Mitch McConnell announces Senate will delay start of August recess

Congress has a lot of work left on its hands.

ByABC News
July 11, 2017, 6:59 PM

— -- U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday that the Senate will break with longstanding precedent and delay the start of its August recess until the third week of the month in order to continue to work on health care, tax reform and budget matters.

The decision will eat into Senators’ time with their families and constituents, and there will likely be cancelled fundraisers and scrapped government-sponsored trips abroad.

McConnell, R-Ky., criticized the Democrats for the change, saying the delay comes 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.”

“Once the Senate completes its work on health care reform, we will turn to other important issues including the National Defense Authorization Act and the backlog of critical nominations that have been mindlessly stalled by the Democrat,” said McConnell in a statement.

Ten Republican senators -- David Perdue, R-Ga., Steve Daines, R-Mont., Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, John Kennedy, R-La., James Lankford, R-Okla., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Luther Strange, R-Ala., Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and Thom Tillis, R-N.C. -- immediately released a joint statement, praising McConnell for the change.

“We are glad leadership took our concerns into consideration. It is time to get results for the American people,” the senators commented. The same 10 GOP senators sent a letter on June 30 to McConnell, warning that only “33 potential working days remained before the end of the fiscal year” and that they can’t “afford to lose any additional time in resolving these issues [repealing Obamacare, raising the debt limit] when tax reform is hanging in the balance.”

As the days for August recess inched closer, senators and the Republican National Committee (RNC) strongly urged McConnell to call for a delay or a “complete foregoing” of the stated work period.

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told Breitbart News in an exclusive statement on Monday, “It’s not easy, there’s a lot of diversity of thought, we’re having a dialogue and discussion, I do think it’s critical we find a resolution and I agree with the president that Congress should not take an August recess until they figure out the repeal and replacement of Obamacare.”

The president agreed and tweeted Monday that there should not be a recess until the Senate health care is approved.

The first month-long August recess was in 1971. For years, critics have harped about the amount of time lawmakers spend back at home. There are, almost every year, stories about the optics of long vacations and how much work is left undone in Washington.

Calls for a delay in recess have been used as threats in the past, but more often than not, lawmakers have adjourned anyway. Congressional members have used the deadlines to hurry compromises and sign deals.

In 2011, the Senate canceled a July 4 recess to raise the debt ceiling, which was ultimately increased in August. In 2005, Congress ended a recess early to pass an emergency aid package after Hurricane Katrina.

With the health care bill lacking the necessary votes and tax reform plans far from finalized, Congress has a lot of work left on its hands.

Of course, there’s no saying whether McConnell's announcement is simply intended to allot more time to finalize the bill, or serves as another empty threat to trigger Republicans to get to business.

ABC News' MaryAlice Parks and Ali Rogin contributed to this report.

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