The Senate will have less time off in August so the lawmakers can work longer on priorities such as health care and tax reform, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday after repeated calls to do so from conservatives.
McConnell pointedly blamed Democrats for the lack of accomplishments since the new Republican-controlled Congress adjourned in January with President Donald Trump in the White House.
“In order to provide more time to complete action on important legislative items and process nominees that have been stalled by a lack of cooperation from our friends across the aisle, the Senate will delay the start of the August recess until the third week of August,” McConnell said in a prepared statement.
The Senate’s “state work period” back home was scheduled to begin July 31.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has yet to say what he will do about calls from conservatives in that chamber to scrap or shorten the August recess.
Before McConnell’s announcement, conservative senators pushed one more time with a press conference earlier in the day in which they asked leadership to have the Senate stay in session through August.
“We are here today to talk about a letter we sent to leadership last week and basically the message is very clear,” Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., told reporters. “We are willing to cancel all of the August work period because we have got some very important issues that we’ve got to get done and get resolved.”
Those joining Perdue for the press conference included Republican colleagues Steve Daines of Montana, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Mike Lee of Utah, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Luther Strange of Alabama, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.
Conservative senators, including Perdue and Daines, also sent a letter June 30 to McConnell, R-Ky., asking him to cancel or shorten the August recess.
Daines said Congress should not be treated any differently than students who are struggling academically in school.
“I don’t see any reason why we need to be leaving this town in August; we should be here doing the people’s business,” Daines said at the press conference, adding:
If you were going to school and you were getting failing grades in your spring semester, you better stay in school for the summer and go to summer school and not take a recess.
The House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservatives, took an official position in early June on staying in Washington to work during August.
Some members of the Freedom Caucus signed on to a June 30 letter to Ryan, R-Wis., asking him to cancel the recess.
Statement on postponing Aug Recess: "It is imperative that the additional weeks are coupled with decisive action" https://t.co/k4cAiK78A7
— House Freedom Caucus (@freedomcaucus) July 11, 2017
“We request that you cancel Congress’s current plans to recess for the month of August to ensure there is enough time to address the long list of pressing issues on our docket,” Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., and the others wrote in the letter, which he organized.
In a prepared statement, the Freedom Caucus praised McConnell’s decision to shorten the August recess “to accomplish the important work of the American people.”
“We call on House leadership to do the same,” the conservative House members said, adding:
There are too many unresolved issues before Congress including tax reform, health care, the debt ceiling, government funding, and more to leave Washington before the people’s work is done. It is imperative that the additional weeks are coupled with decisive action.
— David Perdue (@sendavidperdue) July 11, 2017
The signers of the Senate letter also applauded McConnell’s announcement.
“We are glad leadership took our concerns into consideration. It is time to get results for the American people,” the senators said in a joint statement.
Tommy Binion, director of congressional and executive branch relations at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal that the Senate Republican leader’s announcement is welcome news.
“The Senate would not have done this if they didn’t think they could get Obamacare repeal and replacement accomplished,” Binion said.