Road Ahead: Senate Returning to DC for the Ides of August

Floor agenda will look familiar: judicial nominations and appropriation bills

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.,left, jokes with Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, as he walks down the Senate steps on Aug. 1 after the chamber’s last vote of the week. Risch was posing for photos with interns on the steps. Senators return Wednesday from their truncated district work period. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Thank goodness the Senate has “manufactured weather.”

That’s what Carrier called the system that was first installed to cool the chamber in the early 20th century. The modern air conditioning will be in full use this week as the Senate returns for a rare mid-August session.

Senators are taking their time getting back since there won’t be any legislating happening Monday or Tuesday.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, following through on his vow to cut down the August recess, has a rather full agenda ready to greet senators upon their return, starting with a Wednesday evening vote.

The primary business for the short week is confirmation of a pair of federal appeals court judges for South Carolina-based seats on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals: A. Marvin Quattlebaum Jr. and  Julius Ness “Jay” Richardson. The state’s senior GOP senator, Lindsey Graham, has praised President Donald Trump for the two selections.

Given the truncated week, it seems possible that senators will accomplish little other than confirming Quattlebaum and Richardson on the floor before the weekend.

That would leave much of the debate on a massive spending bill that marries Pentagon appropriations with the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education measure for the next week.

The Senate passed a four-bill spending package on Aug. 1, and members of the Appropriations Committee were looking forward to continuing to have floor time in August.

“When we take up the next package, I hope we will continue to work using this framework as our guide. It is, after all, this framework that has allowed us to return to regular order,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby of Alabama said on the floor before the break. “This process is working. … Let’s keep it going.”

Senators have largely worked out amendments behind the scenes, rather than having protracted public debates and long sequences of votes on contested proposals, and that should continue over the next two weeks.

It looks to be a rather quiet week in the committee hearing rooms.

The Commerce Committee has an oversight hearing for the Federal Communications Commission on the Thursday agenda. That same day, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing on combating Medicaid fraud.

The House of Representatives remains on August recess.

Watch: The Capitol Steps — Before and During Recess

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