U.S. Senators will not be getting to spend a few weeks of August either on the campaign trail or on summer vacation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced today he was canceling the August recess, putting the onus on Democrats.
“Due to the historic obstruction by Senate Democrats of the president’s nominees, and the goal of passing appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year, the August recess has been canceled. Senators should expect to remain in session in August to pass legislation, including appropriations bills, and to make additional progress on the president’s nominees.”
Utah Senator Orrin Hatch almost immediately gave a “hear hear” to the announcement. Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he was okay with no recess, but wanted the Senate to handle…health care? Look if the Senate wants to completely get rid of Obamacare, the exchanges, the 1948 NRLB ruling which said health benefits had to be part of union negotiations, and other health care-related requirements of doctors and hospitals, I’d be cool with it. Of course, that’s not what Schumer and company are aiming for so I’ll be good with getting justice reform i.e. FIRST STEP Act passed during this time period, if they don’t get to it beforehand.
There are potential campaign factors in the cancelation too, as noted by POLITICO.
Privately, some Republicans are worried that canceling the August recess will become a regular occurrence. But if there was any year to do it, it’s 2018: There are 10 Democrats up for reelection in states that Trump won, and just one Senate Republican, Dean Heller of Nevada, who is trying to get re-elected in a state won by Hillary Clinton.
By keeping the Senate in session, McConnell will significantly cut down on the time that Democratic senators have to campaign back home, particularly for senators like Jon Tester (D-Mont.) who have lengthy commutes back to their states. In 2016, when McConnell’s own caucus was facing a number of difficult reelection campaigns, the Senate was not in session in August.
I’ll go with a hard “maybe” on whether it was a key factor in McConnell’s decision – although I’ve no doubt it was a factor. McConnell did cancel part of last year’s August recess, so it’s not like he’s breaking his own precedent with this decision. The Montana seat is considered a “lean Democrat” by Real Clear Politics and it depends on who the GOP puts up as Tester’s opponent in November (the primary is today). Trump does have a pretty high approval rating in Montana, but he also had a high approval rating in Alabama and we saw how that Senate election went last year, so candidates mean everything. The interesting factor in the Montana race is the Green Party and the fact Montana Democrats are trying to get them thrown off the ballot. The Greens see this as Democrats running scared about Tester’s potential future in politics, while also noting Bernie Sanders won the 2016 Democratic primary in Montana by 10K votes. It’s an interesting wrinkle to the entire thing, but I’m still going with “maybe” unless proven otherwise.
It’s not really a bad decision to cancel the recess, as long as the Senate works on, and passes, freedom-expanding legislation. Should they not, then it’s just another episode of political theater, which gets pretty tiresome after the first two-gazillion episodes.