Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced Tuesday that he is canceling half of Congress’ annual month-long August recess, keeping lawmakers in town to finish their drawn-out and so far unsuccessful effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act and tackle other pressing matters.
“Once the Senate completes its work on health care reform, we will turn to other important issues including the National Defense Authorization Act and the backlog of critical nominations,” he wrote.
A growing number of Republicans have been calling on McConnell to take this very step, saying that Congress should not get a vacation if they have not completed their work.
“We should not be leaving town in August,” argued Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), one of several lawmakers who signed a letter to McConnell calling on him to cancel recess. “If you were in school and you were getting failing grades in your spring semester, you better go to summer school, not take a recess.”
Daines and the other lawmakers demanding the recess cancelation emphasized that they have far more than just their long-sought Obamacare repeal effort on their plates.
“Even if we get through health care, we only have 31 working days left before the end of the fiscal year, and we have the debt ceiling to get through, the budget for 2018, and the appropriations process to fund the government before September,” listed Sen. David Perdue (R-GA). “Even if all of that gets done, we’ve got tax reform. So we want to make sure we have time to get that all done.”
But just minutes before McConnell’s announcement, veteran lawmakers were waving away the idea of canceling recess as an impossibility.
“That’s not gonna happen,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) told reporters, laughing. “It’s hard enough to get members here on a Friday.”
Soon after, he was forced to eat his words.
“Sometimes I’m proven wrong quicker than other times,” he admitted to TPM, but added that he’s still skeptical that a few more weeks can help Republicans bridge their deep policy divides. “But come back to me the second week in August and we’ll talk about whether this was a good idea or not.”
Senate Democrats, for their part, say they will use the extra weeks of work to try to defeat the Obamacare repeal bill once and for all.
“If we have to stay here until August 15 to fight for what we’re fighting for, we’ll stay,” Democratic Whip Dick Durbin told reporters Tuesday. “This is high-stakes political poker, to have 22 million Americans standing to lose their health insurance. Is that worth members of Congress sticking around for a couple weeks? Sure.”