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Mitch McConnell cancels most of Senate's annual August recess

It's bad news for red state Democrats facing tough re-election fights, as they'll be stuck in Washington instead of campaigning back home.
by Rebecca Shabad /  / Updated 

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WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday that he is canceling most of the Senate's annual August recess.

The Kentucky Republican attributed his decision 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," which is Sept. 30.

"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.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters that they would spend the month on "nominations, nominations, nominations."

The cancellation of August recess in the upper chamber is bad news for red state Democrats facing tough re-election fights in this November's midterm elections. They'll be stuck in Washington instead of hitting the campaign trail, and keeping them on Capitol Hill likely factored into the majority leader's decision.

Senators are still scheduled to be back home in their states for a week-long break the first week in August before returning for the rest of the month.

The House, meanwhile, is scheduled to be on recess for the entire month. The dynamic in the lower chamber is much different, as GOP leaders want their rank-and-file members home in their districts with constituents since the Republican majority risks losing seats or even control of the House to Democrats.

McConnell's office listed the following legislative priorities for August: Voting on an annual defense policy bill, appropriations bills, a water infrastructure measure, the farm bill, opioid bills, flood insurance, a Coast Guard bill and a reauthorization for the Federal Aviation Administration.

"The list is not all-inclusive, but should give you a flavor of the significant workload that the Senate will work through, continuing the streak of accomplishments," his office said.

Last month, more than a dozen GOP senators suggested to McConnell in a letter that he cancel their August recess to break through the nominee logjam and pass appropriations bills.

"Many of us encouraged cancelling August recess last year to meet our legislative goals. As a result, the Senate confirmed 77 nominations with no floor debate, a significant concession with the minority party. Our diligence was rewarded with reason, and it can happen again," the Republicans senators wrote.

While keeping the Senate in session might result in more confirmed nominees, the likelihood of the chamber passing government spending bills in August is slim because Democrats are expected to block GOP-crafted measures. Congress almost always waits until the 11th hour to pass a continuing resolution before the Sept. 30 deadline to extend current government funding and avoid a shutdown.

Canceling August recess is rare for Congress, though McConnell delayed the start of it by a week last year in order to make more time for the Obamacare repeal effort, which was ultimately doomed.

Cornyn, prior to McConnell's announcement, called it a situation of Democrats' own making.

"I think now they’re desperate because now they realize they're more exposed politically because they’ve got so many people up running for re-election in red states," Cornyn said.

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