Leaving already?

How About a 5-Day Workweek, Senators?

Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the executive editor of Bloomberg News, before which he was a reporter, bureau chief and executive Washington editor at the Wall Street Journal.
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As Republicans take control of the Senate, two of the chamber's former leaders have come up with a wild idea: Senators ought to work a full week like most other Americans.

Former Majority Leaders Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, and Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, said lawmakers should give up their habit of working only Tuesday through Thursday.

In an interview on "Charlie Rose," the two former leaders said the Senate should meet Monday through Friday, three weeks a month. As things stand, members find it more politically and personally convenient to jam all their work into a much shorter period, which adds to the dysfunction in Washington.

Senators "jump on an airplane Tuesday morning to fly up here and the first question is, 'When can I leave Thursday,'" Lott said. Daschle said the legislative workweek can be even shorter in some cases, because senators are "living on their sofas and leaving on Thursday and coming back on Tuesdays and trying to govern this incredible country on Wednesdays."

The Democrat said one of the reasons for the abbreviated schedule was that senators need more time to raise campaign funds. "A typical senator today has to raise about $15,000 a day in order to be competitive," he said.

The majority leader in the next Congress, Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has vowed to make the Senate more orderly. He has not, however, committed to a five-day work week.

The full interview airs Charlie Rose on PBS tonight and will be rebroadcast on Bloomberg Television tomorrow.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Albert R Hunt at ahunt1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net