Clock Stops Often for 100-Hour Agenda
At first it seemed so simple: The House Democrats' "100-Hour Agenda," a list of seven must-pass items they intended to push through in the first 100 hours of the new Congress, should have lasted four days with, as any fourth-grade long-division whiz could tell you, a remainder of four hours left over. With Congress set to convene at noon on Thursday, January 4, the Estimated Date of Conclusion was Tuesday, January 9, at 4 p.m.
But well before the House reconvened, we learned that the 100-hour clock would tick only during "legislative hours," when the House was actually in session and working on bona fide legislation. There went the first three hours of Day 1, during which each member is called on individually to register his or her vote for the new speaker. At an estimated 10-hour workday under Nancy Pelosi's watch, a little more division yielded us 10 days, plus three hours, plus Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 15, for an EDC of Thursday, January 18, at 3 p.m.
Pelosi was administered the oath of office on the January 4 at 2:29 p.m.31 minutes ahead of our scheduleand by 5 p.m. members were debating House Res. 6, an internal measure promised by Democrats on the campaign trail that would tighten ethics rules and implement greater restrictions on lobbying.
However, this was not considered by the clockmakersthat is, the office of Majority Leader Steny Hoyerto be official legislative business, as it was merely a change to House rules and not subject to either a Senate vote or the president's signature, says Hoyer spokesperson Stacey Bernards. "There's really no other reason than that," she said, including fear that including the item would run the 100-hour clock too long.
That effort lasted through Friday afternoon, at which point they adjourned and elected to return on Tuesday, January 9, at 10:30 a.m., with the clock still idling at zero. EDC: Tuesday, January 23, at 8:30 p.m.
Indeed, the clock did lurch forward on January 9 at 1 p.m., according to the official tally by Hoyer's office. According to its stewardship, the clock runs only during actual debate of legislation, meaning it stops during procedural points of order and the one-minute mini-oratories House members routinely give in the morningmost often, words of congratulation to sports teams and upstanding citizens of their district, enshrining them forever in the Congressional Record.
Six hours and 46 minutes came off the clock on Tuesday, leaving 93:14 left with one of the six remaining itemsimplementing the 9/11 commission findingsalready checked off. By yesterday, it had ticked down to 82:12, averaging just under six hours a day. EDC: Wednesday, January 31, at about 3 p.m. That's assuming five-day workweeks after the holiday.
But with two more itemsincreasing the minimum wage and allowing funding for stem cell researchchecked off by this morning, the Democrats don't need to worry about watching the clock. Bernards says they will stop running it once the last of the six items is passed.
Brian Kennedy, a spokesman for Minority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, characterized it this way: "They stop the clock when the ball goes out of bounds." And if the Democrats manage to avoid overtime, Kennedy says it will be because the majority has limited debate on the items, a charge the party frequently levied against the Republicans in the previous Congress. When asked whether the Democrats would have succeeded with the agenda if that were not the case, Kennedy said, "No way."