House of Representatives Adopts New Approach to Scheduling Its Meetings

House of Representatives Adopts New Approach to Scheduling Its Meetings

Today the House released its schedule for the 1st session of the 112th Congress, which will begin on January 5. The most interesting development is a new approach to scheduling adopted by the incoming House Republican leadership that will have longer work weeks in Washington, but fewer of them, and time set aside for committees to meet without being interrupted for floor votes.

Incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) explained the changes in a Dear Colleague letter. He said the new approach focuses on the quality not the quantity of legislation considered on the House floor. Noting that 70 percent of the 2,185 bills considered by the House in the 110th Congress were debated under the suspension calendar, Cantor added that more half of those bills “named a post office, congratulated an individual or team, or supported the designation of a particular day, week or month.” The Republican leadership is banning congratulatory resolutions, while votes on naming Post Offices will be held less often.

The calender intersperses “D.C. work weeks” and “constituent work weeks.” Rep. Cantor said the “guaranteed five-day constituent work weeks” at least once a month will help Members stay in touch with the concerns of their constituents. The result will mean 123 days and 32 weeks in session. The number of weeks is 11 percent less than usual for the 1st session of a Congress, which the Majority Leader-elect said would mean less travel for Members and “potential savings to Members’ Representational Allowance.”

Other key changes include:

  • making legislation available three days prior to committee markup and three days prior to consideration on the floor;
  • scheduling floor votes to begin no earlier than 1:00 pm and no later than 7:00 pm on the middle days of a D.C. work week, and no earlier than 6:30 pm and no later than 3:00 pm on the first and last days of a D.C. work week, so Members will have more certainty in their schedules and committees can schedule their meetings to be held at times when they will not be interrupted for votes;
  • acknowledging that it has been many years since Congress adjourned in early October — the typical target date for adjournment that is set at the beginning of a session — and selecting a more realistic December 8 target adjournment date for the 1st session of the 112th Congress; and
  • posting committee attendance and votes online.

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