Congress is regularly lampooned for its frequent recesses, and with some reason. The House was in session for only 153 days in 2012, and the Senate 152. And in each case, more than a dozen of those “legislative days” were in fact pro forma sessions where no legislative business occurred.
Of course, Members of Congress are not simply vacationing during these down periods. Most use the time to go home to their districts and meet with their constituents. This too is an important part of their responsibilities as public servants. But the frequent recesses and short work weeks can create confusion about when, exactly, Congress will be in D.C.
As a general rule, the House and Senate come into session each week late on Monday and conclude legislative business late on Thursday. This allows Members from far-flung states to travel to and from home on weekends. In addition, each chamber currently has seven extended “state work periods” planned for 2013:
- President’s Day Week (February 18-22)
- The two weeks surrounding Easter (March 25 – April 5)
- April 29 – May 3
- Memorial Day Week (May 27-31)
- Independence Day Week (July 1-5)
- August Recess (August 5 – September 6)
- Columbus Day Week (October 14-18)
Because this is not an election year, both chambers will be in during October and November, with a likely adjournment in early to mid-December.
However, while these schedules are a good guide, the recess dates – and the general Congressional workweek – are always subject to change if and when major legislation must move. This has often been the case in recent years, and is likely to continue into this year as we press up against deadlines for sequestration, funding the government, and extending the federal debt limit. If you want to see whether the House or Senate is in for a given day, you can check the daily schedules on the main page at House.gov and Senate.gov.