Of course, the Obama administration is calling for another round of Bush tax cuts (plus a bunch of other Republican gifts to the richest Americans) and calling it a “stimulus,” which it’s not. Not if the last decade is any indication. Bush had the worst job creation record since Herbert Hoover.

  5. Pops Says:

    So if the tax cuts are allowed to expire, we all get to pay higher taxes but it isn’t really a tax increase. If they are extended, we pay the same taxes, but it’s a tax cut.

    It’s no wonder we’re in the financial mess we’re in with that kind of accounting…

  6. Ronald D. Hunt Says:

    “How about we keep more of our money and they balance the budget by cutting spending.”

    Even if you find the $450~ billion per year to cut out of the budget, we still have a $12 trillion dollar bush debt to pay for and a 2$ trillion dollar Obama debt to pay for. meaning we still need to end the tax holiday to pay down the debt.

    Really we need to make some cuts already, the $725 billion dollar defense budget is utterly out of hand we could certainly cut that in half, Obama is proposing a government computer systems and datacenter reform that will save $100 billion per year, some reform to the internal governance of government agencies could save us another $20-30 billion per year, a public health care option would save us another $150 billion over 10 years while at the same time proving medicares long term viability by another 10 years at the same time, folding medicaid into medicare and lifting that cost from the states would save $50 billion per year in aggregate tho it would cost the federal government more.

    But even with all of that it will still take 10-15 years to pay down the debt.

  7. Pops Says:

    …$12 trillion dollar bush debt to pay for…

    Silly math prevails again, I see.

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