Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that he will cancel the August recess, citing “historic obstruction” by Democrats.
“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 in a statement.
He added that senators would stay in session “to pass legislation, including appropriations bills, and to make additional progress on the president’s nominees.”
The Senate had been expected to leave town on Aug. 3 for a four-week break and not return to Washington until early September, after Labor Day.
But under McConnell’s new plan, senators are expected to be out of town for the week of Aug. 6. They will then return to Washington and remain in session for the rest of the month.
GOP senators had hinted for weeks that they expected the Senate leader to cancel at least part of the break in an effort to catch up on confirming Trump’s nominees and avoid passing another mammoth omnibus spending bill later this year.
In additions to appropriations and nominees, a spokesman for McConnell noted that the Senate still needs to approve the National Defense Authorization Act, water infrastructure legislation, the farm bill, reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration and renewal of the flood insurance program.
GOP Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) have also been circulating a survey amongst their colleagues as they look for additional agenda items that would have enough support to pass during a midterm election year.
McConnell has been under intense pressure from conservatives, including members of his own caucus, and the White House to cancel at least part of the recess.
Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), who previously spearheaded a letter to McConnell on the issue, praised the move Tuesday but urged the Senate GOP leader to go even further.
“We should not go home until we have completed our work. It is important to remember that simply canceling the August state work period is not the goal. We should be working nights and weekends now to get the results the American people sent us here to deliver,” he said.
The move pays obvious political dividends for Republicans by forcing a slate of vulnerable red-state Democrats to remain in Washington and off the campaign trail.
“I think now they’re desperate because now they realize they’re more exposed politically because they’ve got so many people up running for re-election in red states,” Sen. John Cornyn told reporters earlier Tuesday, asked about canceling the recess.
Senators had thought that the tough political map would force McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to reach a deal.
McConnell had previously said he was negotiating with Schumer.
A source familiar with the talks said McConnell privately told Schumer that members should make their August plans for the latter part of the recess, before backtracking.
Democrats immediately cried foul over the move, arguing it was a clear political play by McConnell.
“The fact that the Republicans have resorted to keeping Democrats off the campaign trail in August shows you just how nervous they are about November,” said a senior Democratic aide.
David Bergstein, a spokesman for the DSCC, added that McConnell is “terrified” about letting Democrats campaign.
“Given his horrendous recruits, Senator McConnell is right to be terrified of Senate Democrats on the campaign trail, but whenever the GOP Congress is in session they find new ways to alienate and disgust voters,” he said.
BY JORDAIN CARNEY – 06/05/18