Missoula Current: Citing obstructionism, Daines urges peers to work weekends to beat Senate deadlines

Sen. Steve Daines joined several Republican colleagues in urging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to waive the August recess so Congress can address the backlog of presidential nominees and fund the federal government before the next fiscal crisis.

“When you’re in business, when you have a private operation, budgets are locked down two months before a fiscal year begins,” Daines said during a Tuesday morning press conference. “Contrast that to Washington, D.C. We were six months into the fiscal year before Congress finally passed a spending bill. That’s unacceptable.”

For much of the past year, Congress has struggled to meet deadlines for government funding, resulting in two government shutdowns this year. Again facing deadline, it passed a spending bill in March that funded the government through the end of September.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said the 2,200-page spending bill didn’t receive the scrutiny it deserved, given the last-minute charades, and it’s not an ideal way to run government.

“When we found it was passed by the House of Representatives before lunch the next day, and passed by the Senate that night, it occurred to many of us that this is not OK, especially when you consider the fact that most of the 435 members of the House and most of the 100 members of the Senate – and the people represented by those members of Congress – were completely left out of the loop on that process,” Lee said.

Daines and his Republican peers in the Senate sent McConnell a letter last week, saying “historic obstruction” by the minority party has made it hard to fund the federal government and confirm President Donald Trump’s nominees.

Signed by 16 members of the Senate, the letter notes that only 67 working days remain on the calendar this fiscal year – a number that drops to 52 if Fridays are excluded. That leaves 12 weeks to push 12 appropriation bills out of committee.

“That alone is an impossible task,” the letter says. “When combined with the crucial need to confirm more nominees, it is clear we do not have enough time.”

With time of an essence, Senate Republicans are urging McConnell to cancel the August recess, stating their willingness to work nights and weekends to “break the cycle of continuing resolutions and omnibus spending bills.”

“Today, 15 months into this presidency, we have 276 nominees backlogged waiting for confirmation hearings,” said Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga. “This is nothing but pure, unadulterated obstructionism. This year as well, we want to make sure we fund the government without having to use a continuing resolution or backing into a year-end omnibus.”

Also citing obstructionism, Daines said Congress isn’t getting the people’s work done. He said Montana farmers and ranchers don’t work Monday through Thursday, and they don’t take weekends off.

Neither should Congress, he added.

“President Trump talked about making America great again, and he’s doing that,” Daines said. “He also talked about draining the swamp. It’s time to drain the swamp, and we can help do that by keeping the pumps running in August.”