While House members could leave the Capitol for August recess as early as Thursday night, the Senate has work still to be done, including clearing the budget and debt limit deal and confirming 19 judicial nominations.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said that in addition to the judges, the Senate would be prioritizing confirmation of David Norquist to be deputy secretary of Defense and Kelly Knight Craft to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
“Here’s what we need to accomplish before members depart next week: we need to confirm well-qualified nominees to two open positions of utmost importance … these jobs are important, the nominees are impressive, and we need to confirm David Norquist and Kelly Craft next week,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “Obviously, we need to pass the bipartisan funding agreement that President Trump’s negotiating team worked out with Speaker Pelosi. The House will pass it today. The president is strongly in support of it.”
“We need to make more headway on the backlog of qualified judicial nominees who are waiting for confirmation,” McConnell said, as he and Trump have been touting the statistics on the record-setting pace of judicial confirmations so far in the current administration.
When all was said and done, McConnell had filed cloture on 19 of President Donald Trump’s nominees to be district judges, a list that McConnell described as bipartisan. It included nominees from states with both Democratic and Republican senators, including states with only Democrats like Illinois and Rhode Island.
According to a senior Democratic aide, five of the 19 judicial pics on the list came from Democratic senators. McConnell filing cloture to break potential filibusters of the nominees is an indication there has not yet been a deal on a bipartisan nominations package to expedite the work of confirming the judges.
The fact that Craft, the current ambassador to Canada, appeared on the majority leader’s priority list is perhaps least surprising, since she is from Kentucky and has been along with her husband Joe a longtime supporter of McConnell in commonwealth politics.
“That’s our to-do list for next week. A deputy secretary of defense, a UN ambassador, the bipartisan government funding package, and agreement, and a significant group of well-qualified judges,” McConnell said. “Not bad for a week’s work, and that’s what the Senate will accomplish before we adjourn for August.”
Under a prior agreement, the Senate is also going to need to take veto override votes on on a series of joint resolutions to block arms sales prior to August 2. Those are expected to fall well short of the two-thirds vote required for approval over Trump’s opposition.