© Greg Nash
Senators left Washington on Thursday for a five-week August recess, capping off a slog of a summer stretch.Before leaving, senators passed several bills by voice vote and dozens of nominations including nine ambassador picks, Mark Greenblatt to be the Department of Interior watchdog and Vice Adm. Michael Gilday to be the chief of naval operations.
Before leaving, lawmakers passed a two-year budget deal, which suspends the debt ceiling through mid-2021, and confirmed 13 judicial nominees and other high-profile picks, including Kelly Craft to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Senators made no secret that they were ready to get out of town for the August break after last year's recess was shortened amid a push by conservatives to stay in session and keep vulnerable Democratic incumbents off the campaign trail.
Asked if he was looking forward to leaving, Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate leaders face pushback on tying debt fight to defense bill House passes bill to expedite financial disclosures from judges McConnell leaves GOP in dark on debt ceiling MORE (R-Texas), an adviser to Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers remember Bob Dole: 'Bona fide American hero' Senate leaders face pushback on tying debt fight to defense bill Former Sen. Bob Dole dies at 98 MORE (R-Ky.) quipped, "You mean go back home and leave the nation's capitol? Yes. "
"I can't wait. Don't take it personally though," he added.
Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan GOP infighting takes stupid to a whole new level Progressive groups urge Schumer to prevent further cuts to T plan MORE (D-N.Y.) opened a press conference Thursday by telling reporters "good afternoon," then joked, "I really feel bad that I will not be wishing you a good afternoon for another five weeks."
"Because we're all leaving here, I'm in a good mood," Schumer added.
Even McConnell appeared to be smiling as he asked to adjourn the Senate on Thursday, marking the end of the last legislative session until September.
On the Senate floor, senators have largely been focused on nominations during the past month, as well the budget deal and failed veto override attempts.
But off the Senate floor, Republicans have found themselves playing defense over a myriad of Trump remarks, including the president's suggestion that he would accept dirt on a political opponent, his feud with four Democratic women of color known as the "squad" and his decision to float and yank nominations.
"People talk about things up here that people back home don't really seem quite so obsessed about, like what the president tweeted or what he said," Cornyn said.
The session was also marked by contentious fights, including Republicans blocking election security legislation and a decision by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate Democrat says he will 'settle' for less aggressive gun control reform 'because that will save lives' Graham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead MORE (R-S.C.) to waive committee rules to move an asylum bill over objection, which sparked outrage by Democrats on Thursday.
But the Senate is kicking several issues to the fall including how to fund the government, ongoing talks about Trump's trade deal and plans for moving surprise medical billing and drug pricing legislation.
Schumer knocked McConnell during a press conference shortly before the Senate adjourned Thursday saying he has turned the chamber into a "graveyard."
"Leader McConnell has turned what used to be the world's greatest deliberative body into a legislative graveyard. The perfect complement to our get nothing done president," Schumer said. "Leader McConnell's Senate has been a big black hole."
But Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown Senate dodges initial December crisis with last-minute deal Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator, indicated he thought Republicans would have plenty to tout when they are back in their home states this month.
"Obviously a lot of the work that we've done so far to confirm judges that's something a lot of voters care about. … The things that we've done to fund the military and help out with ensuring that we've got steady predictable national security funding is something that our voters are going to care about," Thune said.
He added that "the trade deal, prescription drugs, robo-calls, there are a whole bunch of things that we teed up that we'll hopefully get votes on when we get back this fall."