How Often is Congress in Session? How Much do They Actually Work?

The current salary (2009) for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year. But they work hard you say, they deserve it you say. Well, perhaps. So how much do they work? Well, congress is in session anywhere from 130 to 190 days a year. On average, over the last 9 years, they have met about 140 days a year. So far this congress has worked 23 days, out of a possible 46 days, or 50% of the time. Here is a little vacation calander posted on the website (please note a "work period" is a fancy way of saying day off):

January 6 -111th Congress, 1st Session convenes
January 19 -Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
January 20 -Inauguration Day
January 29-31 -Republican Conference Issues Conference
February 5-7 -Democtratic Caucus Issues Conference
February 16 -Presidents Day
February 16 - 20 -Presidents Day District Work Period
March 8 -Daylight Savings Time Begins
March 17 -St. Patrick's Day
April 6 - April 17 -Spring District Work Period
April 8 -Passover Begins
April 10 -Good Friday
April 12 -Easter Sunday
May 10 -Mother's Day
May 25 -Memorial Day
May 25 - May 29 -Memorial Day District Work Period
June 14 -Flag Day
June 21 -Father's Day
June 29 - July 3 -Independence Day District Work Period
July 4 -Independence Day
August 3 - September 4 -Summer District Work Period
September 7 -Labor Day
September 18 -Rosh Hashanah Begins
September 27 -Yom Kipper Begins
October 12 -Columbus Day
October 30 -Target Adjournment
November 1 -Daylight Savings Time Ends
November 11 -Veterans Day
November 26 -Thanksgiving Day
December 11 -Hanukkah Begins
December 25 -Christmas Day

Let's compare that to say, my work schedule. Well, I get New Years Day off, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Easter, Thanksgiving Day, a half day on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and a half day on New Years Eve. I also get three sick days, and two weeks of vacation. That's a total of twenty days off, and then of course weekends, for a total of 120 days off a year, and 245 days a year working. That means I work 68% of the year. Congress meets, on average 140 days a year, and is off 225 days. That means congress works 38% of the year.

Hmmm. So if the average congressman makes $174,000 a year, that's $1257.14 a day, $157.14 an hour (based on an 8 hour day). I make, well, significantly less than that. How much do you make? How hard do you work for it?

Why do I bring this up? Well, lately congress has decided that banking executives, among others, are making too much money. And while that may be the case, how many hours do those executives put in? I am willing to go out on a limb, and say a lot more. If these people really want to make a difference, try working more. I don't care if they make $170,000, but at least earn it. Although, after giving it more thought, I suppose I'm ok with this congress working less. Less time spend in session means less time to pass liberal legislation. I guess there really is a silver lining to every bad situation.


Karen Hyatt said...

I agree with what you humorously add at the end of your article--that the less time Congress spends passing legislation, the better.

The Constitution requires Congress to meet "at least once in every year." They were never supposed to be convened year-round, cranking out thousands of pieces of legislation. On the contrary, they were expected to return to their farms or other employment between sessions. In fact, were they confined to the handful of duties expressly outlined in the Constitution, their sessions would be very brief indeed, and it would cost us very little to compensate them for their time.

Kevin Morse said...

The reason why congress gets paid is supposed to be a matter of equality. In the past Congressman received a very low compensation, and the problem with that is then only the rich can afford to run for office. This caused a fear that the everyday American would lose their voice. As well those are only the days that congress is in session, as in the meet in the Capitol Building to debate and vote. The rest of the days of the year is spent planning for those days, campaigning for themselves or bills and acts they are trying to pass, and maintaining their offices or talking to constituents. As well some of their pay is determined by the fact that they have to constantly travel between their home state and D.C. maintain two places of residences in both places, and pay for being away from their family, something many companies do. They also have to be able to wine and dine people they need to support them on some upcoming issue.

Anonymous said...

I am a school teacher who gets paid for 187 days. I make $55,000 which I'm told is too much for what I do. I find it interesting they work less and get paid more. Yet, they say I'm the reason our country is indebt.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. Congress pay is a matter of equality, because only rich people could afford to run when the compensation was low? Only rich people can afford to run now, and just keep getting richer. Am I missing something?
Flat tax, get rid of lobbyists, knock off the outrageous retirement bennies, and earn your paycheck like the rest of us have to. Somehow you've managed to take more than you give, waste more than you save, and basically screw us at every turn without benefit of lubrication. ('you' being the government) Now, OMG we're out of money! Old people won't get their checks! Soldiers won't get their checks! Has anyone heard that Congress won't get their checks??? The House won't get paid??? I'm thinkin' if their checks were in jeopardy they'd be working a LOT harder to fix this mess.

Post a Comment

I reserve the right to delete profane, obscene, or otherwise insulting messages. So please, keep it clean.

While you're at it, visit our message boards!