Forget the minimum wage. Or outsourcing jobs overseas. The labor issue most on the minds of members of Congress on Tuesday was their own: They will have to work five days a week starting in January.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, the Maryland Democrat who will become House majority leader and is writing the schedule for the next Congress, said members should expect longer hours than the brief week they have grown accustomed to.
"I have bad news for you," Hoyer told reporters. "Those trips you had planned in January, forget them. We will be working almost every day in January, starting with the fourth."
For much of this election year, the legislative week started late Tuesday and ended by Thursday afternoon.
Next year, members of the House will be expected in the Capitol for votes each week by 6:30 p.m. Monday and will finish their business about 2 p.m. Friday, Hoyer said.
With the new calendar, the Democrats are trying to project a businesslike image when they take control of Congress in January. House and Senate Democratic leaders have announced an ambitious agenda for their first 100 hours and say they are adamant about scoring legislative victories they can trumpet in the 2008 campaigns.
Hoyer said members need to spend more time in the Capitol to pass laws and oversee federal agencies.
However, some Republicans, such as Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., said the new schedule was nothing more than Democrats trying to score political points.
"If we're doing something truly productive, that's one thing," he said. "If it's smoke and mirrors hoopla, that's another."
Leaders have not set the Senate schedule, but the upper chamber generally works a longer week than the House.