Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has cancelled the Senate’s August recess it was announced this week. McConnell said the time was needed to work through a backlog of President Trump’s nominees which McConnell claims Democrats have been slow-walking.
“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. 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 said in a statement.
The Senate recess had been scheduled to start on August 3 and run through until early September – until after Labor Day Weekend. The Senate will now recess for one week only starting on August 6 and remain in session through the end of the month.
The August recess is traditionally a time lawmakers use to hold town hall meetings in their states and districts. This year the recess is of special importance to the Senate as it is an election year. A third of U.S. Senators run for reelection every two years. The August recess is also traditionally a time for those Senators up for reelection to campaign.
McConnell had been under pressure to cancel the recess from outside conservative groups, as well as from members of his own party.
Ten GOP Senators wrote to McConnell in May asking him to cancel the recess.
“Our current Senate calendar shows only 33 potential working days remaining before the end of the fiscal year. This does not appear to give us enough time to adequately address the issues that demand immediate attention. Therefore, we respectfully request that you consider truncating, if not completely foregoing, the scheduled August state work period, allowing us more time to complete our work,” they wrote.
Also high on Republicans’ to-do list are the twelve spending bills that make up the federal budget. Both inter- and intra-party bickering make passing those bills virtually impossible. The result is usually last-minute brinksmanship that leads to government shutdowns – both real and threatened – punctuated by the passage of a massive, all-in-one omnibus spending bill that no one is satisfied with.
“The president’s made it quite clear he doesn’t intend to sign another omnibus, and in order to prevent that obviously we should do our work, which is to pass individual appropriations bills,” McConnell told reporters after his announcement. The U.S. fiscal year ends Sept. 30.
The White House applauded the move. “Mitch McConnell announced he will cancel the Senate’s August Recess. Great, maybe the Democrats will finally get something done other than their acceptance of High Crime and High Taxes. We need Border Security!” the President wrote on Twitter.
Democrats decried the cancellation as purely political, accusing McConnell of attempting to keep Senate Democrats off the campaign trail in crucial weeks heading into the fall elections.
Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who is facing a tough reelection this year, called the cancellation “a calculation of raw politics on the part of Mitch McConnell.” His general election opponent, Florida Gov. Rick Scott refuted that statement saying Florida residents “don’t get to take the month of August off, and neither should career politicians.”
Some actually questioned whether the recess would stay cancelled. “I guess if we moved everything we wanted to on the calendar,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) said, part of the August recess could be salvaged. “If the Democrats were to cooperate with us on a lot of things,” he added.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) who is leaving the Senate this year echoed the sentiments. “Typically when people smell jet fumes they find a way to be a little more cooperative,” he said.
McConnell dismissed the notion however, saying the Senate had more than enough to keep them busy during that time. “It’s inconceivable to me that we can’t use these weeks,” he told reporters, “even with cooperation.”
Photo by Glenn Fawcett via DoD