Judd Gregg: The summer session

Judd Gregg: The summer session
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Overnight Defense: Washington reeling from Trump, Putin press conference Feehery: The long game MORE (R-Ky.) last week announced he intends to keep the Senate in session for most of August.

These are fighting words to members of the upper chamber, who greatly value their time off in the summer. So long as they are not up for reelection, they can travel the world and do other fun things.

McConnell’s proposal has great merit, however.


This has been a Senate that has suffered the self-inflicted frustration of accomplishing little in the way of policy.

This lack of productivity is not McConnell’s fault.

Rather, it is the result of the decision by Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerThis week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Red-state Dem tells Schumer to 'kiss my you know what' on Supreme Court vote Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE (D-N.Y.) and his Democratic caucus to not allow anything to happen if they can stop it.

McConnell has used the Senate rules, when available, to pass the tax reform bill and to fill the judiciary with highly qualified conservative judges. He could do these things because he only needed 51 votes for action.

But when Democratic votes were needed — that is, on all policy actions except for those passed under reconciliation, with the exception of the marginal Dodd-Frank reform bill — nothing has happened.

Schumer and his team have fallen prey to the worst instincts of their angry base and simply said “No.”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpShocking summit with Putin caps off Trump’s turbulent Europe trip GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Trump stuns the world at Putin summit MORE brings out this unfortunate, visceral antipathy from the broader left, which has co-opted the character of the Senate Democratic caucus.

When McConnell says he intends to keep the Senate in session for the summer, he is really only confirming that Senate Democrats will be asked to sleep in the bed they have made for themselves.

With an August session, McConnell gets to call the Schumer hand.

He can use the extra time to confirm even more judges using his 51 votes.

He can also keep the 24 Democratic senators up for reelection in Washington, looking like part of the problem, rather then allowing them to get out on the campaign trail.

These are merely the most obvious results of this August session, however.

It is possible something much more significant could come from it.

What if senators decided to take a major piece of public policy that is crying out for action to the floor, and passed a bipartisan effort at a solution?

There is such an opportunity and there is a cause to drive the opportunity.

It is called immigration reform and it should be done in the name of Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Trump stuns the world at Putin summit NY Daily News cover following Helsinki summit shows Trump shooting Uncle Sam MORE (R-Ariz.).

There always has been a bipartisan pathway to substantive immigration reform.

Ironically it was Schumer and McCain who first authored such an approach. It is still viable.

The president prides himself on making a deal. This is an issue that sets up nicely for such an outcome.

The outline of the agreement is fairly evident.

The president gets his border wall.

He also gets tougher enforcement generally regarding the continued inflow of illegals — and especially relative to employers who flaunt the law in their hiring practices. The system should include an effective guest worker program that actually tracks the exit as well the entry of the people using it.

Both sides get a system of immigration that is based not only on family but also on bringing to the country people who will add to our nation’s strength.

A large percentage of the people granted the right to immigrate here should be determined under a system similar to Canada’s, where skills and talent are the key factors.

The issue of what happens to beneficiaries of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is resolved along the lines that the president proposed prior to the breakdown in the negotiations. This would address the issues around almost two million kids who are essentially Americans.

Of course, the most significant question is how to manage the people who are here illegally — a population estimated at between 11 million and 15 million.

Where there is a crime — additional to their illegal entry — illegal immigrants should be deported.

But for the others — who are the vast majority, and who are for the most part very hard-working contributors to our economy — a better path is needed.

Both sides should be for ending the potential exploitation of these folks due to their status.

A deal can certainly be reached that gives them some form of legal status after reasonable conditions have been met. For most, this would not include citizenship.

Of course, groups like the Freedom Caucus would strongly oppose such a deal. But they strongly oppose and have obstructed most initiatives that have had a chance of bipartisan support. It is in their DNA to be negative.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanGOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Trump stuns the world at Putin summit Former Trump aide says he canceled CNN appearance over 'atrocious' Helsinki coverage MORE (R-Wis.) should give them a going-away present, and a deal on immigration would be the perfect one.

In the Senate, this type of compromise would pass with strong bipartisan support. There would be opposition from some on both sides but those opponents miss the point.

It is a deal. It is good for the country. It is governing.

If it were called the McCain bill, it would be a timely and appropriate recognition of the service that John McCain has rendered to the Senate and to the country.

It would be a constructive and nice thing to do.

It would also make August a month to remember.

Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.