Senate GOP weighs curbing August recess

Senate GOP weighs curbing August recess
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans are actively discussing canceling part — or all — of the August recess in order to catch up on funding the government and approving President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE’s nominations. 

The issue didn't come up during a closed-door meeting with Trump on Tuesday, but GOP senators say it's being weighed amid an intense pressure campaign from conservative members and the White House. 

"Yeah, because there are a lot of our members ... who are interested in ensuring that we're getting [completed] our things that we need to get done," said GOP Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneImpeachment threatens to drown out everything Republicans show signs of discomfort in defense of Trump   Embracing President Mike Pence might be GOP's best play MORE (S.D.). "I think if there are things that we can be doing there is a high level of interest among a number of our members." 

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The No. 3 GOP senator added that leadership is also interested in the idea.

Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyMeet Trump's most trusted pollsters Contractors fight for pay from last shutdown — and the next one Trump signs stopgap measure, funding government through November MORE (R-Ala.) said Republicans were having discussions with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Trump again vetoes resolution blocking national emergency for border wall Trump invites congressional leaders to meeting on Turkey MORE (R-Ky.) about canceling the recess. 

"We might not have an August recess," Shelby, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, told reporters. "We've been talking to the leader. We might not have one. We might stay here and work and clear the calendar." 

The Senate is currently scheduled to leave town on Aug. 6 and not return to Washington until after Labor Day in early September. 

The discussions come as a group of conservative senators held a press conference earlier Tuesday to publicly urge McConnell to keep the Senate in longer during the week or cut back on the August recess in order to avoid passing another mammoth omnibus bill and to clear more of Trump's nominations. 

"Last year he listened to us and agreed and decided to stay here in August," GOP Sen. David Perdue (Ga.), who is leading the effort, told reporters on Tuesday. 

McConnell initially canceled the first two weeks of last year's August recess. But senators ended up only staying in one extra week after they were able to get a deal with Democrats to move a nominations package. 

More than a dozen senators also sent a letter to McConnell on the issue last week. Perdue noted that McConnell has been "very receptive" to their ideas and that they discussed the issue as recently as Monday. 

They got the backing of Trump over the weekend, who urged the Senate to "stay" in August if they haven't completed their work.

The government doesn't run out of funding until the end of September. But GOP senators are worried that if they kick wrapping up appropriations bills until after the summer break they'll be forced to pass another omnibus bill. 

Trump received blowback from his base over the mammoth funding bill passed in late March. Though he backed off from his warning that he would veto the omnibus, he warned Congress at the time that he would not sign a similar bill without funding for his priorities, particularly the border wall with Mexico. 

Republicans are also frustrated by the pace of confirmation votes on Trump's nominees. 

It takes Trump's nominees an average of 84 days to be confirmed, compared to 67 days for former President Obama's nominees and 44 days for former President George W. Bush's nominees, according to a tracker by the Partnership for Public Service and The Washington Post.