On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did what many in his role have long threatened to do: He decided to keep senators and their staff in Washington by canceling the Senate’s August recess.
Well, part of it, anyway.
Citing “historic obstruction” by Democrats, McConnell announced that the Senate — which was expected to take off from August 3 to Labor Day — will now be in session for much of that time to address a backlog of appropriations bills and presidential nominees. (Lawmakers will still get a break the week of August 6, giving them an opportunity to reconnect with constituents, campaign, or just go on vacation.)
Conservative lawmakers including Sens. David Perdue (R-GA), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Joni Ernst (R-IA) have long been among those pushing for McConnell to pull the plug on recess as part of their #MakeCongressWorkAgain initiative.
“It is time to drain the swamp, and we help do that by keeping the pumps running in August,” Daines said in a May statement.
Outstanding bills the Senate needs to approve include the National Defense Authorization Act, the farm bill, and the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, a McConnell spokesperson told the Hill.
McConnell’s decision could also have a consequential impact on the midterms. By keeping incumbent senators tied to Washington, the majority leader forces vulnerable Democrats — and Republicans — to reconfigure their campaign schedules or weigh the consequences of skipping out on work.
Of course, it’s possible this cancellation, and its ensuing Catch-22, won’t even materialize. This isn’t the first time the majority leader has tried to mess with recess, after all. Last year, McConnell announced a two-week delay of the start of August recess in an effort to give lawmakers more time to chip away at a Senate health care bill.
The bill was ultimately defeated before recess was even scheduled to begin, and the summer break went on as originally planned.