WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) today canceled most of the upper chamber’s summer break, citing “historic obstruction” of nominees waiting to be confirmed and a need to pass appropriations bills.
Senators will be allowed to go back to their districts for one week at the beginning of August, but would have to return for the rest of the month that they traditionally take off.
“The president’s made it quite clear he doesn’t intend to sign another omnibus, and in order to prevent that obviously we should do our work, which is to pass individual appropriations bills,” McConnell told reporters outside of a GOP policy luncheon on Capitol Hill. “Chairman [Richard] Shelby and Senator [Pat] Leahy I think have a very cooperative relationship in moving forward with that. We think we have a good chance of passing a number of appropriation bills. In order to do that and in order to deal with this nominations backlog, it’s necessary for us to be here in August and to do our work.”
“In the short term, we are going to turn to the defense authorization bill and the Farm Bill before the one week around July 4. In addition to that, we’re trying to get time agreements on the FAA bill, on the water infrastructure bill,” he added. “All of these we need to be trying to process between now and the July recess. So that’s the schedule over the next few months.”
McConnell said he was calling off recess this far ahead because it was “inconceivable” that the Senate can complete everything on its plate in time, “even with cooperation.”
“We’ve got a lot of appropriation bills to pass. We’ve got this backlog of nominations, certainly we anticipate and hope to have less obstruction on those, but I’ve been hoping for that for quite some time and it hasn’t occurred yet. Just to sum it up, I think we have enough work to do for the American people that we should be here during these weeks,” he said. “I hope we’ll get greater cooperation, but everybody should anticipate that we will be here.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at his own presser that Democrats “welcome this additional time because it gives us the opportunity to address an issue that’s on the top of the mind of so many of the American people and one that Republicans have badly mishandled up to this point: healthcare.”
“One, we want to expand access to Medicare. Many of us in this caucus believe 55 should be the age you can buy; two, we want to increase tax credits to help families afford the cost of healthcare; three, we want to create a National Reinsurance Program to lower premiums; four, we want to ensure that people with pre-existing conditions don’t get denied or priced out of insurance due to an expansion of junk insurance; and five, we want to lower the skyrocketing costs of drugs,” Schumer said. “The rate hikes are coming. High drug costs are coming. If this Republican Congress fails to act, millions upon millions of families will pay more. We are telling our Republican colleagues, let’s seize the month of August to get the job done and prevent these rate hikes.”
“And additionally, one final point, now that the majority leader has acceded to President Trump’s demands on the August schedule we want the president to be here in Washington working with us as well because he caused a lot of these problems,” he added. “We assume he’ll be here in Washington working right alongside us, given the urgency of these weeks we presume he won’t be jetting off to Bedminster or Mar-a-Lago or spending countless hours on the golf course.”