House Majority Leader Eric Cantor released the 2012 House calendar today, and lawmakers will be spending even less time in Washington next year than they did this year.
There are just six scheduled working days in January. Three in August. And five in October. In all, the House of Representatives is scheduled to be in session 109 weekdays next year, and will be in recess 151 weekdays - meaning recess days will outstrip working days by nearly a 3 to 2 margin.
"Six days on the calendar in January? It really makes you wonder about the schedule," remarked House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at her weekly press conference, adding that "particularly at this time when American people are feeling so much pain...at some point you have bring the message home and represent your people, find agreement, we can't do that if everyone is at home."
Republicans shot back that Democrats scheduled even fewer work days - 104 - in 2008.
As the party in power, Republicans control the calendar in the House of Representatives. When they took over, GOP leaders set a loose goal of two weeks on, one week off - giving members the chance to spend extended time back in their districts every third week. This calendar reflects that goal. In fact, there are only two weeks in all of 2012 where House members are slated to be in Washington all five weekdays. And there is no month in which they are scheduled to work more than 14 days.
In a letter to House colleagues, Leader Cantor explained that "the goal of next year's calendar is to create certainty, increase efficiency and productivity in the legislative process, protect committee time, and afford Members the opportunity to gain valuable input from their constituents at home."
On the rare Mondays when the House is scheduled to be in session, votes will be held no earlier than 6:30 p.m., according to the calendar sent to members. Similarly, on Fridays, votes will take place "no later than 3:00 p.m." - to give members plenty of time to catch Friday evening flights back to their districts.
The House typically spends fewer days working in Washington during an election year, because House members - who earn $174,000 a year -- want to spend time campaigning in their districts.
Cantor's office brushed off concerns about the light schedule, noting that since 1990, the House has averaged 112 days in session during the second session of a Congress - just three more days than the 2012 schedule.