McConnell recesses Senate amid Kavanaugh hearings

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellO'Rourke responds to Buttigieg's gun criticism: 'That calculation and fear is what got us here in the first place' Cicilline on Trump investigations versus legislation: 'We have to do both' The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-Ky.) recessed the Senate on Thursday after Republicans warned that Democrats could try to use arcane procedure to stop Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court hearing.

McConnell asked that the Senate be recessed “subject to the call of the chair”—meaning they will come back into session later Thursday, if only to formally adjourn for the day.

McConnell didn’t give any guidance when he made the move about why he was making the request or when the Senate would come back into session.

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“I ask that the Senate stand in recess subject to the call of the chairman,” McConnell said from the Senate floor.

But a spokesman for McConnell said the GOP leader did not recess the Senate to avoid Democrats’ procedural maneuvering.

“There was (is) a consent agreement to keep the hearing going, so no,” said David Popp, a spokesman for McConnell, asked if they were trying to avoid the so-called two-hour rule.

He didn’t immediately respond to a follow-up question about why, then, McConnell recessed the Senate.

A Democratic aide confirmed that there was an agreement to allow the hearing to go forward.

"We are happy with how the hearing is going from our perspective so decided to keep it going and not invoke two hour rule," the aide said.

There had been intense speculation among senators that Democrats would invoke the two-hour rule on Thursday, forcing McConnell to either adjourn the Senate or let the Kavanaugh hearing be shut down. 

"I've been told that the Senate minority leader or someone on the Democratic Party has invoked the two-hour rule. So, if the two-hour rule is invoked nobody on this committee is going to have an opportunity to do what they want to do today," Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest Grassley'Mike Pounce' trends on Twitter after Trump slip at GOP retreat Cruz warns GOP support for expanded background checks could help elect Warren president Lawmakers applaud Trump's ban on flavored e-cigarettes MORE (R-Iowa) said earlier Thursday.

Under Senate rules, senators have to seek permission for committees to meet after the Senate has been in session for two hours. The request is routinely granted.

But Democrats refused the request on Wednesday as they upped their opposition to Kavanaugh, forcing Republicans to adjourn early.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall Pelosi: 'People are dying' because McConnell won't bring up gun legislation MORE (D-N.Y.) at the time said Democrats were protesting Republicans’ handling of Kavanaugh’s nomination, which Democrats argue is being rushed through.

He said Democrats would not allow for “business as usual.”

Asked earlier Thursday if Democrats would try to invoke the two-hour rule, a spokesman for Schumer said “stay tuned.”