The U.S. House of Representatives will spend a grand total of 126 days actually in session during 2013, according to the official Calendar for the First Session of the 113th Congress released by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia).
Cantor's schedule works out to an annual average of about one week on and two weeks off, similar to the schedule first implemented in 2010 after Republicans took over the House majority in the mid-term election.
In other words, out of the 261 weekdays in 2013, the House will spend 135, or 51% of them not in session. By comparison, the U.S. Senate's tentative 2013 schedule currently projects only 73 days on which the Senate will not be in session. Both the House and Senate days not in session include the 10 designated federal holidays.
In a letter to his fellow Representatives, Majority Leader Cantor justified their 4.5 paid months off as being necessary to keep in touch with the people who pay them.
"Part of our goal in scheduling the House is to ensure that we never lose touch with the constituents we each represent while completing our work in Washington," wrote Cantor. "Time spent in the district between Monday and Friday is essential for meeting with small businesses, employees, seniors, veterans, and other local communities during working hours. We will continue to accommodate Members with longer distances to travel home and provide at least one constituent work week each month, with the exception of June."
Off course, the Representatives are not required to meet with We the People or do anything else on their days not in session, for that matter. But they will, of course, be fully paid for them. In the case of rank-and-file members, that means $174,000 per year and $193,400 per year for Majority Leader Cantor - in session or not.
Now you're probably doing some math and by now have figured out that if House members were paid only for the 126 days they are actually in session, their annual salary (based on $476.71 per day) would drop from $174,000 to $60,065, an annual savings of $113,935 per rank-and-file member. If the two party leadership members are included, this would result in a total annual savings of nearly $50 million.
Another Justification? Theoretically, the rules of debate in the House enable it to get its legislative work done in fewer days in session than the Senate. House rules place strict time limits on all debates on all bills. Debates in the House rarely exceed two hours and are often limited to 30 minutes or less. In the Senate, there is rarely a time limit on debates and Senators who oppose a bill often launch a time-consuming, extended debate, or "filibuster," intended to defeat or amend the bill.
Nice theory, but in actual practice, it often does not work so well. For example, in 2011, the House found time to pass only 326 of the 4,191 bills introduced, the lowest number of bills passed by the House in the last 10 non-election years.
Also See: The 5 Longest Filibusters in US History