15. Reducing Congressional Time Off

Congress has too much time off. Congress should hardly have fewer working days than regular federal employees. At the very least, Congress should work (within their elected body) at least as many days as children are required to go to school (180, but preferably 200 days).

To reduce the degree of polarity and increase the degree of civility and encourage members of Congress to view and treat each other like rational human being as opposed to illogical aliens who don’t have any valid reason for taking the positions that they do, it is imperative that members of Congress spend more time with each other.  Currently, members often fly into Washington late in the week and then leave to go back to their districts well before the end of the workweek.  This is just not enough time to study and discuss issues in an atmosphere rich with a variety of different views. Such diversity during deliberative discourse is essential for moderate and well thought-out policymaking.

The legislative calendar should be modified so as to encourage members to spend longer, solid blocks of time together. One way to do this would be to mandate that members of Congress spend three weeks in Washington and one week back in their home district, as proposed by Jonathan Haidt.

This proposal, in conjunction with the proposal addressing the issue of Bill Introduction/Procedures/Final Resolution in Congress, will enable the proper degree of attention and amount of time to be dedicated toward studying the various issues up for a vote.

Most of the US Congress members’ time should be spent in Washington and only a small minority of time spent in their home districts doing official work. Elected members should already have come to Washington knowing what their constituents want. They shouldn’t need to ‘learn’ about constituent needs by holding town hall meetings and such. Feedback from current constituents in the district to their current Representative should take place in writing.

In the end, the job of any representative is to do their homework before they actually take the job.  Representative should not spend significant amounts of time actively polling, conducting townhall meetings and other constituent outreach events to ‘take the temperature’ of their district.  These things should have been done before they took office and any changes could be monitored remotely. Instead, representatives should spend the vast majority of their time in Washington studying and debating the issues with other members.

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