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2012 House Schedule Looks Familiar

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Wednesday that he hopes to focus much of next year’s legislative work on jobs and the economy and would use a calendar based on regular, prolonged district work periods.

In a “Dear Colleague” letter announcing the schedule, the Virginia Republican said he hopes the calendar will “create certainty, increase efficiency and productivity in the legislative process, protect committee time and afford Members the opportunity to gain valuable input from their constituents at home.”

Like this year — when Cantor first imposed a rigid calendar of regularly scheduled district work periods of a week or more — House Members will rarely be in Washington for more than two weeks at a time. Of those longer stretches, the House will be in session for three weeks in February and for a scheduled five-week stretch from July 9 to Aug. 3.

Unlike this year, the House will mostly skip October and is scheduled to be in session for the first week of that month before breaking until Nov. 13, a week after next year’s elections. Cantor has also once again set up the schedule to give Members a number of three-day weekends, with a number of Fridays that feature no votes followed by Monday sessions where votes won’t occur until 6:30 p.m.

Not counting pro forma days during recess, the House next year will be in session a total of 109 days, compared with 104 days in 2008, during the second session of the 110th Congress, when Democrats controlled the chamber and during the last presidential election year.

In a brief interview with Roll Call, Cantor said that schedule, combined with a largely predetermined process for the annual appropriations fight, should mean Republicans can remain focused on the economy — which is likely to remain voters’ top priority in the runup to next year’s elections.

“We’re operating in a unique circumstance where you have a broad outline for the appropriations season” because of the debt deal, Cantor said. The debt deal’s spending guidelines “should allow for a much smoother appropriations process in the House and the Senate,” he said.

“I think the main focus, obviously from a legislative standpoint, is going to be jobs and the economy and how we go about making a better environment for growth to occur,” Cantor added.

As for the long work periods at home, Cantor said he is “trying to make sure Members have the ability to connect with the people who sent them here and [that] Members don’t go native.”

When Cantor initially unveiled this year’s calendar, he was criticized for rigidly sticking to a pattern of two weeks in Washington, one week at home. But the Majority Leader argued it has been a success.

“I think it has yielded results. ... [It is] a much more functioning legislative process,” Cantor said.

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