Congress Is Working More Than Average This Year: Three Days a Week
The last time lawmakers worked close to this many days was 2009
Republicans may be uneasy about the lack of productivity so far this Congress, but it’s not for a lack of time spent working.
Through the first half of 2017, the 115th Congress had more voting days than any previous Congress in the same time period, since at least 2009, a Roll Call review of CQ vote data found. The House held floor votes on 75 days and the Senate on 77 days. That means the chambers voted, on average, about three out of every seven days.
After winning control of the White House last fall while maintaining control of both chambers of Congress, Republicans began the year with optimism about what they could achieve. On the website of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, text accompanying the 2017 calendar states that the California Republican added more than three legislative weeks to the House’s average time in session, mostly during the beginning of the year, in order to ensure “ample time to enact a conservative agenda.”
Congress has still skipped some planned working days. There have been eight days in the House and 28 days in the Senate when the chambers were scheduled to meet but did not hold any votes. The changes were due to external factors, such as the Republican baseball team shooting in June, as well decisions made by party leaders, such as holding their congressional retreat during a legislative workweek in late January.
Despite the added time in session, party infighting has stalled much marquee legislation from heading to the president’s desk. Some GOP members have been pushing their party leaders — including the president — to cancel the traditional August recess to allow more time to pass a bill that would repeal the 2010 health care law, as well as address other items on the congressional to-do list.
At this point in 2009, the last nonelection year when Washington was under one-party control, the House had one more voting day than it has had during the first half of this year. The Senate, meanwhile, voted only 64 days then — significantly fewer than the chamber has this Congress.
Since then, the House has, on average, voted eight more days than the Senate during the first half of the year.
The year with the fewest voting days during the time period reviewed was 2012, when the House voted 64 days and the Senate voted 51.
Counting only days when chambers held a floor vote excludes those when the chambers met in short pro forma sessions.