Congress won’t be taking all of August off anymore.
As congressional Republicans remain in a stalemate over health care, Republican Senate leadership has canceled the first two weeks of August recess, hoping the additional time in Washington will help them finish up some work.
“In order to provide more time to complete action on important legislative items and process nominees that have been stalled by a lack of cooperation from our friends across the aisle, the Senate will delay the start of the August recess until the third week of August,” McConnell said in a statement.
But the obstacle isn’t just Democratic lack of cooperation. Congressional Republicans, who hold a majority in the House and Senate, have failed to pass any of their major agenda items. A health bill to repeal and replace Obamacare in the Senate cannot garner enough support on either side of the party. Meanwhile, the House, struggling with the same divisions between moderates and conservatives, can’t find consensus on a budget — a prerequisite to moving on to tax reform.
On top of the major agenda items, Congress is facing another government shutdown deadline at the end of September and a looming debt ceiling crisis that has to be dealt with by fall. It gives the Senate plenty to do in the two extra weeks in August.
There was already some support in the Republican conference to stay through August. House conservatives in the Freedom Caucus took a formal position that they would like to work through recess to ensure the health bill, spending bills, debt ceiling, and budget are all sorted out before members head home to see constituents.
President Donald Trump also tweeted about August recess, stating that he could not “imagine” Congress taking off for recess without passing a health bill.
I cannot imagine that Congress would dare to leave Washington without a beautiful new HealthCare bill fully approved and ready to go!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2017
McConnell’s announcement for the Senate appears to be a compromise between those demands and the traditional congressional calendar.
But already, divisions in the party have dragged out congressional Republicans’ agenda far longer than the original Republican leadership anticipated — the original calendar ambitiously projected a health care bill and tax reform to be on Trump’s desk by the end of summer.
That’s clearly not going to happen. But for now, this buys a little extra time to possibly see something to completion.