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Your hired hands: 70-hour work week (!) for members of Congress

A Congressional Management Foundation study shows the typical member of Congress works 70 hours a week while in Washington and 59 hours per week while in his or her district.

Now, aren’t we just a tad chagrined for all those snide comments about a do-nothing Congress?

Hey, the House — finally — passed yet another farm bill, of sorts, which we can (maybe) expect will go to conference with the Senate, resulting (maybe) in yet another version of a farm bill, which maybe, perhaps, could be passed into law.

“This feels like the movie ‘Groundhog Day,’” Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow told reporters. “Every day I wake up and we do the farm bill again.”

But back to those work-driven members of Congress: Since the 113th Congress was sworn in this past January, until the end of June, they passed — are you ready to be astounded? — a whopping 15 pieces of legislation that were signed into law by the president.

Those included such all-important measures as S.982 Freedom to Fish Act; S.622 Animal Drug and Animal Generic Drug User Fee Reauthorization Act (yet they still can’t manage to make Medicare drug costs a competitive bids process, continuing to bestow upon pharmaceutical companies a multi-billion-dollar bonus each year, compliments of taxpayers); H.R.1071, specifying the size of precious metal blanks to be used in producing National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins; and of course the one that sailed right through, H.R.1765 Reducing Flight Delays Act (couldn’t afford to have the honorables inconvenienced in their travels).

Fifteen pieces of legislation in six months! And nowhere among them anything  remotely related to resolving the nation’s fiscal crisis, which was, the lawmakers proclaimed with evangelistic zeal when they swept into Washington in January, The All-Consuming Goal.

And now they've all flown the coop, deserting Washington for a recess until September 9, at which time there will be a total of 9 legislative days before the current farm bill extension runs out at the end of September.

Will there be a farm bill hashed out in those 9 days? Miracles, one supposes, can still happen — though they are few and far between in Congress.

It’s entirely possible, observers say, that the 113th Congress may well close out its session with fewer bills signed into law than the 112th, which had the fewest (220) since records began in the 1940s.

The cost that you, the taxpayer, pony up for this democracy in action: $4.28 billion — that’s the amount budgeted for the legislative branch in 2012. Roughly $8 million per member of Congress.

And how do members spend that 70-hour work week when in Washington? The CMF study says about one-third actually involves drafting laws, holding hearings, and voting on bills. The rest goes to constituent services (handling the many requests from people back in their districts), politicking, media relations, administrative work, and 1 hour to 4 hours daily raising money to perpetuate themselves in office (phone calls to wealthy donors, breakfasts/lunches/receptions/other fund-raisers).

Incumbent House members raked in an average $2,400 per day, $1.7 million, for the 2012 election; incumbent senators, $4,700 per day over 6 years, or $10.3 million.


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