Five days a week?

Representative cries foul over proposal to extend Congress' work week

Posted: Sunday, December 31, 2006

Cry-baby and slacker are just a couple of the words respondents are using for Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), according a poll by ThinkProgress.com, a project of the nonpartisan Center of American Progress Action Fund.

The less-than-flattering name-calling was in response to the Web site's article, which originated from the Washington Post, on House Majority Leader Rep. Steny H. Hoyer's (D-Md.) plan to increase Congress' 2007 schedule to a five-day-a-week operation, rather than the current three, and the subsequent Capitol Hill backlash.

(Insert cynical groan here.)

Certainly, the give-me-a-break attitude of many online respondents to the news is not unfounded, considering the increasingly heftier workloads many workers are facing both in and out of the office.

While the rest of American workers put in a good 40 hours or better per week, Congress has been enjoying a mere 103 workdays per year.

What about the other 262 days a year, you ask? The usual holidays (times three), a month-long recess in August, a two-week April recess, and various weeks off in February, March and July make up the difference.

Though many members of Congress must travel long distances between their home state and Washington each week, supporters of the increased workweek say it's a matter of productivity.

According to the Washington Post article, the 109th Congress completed just two of the 11 fiscal 2006 appropriation bills. Though that may seem like a severe lag in productivity, critics of the 109th say this could possibly be the least advantageous legislative body our country has seen in decades.

To that extent, this obvious lack of executing rudimentary tasks begs the question, "What would your boss do if you failed to complete even half of your expected output?"

The likely answer? Pack up the Swingline and half-dead ficus - you're fired.

Conversely, those opposed to the lengthened workweek argue that the four days off away from Capitol Hill allow them to be with their families and friends. Furthermore, just because members are not physically in Washington doesn't mean they are not working, some say.

"When we're back home, we're visiting schools, we're talking to groups, we're meeting with constituents," Rep. Kingston told reporters.

But all this pavement-pounding cannot be done single handedly, of course. Rep. Kingston alone has 20 salaried staff members working for him, which makes many wonder what on earth the Congressman does that staff members cannot - and vice versa.

"We're getting real information on the ground," he continued. "We're listening and we're learning. I think there was a time when all the brains were in Washington. I don't know when that was. But it's certainly not the case anymore."



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