By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer
Not that anyone missed me or even knew, but I have been out of New Mexico for the past few days. I left the office Thursday night and flew back to see my family in Montana, then flew back on Monday morning so I’d be ready for work on Tuesday.
Leaving on Thursday and coming back to work Tuesday felt so good I look forward to a run for Congress so I can do that and call it work.
That’s the way the 109th Congress was doing business, starting the legislative week on Tuesdays and finishing up business on Thursdays.
Last week, I came across an interesting story in the Washington Post about the leadership for the 110th Congress. The leaders are extending the Congressional workload by requiring House members to be in session Monday evening through Friday afternoon.
Rep. George Kingston would spend the four-day weekends in his home state of Georgia, and he calls the move a bad idea because, “Keeping us up here eats away at families.”
George, are you thinking about the families where both parents work to live paycheck to paycheck and pay taxes to pay you $150,000 to work three days a week, or are you talking about the families wondering when and if some of their sons, daughters, mothers and fathers will return from Iraq and Afghanistan?
By the time Saturday came around, the 109th Congress adjourned Saturday having worked 104 days out of the calendar year. That’s six days less than the “Do Nothing” Congress of 1948.
Then there’s Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who got my attention when he decided this summer that it was more important to find out why a movie got a rating of PG instead of G than do any work on illegal immigration or the financial solvency of Social Security.
“They’ve got a lot more freshmen then we do,” he said of the Democrats. “That schedule will make it incredibly difficult for those freshmen to establish themselves in their districts. So we’re all for it.”
It’s good to know Roy Blunt cares so much about Republicans campaigning two years from now, instead of using the extra time in Washington to make lives a little easier for those Missouri voters who chose him.
The common response is that the work of a member of Congress is hard, and forcing them to work five days a week like most Americans is an overwhelming task. That’s probably why we pay them an overwhelming six-figure salary, and there are obviously other benefits. Why else would Patricia Madrid and Heather Wilson spend so much for a $150,000 a year job? Or why else would new Montana Sen. Jon Tester — a self-declared proponent of campaign finance reform — spend more than twice as much on his Senate campaign than he’ll earn in his six years as a senator?
As somebody who does work five days a week, at least when he’s not taking earned vacation time to visit family, I must say I’m in favor of the five-day workweek for Congress. If members don’t like it or they don’t use the time effectively, hopefully voters see to it they don’t have to spend any time in Washington.
Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. He can be reached at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by e-mail: