GOP Considers Alternate-Week House Schedule

Posted November 10, 2010 at 5:35pm

The House Republicans’ transition team is considering a range of possibilities for scheduling activity next year, including an option to have the House in session only in alternate weeks.

The transition team adjourned Tuesday having discussed six proposals on the House schedule, according to participants.

Rep. Patrick Tiberi, the head of the transition working group dealing with the House schedule, said, “There are six different ideas, and within these six there are hybrids of these ideas.”

The Ohio Republican said Members-elect on the team have stressed the importance of Members being in their districts more frequently.

“We want to create more certainty for Members,” he said.

Tiberi explained that the sometimes-erratic schedule over the past four years made it difficult to schedule meetings with constituents, particularly when end-of-week votes were canceled at the last minute.

“You can’t call and schedule a meeting or a factory tour at the last minute,” Tiberi said, adding that a more consistent schedule would also allow committees to be more productive.

In one proposal, introduced by staff for presumptive Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), Members would be in Washington every other week, alternating with a full week in their district to meet with constituents.

A GOP source familiar with the Cantor-backed proposal said the idea was particularly popular with members of the freshman class — many of whom were elected in part because voters thought the incumbent Member had stopped listening and spent too much time in D.C.

The source explained that if the legislative week started mid-Monday and ended Friday, Members would have a full week in Washington to hold committee hearings and legislate. The plan provides for 115 legislative days, nearly a week more than the average 109 days, the source added.

Both transition Chairman Greg Walden (Ore.) and Tiberi acknowledged the proposal as one of the options but downplayed the notion that any plan had become a frontrunner.

“I wouldn’t lock on that one alone, there are three weeks on, one week off — what we did was review every alternative that’s been out there over the years and the pros and cons,” Walden told Roll Call on Tuesday.

Walden said he has discouraged the 21 members of the GOP’s transition team from adopting or dismissing any ideas because the process is still in the brainstorming stage.

“I’m trying to counsel them, don’t reject anything because I want that open discussion,” he said. “I’m trying to manage a process that allows [discussion] to occur without inflicting damage on ideas that might be out of the box.”

Walden said the full Republican Conference would have the chance to review all of the options for the schedule as well as the rest of the transition process when Congress returns next week.

“They are going to have a lot of input,” he added.

To allow the full Conference to take part in the process, the old Conference rules would have to be adopted temporarily in order to elect leadership next week, Walden said.

The new Conference rules could be finished by early December, he added.

Walden said the deadline for the broader House rules remained fluid.

“We aren’t going to rush this, let’s get it right,” he said. “It’s better to take our time and get it right.”