Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has canceled the Senate’s normal month-long August recess, with a promise to push through the confirmations of more of President Trump’s nominees.
“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. 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,” McConnell said in a statement.
The move is a win-win for McConnell and most Senate Republicans. First, working through most of August (they’ll still head home for the first week) means they can ram through a number of President Trump’s nominations — specifically for open judicial slots, many of which they’d kept open for the final years of President Obama’s time in office.
Second, it means that none of the senators up for reelection will be able to be home campaigning during that time — a fact that disproportionately benefits Republicans. There are 10 Senate Democrats up for reelection from states Trump won, including five in deep-red territory, as well as Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who face tough reelection fights. Only Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) will suffer for being forced to stay in Washington for the sweaty month.
Many of those vulnerable Democrats cagily refused to admit any frustration that they’d be stuck doing their day job — Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) said he’s “happy to be wherever I need to be to do what’s right for Indiana,” while Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) said “there’s a lot of work to do.”
But others were more candid — Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) called it a “game.”
“The question is, can Republicans do anything? I don’t think they’re going to make any meaningful progress if they cancel a summer recess,” he said.
But it does handicap Democrats’ ability to campaign, while allowing Republicans to continue to ram through judges at a historically rapid pace.
McConnell has threatened a reduction in August recess before to get Democrats to relent to a faster confirmation of judges. But he said he wasn’t bluffing this time — and even if Democrats acquiesced he planned to keep the Senate around for most of the month.
“I’m all for cooperation but if you look at the amount of work we have to do it’s inconceivable for me we can’t use these weeks even with cooperation,” he said during a Tuesday afternoon press conference. “We have enough work to do for the American people that we should be here through these weeks.”
Not every Republican was thrilled about the decision.
“I hope we have a purpose,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters, after sarcastically saying he couldn’t “think of a better place to be.”