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Senate circulates 2021 calendar

Schedule features familiar recess weeks around holidays

Both chambers will convene on January 3, 2021.
Both chambers will convene on January 3, 2021. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate released a 2021 calendar on Tuesday that features limited session days in January until after the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

The schedule has significant overlap with the House, but there are differences thanks in part to the way the two bodies have operated while taking precautions to try to reduce the spread of coronavirus among lawmakers and staff. The House released its schedule for next year at the beginning of December.

With control of the Senate still a question mark pending the outcome of runoff elections for both seats in Georgia, the chamber is set to meet on Jan. 3 for the start of the 117th Congress and again on Jan. 6 for the joint session to count the votes of the Electoral College. After that, the next session day listed is Jan. 20, the day Biden will be inaugurated at a Capitol ceremony.

Both chambers are convening on Jan. 3, which is a Sunday, because there’s no agreement to delay the start of the Congress from the date specified in the Constitution. There are lingering concerns, particularly among Democrats, that President Donald Trump might try to use a break between Congresses to make recess appointments, which could be legally suspect.

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The Supreme Court has ruled that intra-session recess appointments when the Senate is meeting in pro forma session once every three days are not valid, but that case, NLRB v. Noel Canning, had a fact pattern that did not deal with the break between the end of one Congress and the start of a new one.

According to the calendar, the Senate will follow a predictable schedule in 2021, with the first recess week coinciding with the Presidents Day holiday in February and the chamber planning the traditional two-week break for Passover and Easter, with Easter Sunday falling on April 4.

As a result, there’s a five-week work period early in the year when the Senate will likely be occupied with processing Biden’s nominations to positions that require confirmation.

The schedule calls for a recess at the beginning of May and then again coinciding with Memorial Day week and the Fourth of July. August recess starts the second week of the month and runs through the full week of Labor Day, which is Sept. 6.

Unlike in the House, where some members have been voting by proxy during the COVID-19 pandemic, senators must physically be present in the Senate chamber to vote. The Senate has not followed the House in adopting a schedule with dedicated work weeks for committee business, so there are likely to be more traditional voting days.

Here is the complete 2021 congressional calendar (click the image to download a PDF):

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