Time Out! House Takes Off Monday to Watch Football Game

What would your boss say if you decided to take the day off to go to a football game?

The U.S. House of Representatives was not in session today -- and the official reason given was that freshman lawmakers needed time to return from an orientation retreat over the weekend.

But the real reason was that some lawmakers, including House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other members of the delegations from Ohio and Florida, wanted to travel to Arizona to watch tonight's college football championship between Ohio State and the University of Florida.

The explanations for the day off have already fueled partisan rancor, with both parties blaming the other.

Democratic congressional sources claim that their leadership wanted a normal Monday in session, but that when Boehner's office requested the day off due to the football game, it relented in the interest of keeping the peace. (The Senate was in session today.) Members of the House typically arrive late Monday evening to vote on noncontroversial suspension bills, such as naming a post office.

"He did in fact request that votes not commence this week until tomorrow" because of the football game, Boehner spokesman Brian Kennedy told ABCNews.com, calling the brouhaha "much ado about nothing."

When they won back control of Congress, Democrats vowed to crack the whip when it came to lawmakers' notorious work ethics, which often consisted of Tuesday to Thursday schedules.

"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," promised new House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., last December.

Some Republican lawmakers were outraged at the recess, accusing Hoyer of breaking his vow. "We all know the big national championship game is on Monday night at 8 p.m.; but taking an entire day to watch the game isn't what we should spend part of our five-day workweek doing," said Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga.

Price criticized Hoyer for allowing the day off. "Telling the American people one thing in front of the television cameras and then backpedaling less than one week into the 110th Congress is a symptom of a greater problem," he said. (Price was in Atlanta for the day, meeting constituents and doing interviews with national and local media.)

Hoyer's staff insisted that the House would accomplish plenty from Tuesday through Friday. "This week, the House will vote to implement the 9-11 Commission recommendations, raise the minimum wage, lower drug prices for seniors and expand stem cell research -- I believe most Americans would agree that this is a full week of work," said Hoyer spokeswoman Stacey Bernards.

Looking ahead, there won't be a single five-day workweek in the month of January. Next Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday.

And the following two weeks? They'll be shortened by a Republican retreat on Jan. 25 and 26 and a Democratic retreat on Feb. 1 and 2.