Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made the rumors official: All but one week of the Senate’s traditional August recess will be canceled. Rather than spending uninterrupted time with their families or on the beach, or putting in critical time campaigning for re-election, senators will continue their usual 3½ days of work per week trudging through nominations and appropriations bills. (The ultimate vacation, really.)
“Due to the historic obstruction by Senate Democrats of the president’s nominees, and the goal of passing appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year, the August recess has been canceled,” McConnell said in a statement. “Senators should expect to remain in session in August to pass legislation, including appropriations bills, and to make additional progress on the president’s nominees.”
Don’t assume, though, that this will be the final scheduling announcement.
Last year, McConnell proposed cutting two weeks of August recess, and the place freaked out. Democrats agreed to quickly move through dozens of nominations en bloc, and only one week of recess ended up being canceled.
McConnell has some extra leverage this year: There are far more Senate Democrats who expect to be campaigning in August. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said that sneaky political aspect out loud in his comments today:
One doubts that a dozen fewer days campaigning in August would be the determining factor in any of these Senate races, and—if they’re able to complete appropriations bills on time like a functioning governmental body, something we shouldn’t believe until we see it—the cancellation could even be a net-positive for some of these incumbents. But sure, they’d prefer to have the time.
For now, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is saying that Democrats “welcome” the additional time spent in D.C. and that they intend to use it to message on health care. I know this will come as a shock to observers of the United States Senate, but this is all a bit of showmanship right now. No one in either party really wants to spend most of August in Washington. It’s gross.