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Congress needs a five-day work week

By Staff | Sep 2, 2009

To the editor,

It’s easy for congressional reformers to get dispirited by the complexity of their task. But there is one simple improvement that would make Congress more effective: Congress needs a five-day work week.

As things stand now, members of the House and Senate are usually in session three – or three-and-a-half – days a week. This hurts their ability to be effective as legislators. For the simple truth is that good legislating takes time. It demands consensus-building and patience. This is pretty much impossible if you can devote only a few days a week to the work of the Congress.

So returning to a five-day work week on Capitol Hill, at least for the bulk of each month, is crucial. It would give members a chance to build the ties they need to work together, to craft legislation without constantly looking at the clock, to overcome the delaying tactics that have so frustrated policy-makers in recent years, and to make more rapid progress on the truly difficult issues that confront Congress with such regularity these days.

Lee Hamilton

Director of the Center on Congress

Indiana University