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Conservatives, White House pressure McConnell for longer Senate work hours

Conservatives, White House pressure McConnell for longer Senate work hours
© Greg Nash

Conservatives are upping pressure on Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats slide in battle for Senate McConnell and wife confronted by customers at restaurant Pelosi, Schumer: Trump 'desperate' to put focus on immigration, not health care MORE (R-Ky.) to either keep the Senate in session longer during the week or delay the August recess in order to catch up on funding the government and confirming President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Trump believes Kushner relationship with Saudi crown prince a liability: report Christine Blasey Ford to be honored by Palo Alto City Council MORE's nominees.

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), White House legislative affairs director Marc Short and conservative outside groups joined forces on Tuesday to urge the Senate GOP leader to ramp up the chamber's work schedule.

Short argued that Democrats are using nominations to eat up floor time and "not get to the Senate's business."

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"The only way to stop that is to actually force members to stay on weekends and to stay during the summer months," he said.

Pressed on whether the White House was endorsing Republicans delaying or canceling the August recess, Short added: "If we reach August, and we still have not completed the appropriations work and not confirmed our nominees then of course we would like to see the Congress stay here."

The push for Congress to pass the 12 individual appropriations bills, rather than a mammoth funding bill, comes after Trump and conservatives railed against the $1.3 trillion omnibus bill earlier this year.

Trump pledged that he would not sign a similar bill again. Congress now faces an end-of-September deadline to pass another funding bill or risk a government shutdown.

Perdue said GOP senators would separately submit a letter to McConnell this week urging him to keep the Senate in session in order to fund the government by the end of the 2018 fiscal year.

"That letter basically, again, encourages the leader to keep us here on weekends, on Mondays and Fridays when necessary and certainly during the August break if we haven't funded the government by then," Perdue said.

In addition to delays in funding the government, Republicans have bristled over the slow pace of confirming Trump's nominations.

According to White House data, Trump has sent 774 nominations to the Senate, with 459 being confirmed so far.

A separate tracker from the Partnership for Public Service and The Washington Post found that 188 additional nominees are currently pending in the Senate's pipeline and that it takes the president's picks an average of 84 days to be confirmed.

Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordCollusion judgment looms for key Senate panel GOP loads up lame-duck agenda as House control teeters The Hill's Morning Report — Kavanaugh, Ford saga approaches bitter end MORE (R-Okla.) has introduced a resolution, backed by GOP leadership, that would cut down on the amount of debate time required for most nominations once they've overcome a procedural hurdle that shows they have the simple majority support needed to pass.

But no Democrat has come forward to support changing the rules. Republicans could go "nuclear" and implement the rules change with only GOP support, but with a fragile 51-seat majority it's unclear that they would have the votes to do so.

Tuesday's press conference comes after dozens of conservative groups released a memo late last month arguing that Republicans are "failing" to get the work done that the party's voters expect from them.

"As a whole, the Republican majority is failing to effectively represent the voters who sent them to Washington," the groups wrote in the memo.

Jenny Beth Martin, the cofounder of Tea Party Patriots, added on Tuesday that Republicans should be prepared to cancel the August recess.

"Congress should move its spending bills on time. If they haven't passed all 12 spending bills by the end of July they should cancel the August recess," she said. "And if Congress hasn't confirmed President Trump's nominees by the end of July, they should cancel the August recess."

Conservatives launched a similar effort last year and McConnell ultimately delayed the start of the August recess by two weeks.