Senators Make Thursdays the New Fridays for Memorial Break

Senators are joining the throngs cutting out early for the Memorial Day holiday, making plans to vacate the Capitol shortly after lunch at week’s end to get ahead of the crowds. 

But that’s lunch on Thursday, not Friday, when senators will rush to Reagan National to catch planes home. What’s more, leaving town after lunch on Thursday is now the norm, as lawmakers’ workweeks become more and more abbreviated.

Sen. Ted Cruz grills patties at an event.

While the Senate occasionally stages a “pro forma” Friday session lasting a few minutes, lawmakers haven’t been required to be present for votes on a Friday in months. In fact, no session of any kind has been held on a Friday since early February. That session lasted 19 minutes.

That record is at odds with what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised when Republicans took over the chamber in January 2015. At the time, McConnell said senators would work longer weeks, including Fridays.

But even the voting schedule on Thursdays has been scaled back over the past year, said Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), confirming what everyone from the Capitol doorkeepers to the elevator operators already know.

“Once in a while, they schedule a Friday, but we don’t work on Friday. We’re so desperate to get out of here Thursday that the votes are now scheduled at a quarter until 2,” Reid said. But with the Memorial Day recess nearing, McConnell moved the week’s last votes up by 15 minutes.

This week’s votes were scheduled at 1:30 p.m.

But the Senate’s workdays are only going to get more infrequent soon. Under McConnell’s schedule, the Senate will leave on July 15 to start its seven-week summer recess.