While the running gag among TEA Parties is the fond wish that Congress would just pack up and stay away from Washington most of the time, a newly elected Congressman who TEA Partiers revere thinks differently.
Lt. Col. Allen West believes the schedule set up by Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia isn’t strenuous enough to address our national problems:
“As we know, Congress needs to work to create jobs, reduce the deficit, strengthen our economy, limit the size of government and contend with a plethora of national security issues,” West said. “How are we to do that when, among other things, we start off being in session only ten days the entire month of January?”
Congressman-Elect West is concerned with the fact that Congress is only in session 123 days, only one-third of the entire year. He points out that Congress will not even meet the mark of 90 days in session until September of 2011, just a matter of days before the end of the Fiscal Year.
“I am sure we both agree that the issues before us today require the members of Congress to go beyond what has been the accepted practice in the past to meet the challenges of the future,” West writes to Cantor.
West is also concerned with the “retreats” in the month following the swearing in – some of them taxpayer funded- for members of Congress. Congressman-Elect West has already decided he will not attend at least two of the retreats.
“We have to show the American people we are going to be different than years past,” West said. “We are there for one reason and one reason only, to work for the constituents of the districts we are so privileged to represent. I hope that if it becomes clear that we are not meeting the promise we made to the American people, leadership will modify the schedule in order for us to accomplish the important task we have before us.”
Obviously being a Congressman requires a little time back home in the district – for West, that would require trips back to southern Florida. But most working folks put in around 250 days a year, so a schedule which essentially shakes out to that of a part-time job may not sit well with them – remember, it’s not the time they put into being in Washington which fazes the average citizen but what they do with it. If they are working to “limiting the size of government” as Lt. Col. West writes, well, that can and should probably be a 24/7 job for the foreseeable future. If expanding government is on the Congressional table then let Congress stay in its districts where they can’t do us any harm.
Perhaps the key criticism by West is that there will be a significant amount of time where the House will be out of session but the Senate will be in session. Since it’s presumed that much of the best legislation passed out of the GOP-controlled House will be swatted down by Harry Reid in the Senate, the House needs to keep the pressure on and perhaps wear out the Democrats in the Senate (many of whom will be up for re-election in 2012) through attrition. (And yes, we will likely see our fair share of vetoes even if the House wears down the Senate’s resistance. But it’s a fight worth having.)
In putting We the People back in charge of the House, it’s time for them to put their nose to the grindstone. When special interests take over again (as they invariably will) only then it will be time for the shorter session.