Washington (CNN) – Wasting no time taking on his own leadership, Congressman-elect Allen West is already picking a bone with House Majority Leader-elect Eric Cantor sending the message: lawmakers should have fewer days off.
Cantor, who will be the second-most-powerful Republican in the House, sets the 2011 Congressional calendar which is then communicated to members.
West is a Tea Party favorite who will represent Florida's 22nd District once sworn in on January 5. But he's already at work – writing a letter to his fellow Republican to complain there aren't enough days set aside for work in Washington.
"I believe this schedule does not sufficiently reflect the concerns of the American people as expressed on November 2nd," West told Cantor in the letter.
West explained his letter in a phone interview with CNN.
West began by saying that he called Cantor's office as a courtesy before sending the letter. West told CNN, "…the message that the people sent on the 2nd of November is that they recognize there's some prevailing issues."
"I think that we really need to have more days up front, where we're not just doing a typical type of work schedule. But a lot is going to be demanded of us. And I would think that we need to spend more time in session – in Washington DC – to make sure that we're doing the right and proper things."
West is upset over, what he called, "a lot of white space" on the upcoming Congressional calendar. Cantor released the calendar, and a letter to House colleagues, on December 8.
Cantor's letter about the calendar states that it's the "result of substantial input" from the Republican Transition Team, other Republicans, Democrats and outsiders.
"In total, it contains 123 days and 32 weeks of session," Cantor wrote. "While the number of days in session is consistent with first sessions in years past, the number of weeks in session represents an eleven percent drop, resulting in less travel for Members and potential savings to the Member's Representational Allowance." An MRA is the budget given to House members to run their offices in Washington DC and their districts.
Among other reasons, Cantor wrote that the new calendar is intended to "create certainty" so that members can better plan their days, "increase efficiency and productivity" in the terms of what legislation gets to the House floor, and give House members more time to spend in their districts, listening to constituents.
"Accordingly, the schedule will reflect a guaranteed five-day constituent work week at least once each month for Members to visit…constituent groups Monday through Friday in their district, rather than just on the weekends."
In a statement to CNN, Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring said, "More days in Washington has historically resulted in bigger government, greater waste, and more spending – not more production. What's important is who's in charge and the process put in place, not the number of days in session."
West praised some of this in his letter to Cantor. Yet West emphatically told CNN that lawmakers have far too much work to do – on creating jobs, reducing the deficit and on national security – for them to take so much time off.
"The American people are going to really be looking for us to make some things happen in that first 90 to 120 days. And that's how they're going to judge us," West said.
In West's words, Americans will say, "…'If you're only up there for one third of the time, I mean, what really are you going to get accomplished in this entire year?'"
And West has one other bone to pick with Cantor: those cozy, taxpayer-funded working "retreats" members of Congress take.
"There's a retreat that starts on the 7th, which is…you know, really a nice family time to go to Williamsburg," West told CNN. "But I don't think that that is something that the constituents of the 22nd district wanted me to come up there and do. Because, there's a lot of people that cant have taxpayer-funded vacations - a lot of people down here that have not had the opportunity to have vacations."
The retreat that West refers to is a bi-partisan event that freshmen lawmakers are traditionally invited to by the Congressional Research Service. Cantor's office is not responsible for it.
"I'm not going up there to retreat," West added. "I'm going up there to advance the issues that are of concern to the people of Congressional District 22."
"And having come from the military, there's something about the word, 'retreat' that I just don't like."