A Five-Day Work Week for Congress?
A Five-Day Work Week for Congress?
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the incoming House majority leader, says the the 110th Congress will work a five-day week. Not all of its members think that's a practical idea.
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A lot of things are set to change next month when Democrats take over Congress for the first time in a dozen years. For a start, lawmakers may spend more time in Washington, D.C. Recently, the legislative work week has started on Tuesday night and ended on Thursday afternoon. Now, believe it or not, the idea of lawmakers working Monday through Friday has touched off a debate of its own.
Here's NPR's Julia Rovner.
JULIA ROVNER: Incoming House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer broke the news about the schedule in a meeting with reporters on Wednesday.
Representative STENY HOYER (Democrat, Maryland): Mostly, she asked will we be working on Monday. We'll come in Monday at 6:30 and be working on Friday as we used to do until about 2:00 o'clock in the afternoon, to give people time that they can get home, particularly those in the West Coast.
ROVNER: Now, that's 6:30 p.m. on Mondays, not 6:30 a.m. Some members would still have pretty long weekends, which they mostly spend in their district offices or otherwise meeting constituents. But even one more day in Washington ought to make a difference, as Hoyer explained later.
Representative HOYER: You cannot do the people's business essentially working two days a week.
ROVNER: After all, committees need time to hold hearings and amend bills, and floor votes need to be scheduled. Still, not everyone thinks the change is a good idea.
Representative JACK KINGSTON (Republican, Georgia): To say Congress is only working when they're in Washington is absolutely disingenuous.
ROVNER: Jack Kingston is a Republican congressman from Georgia.
Rep. KINGSTON: When I'm back home, I'm listening, I'm learning, I'm going to schools, I'm meeting with veteran's groups. I'm meeting with people who don't have lobbyists, people who can't afford to come to Washington, D.C., and frankly, I get better unfiltered information from them than I do from the Washington establishment inside the Beltway crowd.
ROVNER: Kingston says the 109th Congress's problem was not a lack of time spent in Washington.
Rep. KINGSTON: We did not have a productive term as Republicans the last year because we didn't make the time count when we were in town. We were here naming bridges and doing silly things, and we should have, as we have in the last 10 or 15 years, been passing the immigration reform and Social Security reform and death tax relief. Substantive issues.
ROVNER: There's another change some Democrats are hoping for. They want the new House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to ban smoking in the speaker's lobby, the ornate waiting room just off the House floor. California Democrat Henry Waxman has been urging this for years.
Representative HENRY WAXMAN (Democrat, California): In order to make some good old congressman happy that they can light up their cigars and cigarettes, it means everybody else has to jeopardize their health and take the risk of cancer and heart disease from secondhand tobacco smoke. I think that's absurd. It ought to be changed.
ROVNER: Pelosi, however, has ducked questions about the issue, a sensitive political subject, given that her Republican counterpart, leader John Boehner, is a well-known chain smoker.
Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington.
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