Saturday & Sunday Legislative Days
Background Information–1789 to Present
These charts are drawn from various editions of the House Calendar, House Journal, and Congressional Record, including its predecessors the Annals of Congress, Register of Debates, and Congressional Globe. These lists contain Saturday and Sunday legislative days only. By definition, a legislative day begins after an adjournment and ends with an adjournment. A House legislative day’s opening and closing normally, but not always, coincide with a calendar day. The charts do not include legislative days that commenced on a Friday and carried over into a Saturday or Sunday calendar day. In addition, Saturday and Sunday legislative days that occurred in special sessions—like that of President Harry S. Truman’s recall of House and Senate Members in the 80th Congress—also are not included in the charts.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the House convened legislative days on weekends far more often than the modern House. Changes in the nation’s size, transportation system, and the needs of Representatives and Delegates, account for this phenomenon. Traveling great distances by primitive modes of transportation, early Members of Congress compressed their brief legislative sessions in the nation’s capital, often meeting for six legislative days each week. In more recent times, aided by rapid transit, Members gather at the Capitol more frequently but tend to convene only three or four legislative days per week in order to spend the balance of their time in their districts. Despite the infrequency of modern working weekends, it is important to note the 1st Congress (1789–1791) lasted for 210 days over the course of two calendar years, while the 108th Congress (2003–2005) lasted for 659 days of the same two-year span.
Only three times has the Opening Day of a Congress fallen on a weekend. On March 4, 1871, and on January 3, 1953, the Opening Days for the 42nd (1871–1873) and 83rd (1953–1955) Congresses, respectively, fell on a Saturday. On January 3, 2021, the 117th Congress (2021–2023) met for Opening Day on a Sunday.