Democrats are taking Republicans to task for laying out a Congressional calendar for next year, under which, members of the 112th U.S. House of Representatives will work 109 days, leaving just six scheduled days to tend to House business in January, and a paltry three in August.
In total the House, whose members are paid $174,000 by taxpayers each year, will spend a whopping 151 weekdays in recess in 2012.
That's according to the 2012 Congressional Calendar, released last week by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Republican from Virginia.
The goal of next year's calendar is to 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, Cantor said in a statement announcing the calendar's release on his Congressional website.
Cantor's decision to allow Congress to play so much hookie in a time of great economic certainty widely viewed as a critical juncture in American history has predictably drawn jeers from the left.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, spoke out against the schedule during her weekly press conference Monday morning.
At a time, any time, having what is it, six days on the calendar in January, it really makes you wonder about the schedule, but particularly at this time when the American people are feeling so much pain, Pelosi told reporters.
Cantor said in his statement that the calendar was laid out with substantial input from members of both the House Republican Conference and the House Democratic Caucus.
And Republicans were quick to point out that House Democrats scheduled only 104 workdays for 2008, but that was before the economic downturn threw the nation into crisis and drew hundreds of people to the streets in populist anger over inequality and political gridlock.
To plan only two five-day work weeks for an entire year, and no more than 14 workdays in a single month, sends the wrong message to the American public, only nine percent of which approved of the job Congress is doing, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll.
In defense of the light calendar, Cantor cited a range of mostly-vague considerations in a letter he issued to his Congressional colleagues on Oct. 27.
The goal of next year's calendar is to 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, Cantor wrote.
But the truth is that 2012 is shaping up to be a contentious election year, and that the men and women of the House need to fill the campaign coffers if they want to head back to Washington in 2013.
And that means less time working to put Americans back to work.
Even on days when the House is in session, the workload is often jarringly light. In 2012, votes will never be held earlier than 6:30 p.m. on Mondays, or later than 3:00 p.m. on Fridays.
But Cantor seems to feel this is all just business as usual, and he may be right. Since 1990, the House has worked an average of just 112 days during the election-year second session of a Congress.