- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The clamor for Congress to scrap its summer vacation is growing louder, with more than a dozen Senate Republicans officially petitioning Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday to keep the chamber in session on nights, weekends and even through their normal August break to make headway on President Trump’s agenda.

Partly born of frustration with Democrats and partly worried that voters will see a lack of progress from an all-Republican Washington, the senators said voters preparing for the November elections deserve to know that the Republican Party is making maximum effort on its priorities.

Sen. David Perdue, the Georgia Republican spearheading the push, said Mr. Trump appears to be on board with the call to cancel recess and that Mr. McConnell is also receptive.

“All things are on the table,” Mr. Perdue said. “Just like the president tweeted over the weekend, if we don’t fund the government by Aug. 1, then we should not go home.”

Summer vacations have been shortened, including last year, when Mr. McConnell kept senators beyond their planned adjournment in order to work on an Obamacare repeal and to confirm more nominations.

Obamacare isn’t under discussion after Republican stumbles last year, but nominations remain a sticking point. Democrats are mounting an obstruction campaign that has created a backlog of nearly 300 nominees, Republicans say.

“At the rate were going right now, some have said it would take a decade for this administration to be fully staffed,” said Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican. “I think the American people can expect more, and they can expect much better.”

Republican senators also say the additional time would give them more of an opportunity to consider spending bills for the budget year that starts Oct. 1. They say they want to avoid the types of stopgap, short-term funding bills last year capped by a massive $1.3 trillion “omnibus” spending package in March.

Mr. McConnell said Tuesday that Republicans are weighing whether to change chamber rules to reduce debate time for certain nominations, but he expressed optimism that Democrats will be more cooperative going forward on confirmations and the 2019 spending bills.

“The main thing is to get our work done,” he said. “If we have greater cooperation, we’ll be able to accomplish more.”

But Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said it would be hard for senators to finish all 12 of their individual spending bills by August.

He said he supports canceling or shortening the summer recess.

“We need to do our work, and Democrats have been slow-walking everything, including a lot of nominees,” said Mr. Shelby.

Curtailing or ending the break would make a bigger statement than last year, given that a third of the Senate is up for re-election in November and August is usually an intense campaign period.

But Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada and Ted Cruz of Texas, both of whom are facing stiff re-election challenges, say they are on board with canceling recess if necessary.

Mr. Shelby said it’s absolutely realistic to talk about canceling the summer recess during an election year. “It might not be realistic for the Democrats — they have a lot more seats,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said there is already enough time to complete the spending bills before the Sept. 30 deadline.

“I think we’re going to have plenty of time to get done what we need to be done if everybody cooperates,” he said.

He said Republicans have been bragging about confirming a record number of appeals court judges for Mr. Trump — undercutting the argument that Democrats have obstructed that work.

“They ought to figure out where they’re at,” he said.

Republicans devoted an entire week of floor time last week to nominations but managed to confirm only two. Four others were approved Monday and Tuesday.

Mr. Trump visited with senators Tuesday on Capitol Hill. Although the issue of canceling recess wasn’t discussed at length, the president has made clear that getting more of his nominees confirmed is a top priority.

He also has signaled his demands in the spending bills.

“The Senate should get funding done before the August break, or NOT GO HOME. Wall and Border Security should be included. Also waiting for approval of almost 300 nominations, worst in history. Democrats are doing everything possible to obstruct, all they know how to do. STAY!” the president tweeted over the weekend.

Senators said their meeting with Mr. Trump focused on the record they will take to voters in November, such as approving tax cuts. But lawmakers said staying in Washington longer could give Republicans time to add to their accomplishments.

“We think we’ve been successful,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican, pointing to an improving economy, 21 confirmed circuit court judges and the tax cut law among achievements. “But we can go from success to greater success.”

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