Ilona Nickels
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Accountability of Elected Officials
Career Paths to Congress
Chaplains in the U.S. Congress
House Ethics Process
House/Senate Differences
Lame Duck Congress: Attendance and Voting
Members of Congress: a Job Description
Oath of Office for Members of Congress
Pledge of Allegiance: Standing for the Pledge
Pledge of Allegiance: Use in Congress
Qualifications to Run for Congress
Senate: 50-50 Split?
Senate Majority Leader: A Job Description
Sessions of Congress: Lengths
Size of House and Senate
Speaker of the House: a Job Description
Speaker of the House: Resignation from Office
Amending the Constitution
Constitutionality of Legislation
August Recesses
First Congress
GOP: Origins of Term
Ideology: Left or Right
Lame Duck Congress: Definition
Party Animals: the Donkey and the Elephant
Statue of Freedom
U.S. Citizenship Test
Amendment Tree in the Senate
Changing a Law
Conference Committees: In Decline
Conference Committees: Procedures
“Deem and Pass” Procedure
Executive Orders
Holds in the Senate
How to Find Basic Legislative Information
How to Keep Up With Congress
Types of Legislation

Capitol Corner

Sessions of Congress: Lengths

How many days per year does Congress usually spend in session? Historically are they meeting for longer or shorter periods?

Sessions of Congress: Lengths by Ilona NickelsLooking at just the past 11 years, the House has been in session an average of 142 days a year – the Senate, 162 days. You can compare historically how many days a year recent Congresses have spent in session compared to earlier ones by examining the chart provided below.

Part of the explanation for the Senate’s greater number of days in session has to do with Senate procedure. In order to avoid creating new “legislative days,” and allowing procedural complications to occur, the Senate will sometimes come into session, and then quickly adjourn without conducting any substantive business. Although some of these “pro forma” sessions, as they are known, only last for a minute or two, they still count as a day of session.

Each Congress is two years in length, and there are two sessions in each Congress. A session lasts for about one year, or until both houses of Congress decide to adjourn for that year. Earlier Congresses sometimes divided the two years into as many as 3 sessions. However, since 1933, with adoption of the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution, Congress has held 2 sessions a year (with only two exceptions during WWII.)

Congress usually begins an annual session on January 3 of each year, but can also choose a day other than January 3 to convene a session if they pass a resolution in advance providing for a date change. If January 3 happens to fall on a Saturday or Sunday, Congress typically does change the start date.

On days when Congress is not in session, Members are not necessarily “not working.” They may still be holding hearings, may be conducting work in their various local offices, may be holding town meetings or meeting with constituents, may be engaging in official travel - or be on vacation.

Here is a 30-year look at the calendar days Congress has spent in session:

Congress 1969-2009

 

Days in Session*

Congress

House

Senate

111th (2009 only)

110th (2007-2008)

285

373

109th (2005-2006)

226

297

108th (2003-2004)

248

300

107th (2001-2002)

272

322

106th (1999-2000)

278

303

105th (1997-98)

251

296

104th (1995-96)

290

343

103rd (1993-94)

265

291

102nd (1991-92)

277

287

101st (1989-90)

281

274

100th (1987-88)

298

307

  99th (1985-86)

281

313

  98th (1983-84)

266

281

  97th (1981-82)

303

312

  96th (1979-80)

326

333

  95th (1977-78)

323

337

  94th (1975-76)

311

320

  93rd (1973-74)

334

352

  92nd (1971-72)

298

348

  91st  (1969-70)

350

384

*Source: House Data available on the THOMAS legislative website. Senate Data available by clicking on “Legislative Statistics” on the Senate website.

 

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