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Mitch McConnell cancels Senate’s August recess

His move could have major consequences for the midterms.

President Trump Attends Senate Republican's Weekly Policy Luncheon
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell talks to reporters after the weekly Republican policy luncheon.
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Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

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.

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