Senate GOP eyes end to August session

Senate GOP eyes end to August session
© Greg Nash

GOP senators are eyeing an early end to their extended session as leadership works to lock down deals on the few remaining agenda items. 

The Senate is currently scheduled to be in Washington through the end of next week, after Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R-Ky.) announced they would delay the summer break to try catch up on a backlog of nominations and legislation. 

But it now looks like the August recess just might start a little sooner.

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Senators signaled on Wednesday they thought the Senate could wrap up its work on Thursday, allowing lawmakers to leave town a week earlier than currently scheduled.

“Yeah, I mean if things come together the way we hope they will on the [Food and Drug Administration] FDA bill then we could finish up tomorrow. It looks like things are tracking but we’re not there yet,” Sen. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenMcConnell works to salvage tax bill GOP to reduce tax relief by 0B to win over deficit hawks  The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill MORE (R-N.D.) said as he left a closed-door caucus lunch, asked about a Thursday exit.  

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Dems push for more money for opioid fight MORE (R-S.D.), asked about the schedule, predicted: “I'd say not as likely today, more likely tomorrow.”

Pressed if was possible the Senate could leave on Wednesday, the No. 3 Senate Republican hesitated, before quipping with reporters: “Well — are you going somewhere?”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) are currently in negotiations on a package of nominations they want cleared before senators leave town. 

McConnell also cited a bill extending a key veterans program and the FDA reauthorization measure as needing to be passed before the Senate could leave town. The Senate passed the extension of the veterans' choice program by voice vote Tuesday night. 

Asked if the Senate could leave town this week if they are able to lock down a deal on nominations, a spokesman for McConnell pointed to the FDA bill. 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Air Force makes criminal reporting changes after Texas massacre We need a better pathway for allowing civilians to move guns across state lines MORE (R-Texas) — who put the chances of the Senate leaving on Wednesday at “zero” — downplayed a question about if senators were eager to get out of town noting they had work to do. 

But questioned if the Senate could leave for the August recess on Thursday he deadpanned: “The leader said we're going to be here the first two weeks of August.”

When a reporter quipped back to Cornyn that “we know that's not true anymore,” he signaled the fate of the Senate's schedule is tied to ongoing negotiations on trying to clear a slate of Trump nominees. 

“It's a matter of having the incentives to have as big a package of nominations confirmed before we leave,” he said. 

Republican senators failed to get a deal on their ObamaCare repeal bill during an early morning vote  Friday, and Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulLexington mayor launches bid for Congress Trump-free Kennedy Center Honors avoids politics Meet the Iran hawk who could be Trump's next secretary of State MORE (R-Ky.) blocked the upper chamber from taking up the National Defense Authorization Act. 

Meanwhile a vote on raising the debt ceiling, which leadership initially wanted to tackle in August, looks to be on hold until the fall with the House already out of town. 

If lawmakers would leave Washington a week early has been an open point of debate around the Senate with Capitol Hill reporters, staffers and even senators making predictions.

GOP Sens. Richard Shelby (Ala.) and John Kennedy (La.) were spotted joking with each other as they headed toward a vote on Tuesday evening about when the Senate would get out of town. 

“Get us out of here on Thursday,” Shelby said as they walked through the Capitol basement.

Kennedy quipped back: “I'm ready!”