WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — The U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate have reported for full, 5-day work weeks 258 times – or 13.5 percent of the 1,917 weeks Congress has been in session since Jan. 1, 1978.
A data analysis from the Library of Congress’ official records conducted by The Washington Post finds that “your likely stereotype about the amount of time Congress spends doing the people’s work is probably about right,” with both chambers of Congress working less than half of all weekdays since 1978.
The Post’s congressional analysis shows that of the 13,000-plus days since Jan. 1, 1978, both chambers of Congress have been in session at a concurrent time for about 4,700 of them – or about one-third of the total time.
The Senate has recorded more overall workdays than their House counterparts, with the Senate in session about 42 percent of the time since 1978, while the House was in session just 39 percent of the time.
The Senate has worked a full week – a true Monday-Friday – 601 times of the 1,917 weeks since 1978. Meanwhile, the House, has only reported for a full work week 362 times, or about 18 percent of the time.
As far as weeks in which both the House and the Senate did full, 5-day work weeks: 258 times, or 13.5 percent. Last month, another congressional figure hovered at about 14 percent – its overall approval rating from Americans, according to a Sept. 8 Gallup poll.
The Post notes that the primary reasons for such minimal full workweeks is the fact that Congress “takes a lot of time off from legislating,” and are typically not in Washington at all. In addition, both Chambers love to take Fridays off of work. Since 1978, both chambers have been in session together on Fridays less than one-quarter of the time.
Historically, Octobers have been one of the most productive in congressional history – but not during election years.
The longest stretch in which both chambers of Congress were in session together was 13 days, ending on Oct. 12, 1990. The longest stretch that one of the chambers worked was the 31 days, occurring during the Clinton administration shutdown.