Senators Light Fire Under McConnell: Make Congress Work Again

Robert Donachie | Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter

A group of 16 Republican senators are sending Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a serious message Friday: It is time to work full weeks, confirm the president’s nominees and stop wasting precious time while Republicans hold both chambers of Congress and the White House.

Sen. David Perdue of Georgia is leading the charge, calling on McConnell to realize there are only 67 working days left in the 2018 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The coalition of Republican senators are urging McConnell to make the Senate work through Friday and on some weekends (senators typically go home to their districts on Thursday afternoon) and cancel the August recess — a request newer GOP senators and the president asked of leadership in 2017 in order to get action on repealing and replacing Obamacare.

Action is exactly what Perdue and his colleagues want. They want more time in session to confirm the president’s nominees. They want more time in session to get must-pass appropriations bills out of committee and onto the Senate floor for a vote. They are tired of the slow walking pace and don’t want to waste another day when they are in the majority.

Effectively, they want a change in the way the Senate is currently running, which they view as sluggish and increasingly subject to “obstruction” from Democrats.

The White House is on their side as well. White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told reporters at the Capitol Tuesday that the administration would support a delay in the August recess and more time in the Senate because it is their duty to the American people.

“If we reach August and we still have not completed appropriations work or not confirmed our nominees, then of course we would like to see the Congress stay here and do its work,” Short said. “It’s about getting the job done for voters across the country.”

The president urged members of Congress to delay the August recess in early July 2017. McConnell responded to President Donald Trump’s request with an announcement that he would shorten the recess by two weeks to give lawmakers ample time to come to an agreement on the best way to reform health care. The delay in recess only lasted one week, but senators who requested it point to the fact that it helped the chamber confirm nearly 80 of the president’s nominees. (RELATED: Trump Tells Senators To Cancel The August Recess)

An open appropriations process is one of the key asks on the part of the part of the coalition of senators, after Congress passed a massive $1.3 trillion spending bill in March that upset many conservatives in Congress, who viewed it as a backdoor, last-minute deal Republican leadership struck with Democrats. The president pledged he would “never sign another bill like this again.” (RELATED: Trump Tells Senators To Cancel The August Recess)

Read the text of the letter below:

Dear Leader McConnell,

We continue to witness historic obstruction by the minority party when it comes to funding the federal government and confirming the President’s nominees. If we are complicit, we are on track for another last-minute spending battle come September. However, if we take action now, we can break the cycle of continuing resolutions and omnibus spending deals. Therefore, we want to offer our full support to expedite floor consideration, even if we must work nights and weekends and forgo the August recess to get it done.

Looking ahead, there are only 67 working days left on the calendar this fiscal year. That number drops to 52 if you exclude Fridays, as we usually do. This leaves only 12 weeks to get 12 appropriations bills out of committee and consider them on the floor. That alone is an impossible task. When combined with the crucial need to confirm more nominees, it is clear we do not have enough time.

The Senate should immediately begin work on one or several consolidated appropriations bills, so they can be openly debated and amended accordingly. Our defense priorities are bipartisan, and they should come first. Similarly, we need to move quickly on executive and judicial nominations. At this pace, it is unlikely the President will have all of his nominees confirmed before the end of his term. Many of us encouraged cancelling August recess last year to meet our legislative goals. As a result, the Senate confirmed 77 nominations with no floor debate, a significant concession from the minority party. Our diligence was rewarded with reason, and it can happen again.

We stand ready to break through the confirmation backlog and get the government funded before we break in August, well before the September 30 deadline. We stand ready to work Mondays and Fridays, nights as well as weekends, to ensure the funding process is not used to jam the President with a bad spending deal. We, and the American people, expect Congress to work tirelessly to restore American greatness. The President has outlined an agenda that will unleash economic growth, strengthen our military, and rebuild our infrastructure. We play a critical role in advancing this agenda, so together let’s make Congress work again.

Sincerely,

  1. Perdue
  2. Ernst
  3. Lankford
  4. Cruz
  5. Heller
  6. Lee
  7. Johnson
  8. Cassidy
  9. Wicker
  10. Daines
  11. Fischer
  12. Sullivan
  13. Sasse
  14. Tillis
  15. Kennedy
  16. Rounds

The senators are not alone in the request. They have the backing of over 100 conservative groups and organizations.

Over 100 conservative leaders signed a pledge in late April to hold Republican leadership in Congress accountable for trillion-dollar backdoor deals and for weeks-long recesses while they still haven’t accomplished much of the president’s and conservatives’ policy agendas.

The pledge was sent to conservatives in the House, Senate and other groups involved in conservative politics. It has supporters agree and sign to the following points:

  • Congress should delay August recess until government funding legislation has been openly debated in the House and Senate with a full opportunity for votes on amendments, and is approved by both houses and sent to the president.
  • The Senate should delay August recess until sufficient progress has been made confirming the president’s nominees.

Conservatives who signed it include: former Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, former Attorney General Edwin Meese, Chief Executive Office of American Legislative Exchange Council Lisa Nelson, President of the Senate Conservatives Fund Ken Cuccinelli and others.

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