by Robert Donachie
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday he is canceling three weeks of the planned August recess in order to pass legislation and confirm the president’s conservative judicial nominees.
“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 announced Tuesday in a statement. “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.”
Senators are expected to return home for state work during the first week of August, but are being told to stay in Washington for the final three weeks of the month.
There might be something else at play under McConnell’s sleeve. Having the entire Senate body in Washington while working ultimately ensures vulnerable Democrats up for reelection don’t have as much face-time with constituents heading into November.
McConnell has said his focus for the midterms is picking up seats in states like Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee, Montana, North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia and Florida. President Donald Trump won many of these states in 2016 (North Dakota, West Virginia, Indiana, Montana, Missouri and Florida).
The goal is to retain the seats in competitive GOP races — like the vacancy left behind from Republican Sen. Jeff Flake in Arizona — and pick up seats in tight elections, like Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s of North Dakota.
Effectively, the scenario puts vulnerable Democrats in a no-win situation: fulfill duties as a sitting senator, or go home to constituents, campaign and face blowback from the GOP challenger for not doing the job voters sent senators to Washington to do.
The majority leader has faced a great deal of flack for allowing the chamber to go home every Thursday afternoon, working two and a half days a week while they still haven’t completed a number of the president’s priorities, like reforming health care.
Republicans have a narrow 51-seat majority in the Senate and the ultimate goal is maintaining that, although there are other seats that look eligible, like Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey’s.
McConnell’s announcement Tuesday came after a group of 16 Republican senators, with Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia leading the charge, pressured McConnell in early May to cancel the August recess.
Conservative senators and groups commended the move as a right first step, but cautioned a cancel must be followed with action and results.
“Senate Republicans have accomplished a great deal this year, but more needs to be done. That’s why it is encouraging that Leader McConnell took our concerns into consideration,” Perdue said in a statement Tuesday, adding the chamber should be working “nights and weekends” to get results. “We still have 271 nominations to confirm, and we must complete the appropriations process before the end of the fiscal year on September 30.”
Other organizations within the conservative movement and politics are happy Senate leadership heard the call, but don’t want the opportunity wasted or have it be merely a political show.
“If the work needed to be done on confirmations and appropriations is urgently needed enough to cancel August break, they should be working nights, weekends and cancelling vacations now,” Wes Denton, communications director for the Conservative Partnership Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“The Senate has had 2 ten-day recesses in the last month, and likely will recess this Thursday,” Denton said. “The fight for Trump’s nominees and to pass responsible spending with border funding will take an all out effort, and leadership and others should be working immediately instead of waiting until August. Americans want the work done.”
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