Changing how Washington works begins with a change in schedule, according to Brad Dayspring, spokesperson for Majority Leader-elect Rep. Eric Cantor. Cantor recently released the schedule that will govern the GOP’s first year of majority in the House.
Kyle Nevins, who will serve as Cantor’s Deputy Chief of Staff, said the new schedule is possibly the biggest structural overhaul of the House calendar in 40 years. It’s a plan Nevins said Cantor is very committed to because he believes an altered structure will affect the House’s output.
Two changes the office is hoping will pay off – literally – for the taxpayer are the 11 percent decrease in the amount of weeks spent in Congress and ending voting at 7 p.m. They’re hoping the voting deadline will decrease House operating costs, although there’s no way to ensure people won’t still be in their offices working after 7 p.m or a guarantee that the 7 p.m. voting deadline will hold. The vote cutoff also a way to decrease strain placed on the support staff as an inevitable result of Congress operating late in the evening.
The schedule change could also help make policy more conservative. Dayspring cited the health care debate last fall when members spent long stretches of time in Washington, D.C., away from their districts, which meant that they were listening to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other Beltway residents rather than back home talking to their constituents.
“The schedule has always created more liberal policy,” Dayspring said.
The new calendar is built off representatives spending every third or fourth week back in their districts. The reduced amount of weeks – the amount of days spent in Congress is similar, just condensed – could translate to less flights members need to take, a cost-cutting measure. A more certain schedule also helps prevent additional expenses incurred from having to book flights last-minute.
“The days were so disorganized here,” Dayspring said.
The schedule is a marked contrast to the past year in the House—which saw voting late into the night and weekend sessions – despite the fact that Pelosi began her time as speaker in 2006 with a claim of overseeing the “most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history.”
What’s to ensure the GOP doesn’t follow in Pelosi’s backtracking footsteps? Nevins says the difference for Republicans is they’re defining what they mean by transparency, such as making legislation to the public before voting. The announced changes give people a measuring stick for the GOP keeping its word, whereas Pelosi never defined what she meant, according to Nevins.
A transition team helped craft the calendar, and input was drawn from several sources, including current members of both parties, former members now a part of the Bipartisan Policy Center, and the desires the drafters believed voters expressed in the 2010 midterm elections: a less active, more transparent government that would cut spending. Cantor drew on his eight years of experience in House leadership positions as well.
The new schedule will also feature protected committee time, which should help ensure quality work at the committee level without having to worry about the proceedings being interrupted by votes. Cantor’s office said committee members’ attendance and voting record will be marked online.