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Congress / CONGRESS

Understanding How House Recesses Play Out

photo of Kenneth Chamberlain
August 16, 2012

How much time do members of Congress actually spend in Washington, D.C.? At least for recent recesses for members of the House of Representatives, not a lot.


Despite popular perception, congressional recesses aren't playtime for most House members. Many return to their home districts to continue their work. But representatives are elected to represent their constituents, so understanding how much time is spent in recess compared with the legnth of congressional sessions is a key to understanding the institution as a whole.


This is what the charts below attempt to do. Although imperfect by not taking into account the times between sessions, which are also days representatives aren't in Washington, they can give a decent understanding of how much time representatives have spent in Washington, beginning at the start of the first session of the 78th Congress in January 1943, according to data from the House Clerk's Office website


The first chart is the length of each session based on the total number of days for each session (each session is represented by the number of the Congress and the session number, so that the first session of the 102nd Congress is "102-1").

The second chart, for each session of Congress, shows the number of days reserved for recesses as a percentage of the total length of each session in numbers of days.

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