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In an action that could either score points or earn scorn, West (R-Fla.), one of two black Republicans elected to the House, complained to the soon-to-be number-two Republican in the House that next year’s congressional work schedule, to paraphrase New Yorker Jimmy McMillan, is just too damn short.
“I believe this schedule does not sufficiently reflect the concerns of the American people as expressed on November 2nd,” West wrote to Cantor, who crafted the schedule. “Even though the schedule contains 123 days and 32 weeks of session which is consistent with first sessions in previous Congresses, I believe the citizens of this nation, as demonstrated by their action at the ballot box this year, do not want a Congress that is consistent – even in terms of scheduling – with the past.”
West continued: “The schedule, as proposed, means the House of Representatives will not meet the mark of 90 days in session until September of 2011, just a matter of days before the end of the Fiscal Year. The American people expect the Congress to do a thorough review of our nation’s spending priorities, and I believe the number of days in session do not provide an adequate amount of time for such oversight.”
Cantor wasn’t impressed by West’s insights, and his office delivered a mild rhetorical spanking to the House freshman-elect. Brad Dayspring, a Cantor spokesman, told CNN Thursday that “more days in Washington has historically resulted in bigger government, greater waste and more spending – not more production.”
“What’s important is who’s in charge and the process put in place, not the number of days in session,” Dayspring told CNN.
Cantor, when he unveiled the schedule last week, noted that the number of weeks the House will be in session represented an 11 percent drop, which would result in less travel for lawmakers and produce potential savings in the budget allocated to members to run their district and Washington offices.
He said the schedule would allow House members to better plan their days and “increase efficiency and productivity” in getting bills to the House floor.
But West, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, stuck to his guns about the schedule, despite Cantor’s scolding response.
“The American people are going to really be looking for us to make some things happen in that first 90 to 120 days,” he told CNN. “And that’s how they’re going to judge us.”
West didn’t limit his critique of how the Republican leadership is handling things even before officially gets the House Speaker’s gavel. He expressed his displeasure with a House GOP retreat – a getaway outside of Washington – that’s scheduled in the early days of the new Congress.
“There’s a retreat that starts on the 7th, which is … you know, really a nice family time to go to Williamsburg (Virginia),” West told CNN. “But I don’t think that that is something that the constituents of the 22nd district wanted me to come up there and do. Because there’s a lot of people that can’t have taxpayer-funded vacations – a lot of people down here that have not had the opportunity to have vacations.”
West said he’s not attending the retreat – it’s not in his DNA.
“Having come from the military,” he told CNN, “there’s something about the word ‘retreat’ that I just don’t like.”