Montana GOP Sen. Steve Daines is among a group of senators calling on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to cancel the five-week August recess in order to get what he called a backlog of work done before the Sept. 30 budget deadline.
“If we are complicit, we are on track for another last-minute spending battle come September,” the 16 senators wrote in their May 10 letter to McConnell, R-Kentucky. “However, if we take action now, we can break the cycle of continuing resolutions and omnibus spending deals.”
In a telephone call Wednesday from Washington, D.C., with Montana reporters, Daines said the Senate has 12 weeks to get a dozen appropriation bills out of committee and on to the floor and to vote on 276 nominations.
“It’s hard to find a good rationale or argument for why we recess Congress when there is so much work that remains to be done,” Daines said.
The decision to cancel the recess is the responsibility of the Senate majority leader, he said.
He dismissed criticism that canceling the recess would hurt candidates, such as Democratic Montana Sen. Jon Tester, running for reelection from campaigning in their home states.
“The American people have elected us to get the job done” and not be campaigning all the time, Daines said adding he has heard criticism that lawmakers are not focused on moving legislation through.
He said when he comes to Montana one common theme he hears from constituents is to get the job done.
Tester said in a email Wednesday he supports dropping the August recess if necessary.
“Montanans work hard and don’t go home until the job is done, and their elected officials should do the same,” he said. “We should also turn off the air conditioning in the Capitol because then, maybe, Washington politicians would finally get off their rears and start doing the work they were sent here to do.”
Daines said the Senate usually convenes Monday afternoons and then adjourns Thursday nights.
He said President Donald Trump talked about “draining the swamp,” a metaphor to fix problems in the federal government.
On Saturday, Trump posted a tweet urging the Senate to get its work done on funding before the August break, “or NOT GO HOME.”
“There are some traditions of the Senate that perpetuate business as usual,” he said, adding there would be resistance from some lawmakers.
“It’s the new generation of the Senate that is saying the status quo is not acceptable,” Daines said.
“We’re not utilizing all the time that needs to be utilized in U.S. Senate,” he said, adding it would take “time to change cadence.”
In the letter to McConnell, the senators pledge to help break the backlog and get the government funded before the Sept. 30 deadline.
“We stand ready to work Mondays and Fridays, nights as well as weekends, to ensure the funding process is not used to jam the president with a bad spending deal,” they wrote.
Critics of Daines have noted he does not do in-person town hall meetings. He commented on whether canceling the August recess would impact interaction with constituents.
He said he recently had an only Skype discussion with Helena students on gun violence.
Daines said there is a need to make better use of technology.
“It’s hard to be everywhere at once,” he said.
He said his tele-townhall meetings pull in as many as 20,000 at a time and his office receives nearly 100,000 emails a year.
Other GOP senators signing the letter are David Perdue of Georgia, Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy of Louisiana, Ted Cruz of Texas, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Dean Heller of Nevada, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Mike Lee of Utah, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Dan Sullivan of Arkansas, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.