Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday that he’s canceled most of the chamber’s traditional August recess, citing Democrats’ “obstruction” and the need to pass spending bills.
In a brief written statement, he said: “Senators should expect to remain in session in August to pass legislation, including appropriations bills, and to make additional progress on the president’s nominees.”
McConnell’s announcement had been expected, as he’s faced pressure for weeks from fellow Republicans to keep members in session over the hot summer stretch.
Their appeal focused on the need to wrap up spending bills and confirm President Trump’s nominees to various positions. McConnell cited exactly that in his statement Tuesday.
“Due to the historic obstruction by Senate Democrats of the president’s nominees, and the goal of passing appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year, the August recess has been canceled,” McConnell said.
But the decision also keeps lawmakers in Washington during a critical period in the runup to November’s midterm elections — a controversial move.
On one hand, the recess cancellation allows senators of both parties to show they’re working hard. But Democrats may suggest there’s an ulterior motive — as it keeps several endangered members of their party off the campaign trail.
Republicans hold a narrow, 51-49 seat edge in the Senate. In a strange electoral alignment, however, the overwhelming majority of seats up for election this year are held by Democrats — many in states President Trump won.
Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.; Jon Tester, D-Mont.; Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. and others are considered vulnerable this election cycle, and could suffer from time off the campaign trail.
At the same time, Congress is facing very real deadlines.
Congress and the president must come to terms with the next round of spending before Sept. 30. Democrats and Republicans are working feverishly behind the scenes to reach an accord before then.
But another factor could scramble the appropriations process. Republicans recently cobbled together a “rescissions” bill, which cancels spending Congress already allocated. The administration recently sent an updated version of that plan to Capitol Hill.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has warned that the rescissions effort “is going to make it harder to get the appropriations process moving forward in a bipartisan way.”
Schumer said Tuesday, though, that Democrats welcome the additional time to work on urgent matters in Washington – and called on Trump to stay in D.C. along with Congress.
Not all is lost for senators, aides and other Capitol denizens hoping to relax. McConnell’s office said senators will likely be on a break for the first full week of August before returning for the rest of the month.