GOP leadership bristles at five-day Capitol Hill work week

Michael Roston
Published: Monday January 22, 2007
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During a Friday morning debate on the floor of the House of Representatives, the Republican leadership complained that the five-day work week imposed by the new majority was unnecessary and created problems for Members of Congress. But House Democrats are holding firm and plan to continue the current schedule.

Speaking for the House Republican leadership, Roy Blunt, the Republican Whip, complained during the floor debate that the five-day work week was making life harder for Members of Congress from both parties. He also described the schedule as "a disservice to the institution," because "It is like assuming that a surgeon only does the surgeon's work when they are in the operating room."

In an e-mail response to RAW STORY, a Democratic Leadership aide stated unequivocally that no changes to the five-day work schedule were planned.

Blunt complained about the tone of discussions regarding the longer work week dictated by House Democrats, saying that "the majority has had the better of this argument so far because it is a lot of fun to talk about Members of Congress that don't work." He also mentioned that "The late night comedians love the idea that Congress was suddenly going to work 5 days a week."

His remarks came after the House voted unanimously to reform the management of the Page Board, prompted by last Fall's scandal involving Republican Rep. Mark Foley of Florida.

"I wish our Members would have been able to go home last night or this morning and spend some of this workday at home instead of on an airplane," said the Minority Whip. "I think it is unfortunate that we had to come back today for 30 minutes of debate on a measure that was already agreed to on a vote that not a single person voted the other way."

Rep. Steny Hoyer, the Democratic Majority Leader who set the House's five-day work week, acknowledged Blunt's point. "I agree 100 percent with the minority whip when he indicates that our Members are working, whether they are here on this floor or they are at home," he said.

But the Maryland Democrat held firm. He noted that a continuing resolution would need to be passed for the government's budget because 9 of 11 appropriations bills were not completed during the last Congress, and added "I want you to also know that I think it is our responsibility and duty to the American people to be here in sufficient time to allow us to do the people's business."

In response, Blunt tried to shift the blame for the failure to complete the nine spending bills away from the Republican majority in the 109th Congress. "It is clear to me that the unwillingness of the other body to move forward, a thing neither you nor I have a lot of control over, was the real reason we didn't get more of that work done," he claimed. "We had 11 of our 12 bills done by the 4th of July, without tremendous effort to keep Members here on Friday," he added.

Blunt also attempted to take issue with the Democratic Leader's statements. In response to Hoyer's claim that the House's Committees needed more time to work, the Republican said "I am absolutely confident that no committees met today."

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) quickly stood up to say that a subcommittee of the Transportation Committee was meeting that morning. Hoyer also later pointed out that the House Committee on Global Affairs was receiving testimony from Lee Hamilton, a Co-Chair of the Iraq Study Group.

"I just knew that you would be delighted to have that information," Hoyer quipped back.

The full exchange between the two Representatives can be read at the Library of Congress's website.