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Congress in Session Only 109 Days in 2006
Times Union
December 11, 2006

We would hardly presume to know the musical tastes of members of the Congress, but these days we venture a guess that more than a few of them are relating to Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" as never before.

It's a song of the working class -- a class that Congress is about to become more familiar with. In the House, the incoming majority leader, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, let it be known he expects his fellow lawmakers to work a five-day week next year. In the Senate, the March break will be eliminated and a two-week spring vacation cut in half.

More than a few jaws have dropped at the prospect of a full work week. One lawmaker, Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., complained to The Washington Post that Mr. Hoyer's crackdown is anti-family because it will keep members away from their spouses and children. We wonder if that is the way millions of ordinary Americans look at their typical five-day work week.

Actually, Mr. Hoyer isn't proposing a draconian measure. It's quite the opposite. For years, members of Congress have been working, at the most, three days a week, usually Tuesday through Thursday. In between are long breaks for holidays and a long summer vacation. And seasonal breaks. And, of course, the option to simply skip town and head back to one's district whenever the urge strikes.

Granted, members of Congress need to keep in contact with their constituencies. Granted, too, they have to take time to raise campaign cash. But even with all of that factored in, they have a pretty cushy life.

In fact, the Post has calculated that the 109th Congress will have met for 109 days this year, or seven days less than the infamous "Do Nothing" Congress of 1948. An ordinary worker, by contrast, is expected to put in 240 days on the job each year.

That's not all. According The American Enterprise Institute, as cited by the Post, the average number of days for a two-year session of Congress has been on the decline for years, from 323 in the 1960s and '70s, to just 250 nowadays. Not bad for $165,200 a year.

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