Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

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McConnell Cancels August Recess, Cites 'Obstruction By Senate Democrats'

June 05, 2018 - 5:17 pm

WASHINGTON (WCBS 880/CBS News) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on Tuesday that the traditional August recess has been canceled.

He cited "obstruction by Senate Democrats" as the reason.

"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," McConnell said in a statement.

According to McConnell, it is expected that Senators will have a "state work period" during the first full week in August before returning to Capitol Hill for the rest of the month.

"The amount of work we have to do is inconceivable to me we can't use these weeks. Even with cooperation we've got a lot of appropriations bills to pass, we got this backlog of nominations certainly we anticipate and hope to have less obstruction on those but I've been hoping for that for quite some time," McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

He added, "We have enough work to do for the American people that we should be here during those weeks."

CBS News Chief Congressional Correspondent Nancy Cordes told WCBS 880’s Tanya Hansen and Michael Wallace Tuesday that other Republicans have been pushing McConnell to cancel the recess – in part because the Senate has little to show for the first six months of 2018 and some of them are running for reelection.

Cordes said Republicans stand to benefit from canceling the recess – given that a lot more Democrats than Republicans are up for reelection this year and will be kept off the campaign trail for part of the summer. It also enables Senate Republicans to confirm a few more conservative judges while they still hold the Senate and White House – in case the Senate flips in November.

Dozens of Republican nominees are still awaiting approval.

“Republicans say there wouldn’t be that many waiting for approval if Democrats weren’t slow-walking these nominations, to which Democrats respond: ‘That’s ridiculous. Republicans did exactly the same thing when there was a Democrat in the White House,’” Cordes said. “And they remind the Senate’s Republican leader that he did not allow a hearing, much less a vote, on President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland.”

Meanwhile, Senate minority leader Charles Schumer (D-New York) said that his party welcomes the additional time in August which he says will give Democrats the opportunity to address the issue of health care reform. "We welcome the opportunity to address it and work in August to require our Republican colleagues to do something about it," Schumer added. 

Schumer said health care premiums – which are on expected to be on the rise this year – are an issue that the Senate could focus on with the extra time. But McConnell has laid out a list of his own priorities, and health care premiums were not on it, Cordes said.

Schumer noted that lawmakers expect and want President Donald Trump to be working alongside members of Congress during the month as well. 

Congressional leaders have traditionally threatened to cancel the summer recess amid mounting legislative agendas. 

(© 2018 WCBS 880. CBS News contributed to this report.)