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Ray Bogan

Political Correspondent

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Politics

Congress consistently works 3 to 4 days a week in Washington

Dec 25, 2023

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Ray Bogan

Political Correspondent

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Members of Congress consistently work three to four days a week in Washington, D.C., and fly back and forth to their home states on taxpayer dime. On Thursday mornings, there is usually a line of over 100 cars in front of the Capitol, a telltale sign that the exodus from Washington is about to begin. 

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As an example, here’s the House schedule for the week of Dec. 11: 

Monday, Dec. 11 – The House met at 2 p.m. for legislative business and votes were postponed until 6:30 p.m. That gives everyone a chance to use their Monday to fly into Washington and not arrive until the real business starts at 6:30.

Once they take that vote, representatives usually leave for their Washington residence. 

Thursday, Dec. 14 – The House convened at 9 a.m. and had its first and last votes at 10:05 a.m. That was the end of Congress members’ week. 

The Senate wasn’t around much longer. Its final vote of the week began at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 14. Members didn’t reconvene until Monday, Dec. 18, with their first vote at 5:30 p.m. 

This is how Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla., outlined the schedule for Straight Arrow News. 

“So fly in, fly out days, you know because we’re only here, call it maybe 10 days, 10 nights a month, 11 nights a month,” Moskowitz said. “You know, we’re running around, we don’t all serve on the same committees. Some people are giving speeches on the floor, the floor’s empty, no one’s here when they’re doing that.”

Straight Arrow News asked lawmakers if they think they should stay in Washington longer. 

“I do,” Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., said. “America does, we should. I say we got a project, let’s stay until we get it finished.”

“I think we should stay until the job’s done,” Rep. Rich McCormick, R-Ga., said. “But you can’t stay here indefinitely and you can see that tempers flare and then you get less done. So there’s a balance out there.”

Tempers can certainly flare. One example was when Republicans left for the weekend after Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was ousted as speaker and they still had not chosen a nominee to replace him.

Some lawmakers contend that consistently leaving has a negative effect on bipartisanship. 

It inhibits our ability to make relationships across the aisle because we don’t get to spend enough time up here getting to know people

Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla.

“It inhibits our ability to make relationships across the aisle because we don’t get to spend enough time up here getting to know people,” Moskowitz explained.  

There are approximately 37 working moms in Congress, including Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., who flies back and forth from California to take care of her kids.

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., can often be seen walking the halls with her baby. 

“So I actually bring my son back and forth with me,” Luna told Straight Arrow News. “But I think that it’s really important that members do spend more time back home actually working for their constituents. [Because] you can get caught up here, but guess what, we don’t represent Washington, we represent our district. So more time back home.”

Members often still work on the road. They read bills and meet directly with constituents to learn about their need from the government.

Most members say they should stay in Washington longer. So why don’t they? 

“I don’t know the exact fix, but what I do know is that we are not spending enough time as a body together to figure out who we all are and figure out how we can work together,” Moskowitz said.  

“Getting everybody to agree on that is the key because as you can see, this is like herding cats,” McCormick said.  

The money to pay for all these trips comes out of the member’s representational allowance, which is used to pay for travel, staff, equipment and other official expenses. The allowance ranges from over $1.84 million to nearly $2.09 million, with an average of about $1,928,100, depending on how far away the member lives from Washington. 

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[RAY BOGAN]

It’s 10:46 am on a Thursday morning, and this line of cars means the exodus from Washington is about to begin. This is known in DC as a jailbreak. It’s happens after the House of Representatives takes its last vote of the week, and everybody leaves to either drive or get on a flight home. 

[Rep. Ralph Norman]

“Guys I got to catch a plane.” 

[RAY BOGAN]

Members spend hours going back and forth between their home states and DC every week, and they spend your taxpayer dollars to do it. 

The money comes out of the Member’s Representational Allowance used to pay for travel, staff, equipment and other official expenses. The allowance ranges from $1,849,149 to $2,088,499, with an average of $1,928,100, depending on how far away the member lives from Washington.

[Rep. Cori Bush]

“We’re going to have to conclude there because people have to get flights. 

[RAY BOGAN]

Here’s an example of a Congressional workweek. 

On Monday December 11, the House met at 2:00 for legislative business and votes were postponed until 6:30pm. That gives everyone a chance to use their Monday to fly into DC, and not arrive until the real business starts at 6:30. Once they take that vote, they usually leave for their DC residence. 

On Thursday December 14, The House convened at 9am and had their first and last votes at 10:05. That was the end of their week. 

The Senate wasn’t around much longer. Their final vote of the week began at 4:30 on Thursday. They didn’t reconvene until Monday the 18th, with their first vote at 5:30pm. 

Here’s how Congressman Jared Moskowitz outlined the schedule. 

[Jared Moskowitz]

So fly in, fly out days, you know because we’re only here, call it maybe 10 days, 10 nights, 11 nights a month. You know we’re running around, we don’t all serve on the same committees, Some people are giving speeches on the floor, the floor’s empty, no one’s here when they’re doing that.” 

[RAY BOGAN]

Do you think the House should work longer work weeks?” 

[Rep. Tim Burchett]

I do, I do. America does, we should. I say we got a project, let’s stay until we get it finished.” 

[Rep. Rich McCormick]

I think we should stay till the job’s done. But we can’t stay here indefinitely and then tempers flare and less gets done.” 

[RAY BOGAN]

Tempers can certainly flare. Exhibit A – Republicans leaving for the weekend after Kevin McCarthy was ousted as Speaker and they still had not chosen a nominee to replace him.

Some lawmakers say consistently leaving has a negative impact on bipartisanship. 

[Rep Jared Moskowitz]

It inhibits our ability to make relationships across the aisle because we don’t get to spend enough time up here getting to know people.” 

[RAY BOGAN]

There are approximately 37 working moms in Congress including Congresswoman Katie Porter, who flies back and forth from California to take care of her kids. Congresswoman Ana Paulina Luna can often be seen walking the halls with her baby. 

[Rep. Anna Paulina Luna]

So I actually bring my son back and forth with me. But I think it’s really important that members do spend more back home actually working for their constituents. Cause you can get caught up here but guess what, we don’t represent Washington, we represent our district. So more time back home.” 

[RAY BOGAN]

While the halls are empty, members often still work on the road. They Read bills, and meet directly with constituents to find out what they need from the government.

When asked, most members say they should stay longer. So why don’t they? 

[Rep. Jared Moskowitz]

I don’t know the exact fix, but what I do know is that we are not spending enough time as a body together to figure out who we all are and figure out how we can work together.” 

[Rep. McCormick]

Getting everybody to agree on that is the key because as you can see, this is like herding cats.”