Five-day work week will double Congress's workload
by Charlotte Raab Sat Dec 16, 3:29 AM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Democrats, who will take control of Congress next month, have outraged some of their colleagues by their decision to work five days a week, which will almost double their workload
According to an announcement made by the next Democratic majority leader, Steny Hoyer, representatives will have to be present to vote Monday through Friday.
What's more, instead of waiting for the traditional State of the Union address by the president at the end of January to begin legislative work, the House of Representatives and the Senate will put themselves to work as early as January 4.
A Republican member of Congress immediately complained.
"Marriages suffer. The Democrats couldn't care less about families -- that's what this says," Congressman Jack Kingston told The Washington Post.
Since then, he has been the subject of ridicule.
"My wife just returned from a yearlong tour in Iraq," wrote reader of The Post. "Our marriage and family -- we have two sons, ages two and three and a half -- are stronger than ever."
In 2006, the House of Representatives was in session for only 103 days -- three days less than the House of 1948, which was punished by voters the same way the Republican-controlled Congress was punished in November.
Even right-wing commentators had trouble criticizing the Democratic initiative.
"Congress can't do real oversight, let alone legislate, on a two-day schedule (and not all oversight is a game of get-the-president)," wrote Ramesh Ponnuru in a blog at the National Review.
Over the past two years, the House officially worked on Tuesdays, but generally to rename post offices or vote on general statements.
The first votes were usually scheduled for the evening to give elected officials time to return from their districts.
Important press conferences and hearings were usually held on Wednesdays and Thursdays, with almost all Fridays remaining free.
However, Americans lawmakers, as wells as some of their European colleagues, defend the importance of work in their districts.
"The question is, do you want Washington to have more influence on congressmen?" asked Kingston, who travels nearly 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) every week to Savannah, Georgia.
"Do you want us to spend more time inside the beltway where we are taking to bureaucrats in the Department of Education rather than teachers in the classroom who actually know what's going on with the education bill?"