Time to reschedule those vacation plans: The Senate’s traditional August recess is likely to be trimmed or possibly scrapped entirely, according to four Republican senators.
Senate Republicans expect that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will soon announce plans to gut the four-week recess as his caucus and President Donald Trump clamor for more action in Washington. McConnell discussed the matter privately with his leadership team on Monday evening in a members-only meeting, according to two GOP senators.
No final decision has been made, senators said, and the caucus is still debating how many weeks of the recess to slash. But McConnell, the president and GOP senators are so frustrated with the pace of spending bills and Trump’s nominations that McConnell appears ready to pull the plug on the traditional getaway from Washington ahead of the mid-term elections this fall.
McConnell has “talked to Sen. Schumer and the president. And my impression is we’re going to be spending some time here,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas). “Clearly we’ll be here for a substantial part of” August.
A spokesman for McConnell said the leader had not made any announcements but pointed to McConnell’s “frequent comments on this historic obstruction by our Democrat friends, along with his call to do appropriations bills this summer.” McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have been discussing potential cooperation on nominees and spending bills, but many of the more junior senators like the idea of projecting a renewed work ethic as Senate control hangs in the balance this fall.
The GOP leader said Tuesday afternoon that he’ll “have more to say about the August break in the near future.” And Schumer indicated discussions are still underway with McConnell on a deal that could preserve some or all of the recess.
“He and I are talking about that. And look, I think what’s important here is to move the Senate forward on appropriations, and we Democrats have every intention of doing that and cooperating,” Schumer said.
McConnell partially canceled August recess last year, but this time around such a move has the side benefit of keeping the 10 vulnerable Senate Democratic incumbents in town during the summer while their Republican rivals campaign against them at home. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), the most endangered GOP senator, would also be held up in D.C., but he has joined the 16 senators calling on McConnell to cancel the recess and focus on spending bills and nominees.
“The leader is taking it very, very seriously,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who has been among those advocating for canceling recess. McConnell is “very serious about canceling the August recess. I think the president would be pleased to see the outcome and make those of us who signed the letter happy, too. We need to be here.”
Of course, Republicans aren’t entirely united on an agenda for the summer. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is hoping that August is used to work on a new health care proposal, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has argued internally that the GOP should seize a rare opportunity of unified control of Washington to pursue more legislation via simple majority by the budget reconciliation maneuver.
“I hope we come up with an agenda beyond just confirming the judges,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “We’re working on that.”
There are also private worries that if leadership held crucial votes in August, the plan could backfire if some GOP senators missed them. With just 51 GOP senators and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) battling brain cancer back home, Republicans could lose votes if anyone is absent.