Politics

GOP Senators Express Willingness to Skip August Recess, Bundle Spending Bills

16 senators involved include vulnerable incumbent Dean Heller

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., led a Tuesday press conference about Congress’ current work pace, government funding and the confirmation backlog. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A group of 16 Republican senators has announced a willingness to work through August if that’s what it takes to complete spending bills and confirm more of President Donald Trump’s nominees.

Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, who has led the effort, hinted Tuesday that a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky would be forthcoming.

In addition to potential weekend sessions and truncating the August recess, the senators floated an interesting idea for handling regular fiscal 2019 spending bills ahead of August.

“The Senate should immediately begin work on one or several consolidated appropriations bills, so they can be openly debated and amended accordingly,” the senators wrote. “Our defense priorities are bipartisan, and they should come first.”

That phrasing signals a possible willingness by the conservatives to bundle spending bills together, perhaps revisiting the “minibus” strategy in which several regular appropriations measures get combined on the floor.

Normally, senators would not want the chamber in session well into August during an election year, with lawmakers eager to be home and meeting with constituents and voters. But, given that the 2018 map features so many incumbent Democrats, there may be less incentive for Republicans to want to be outside of D.C.

The list of 16 Republican senators involved in the effort includes Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, who leads the list of most vulnerable incumbents.

The signatories indicate that, aside from trying to avoid another last-minute continuing resolution to keep the government funded past the end of September, they would like another traditional deal to confirm a slew of nominations as August approaches.

Marc Short, the White House legislative affairs director, told reporters Tuesday at an event with Perdue and outside conservative leaders that Trump was supportive of the campaign. The letter itself, dated Thursday, was first obtained by The Washington Post.

Some of the 77 confirmations that took place by unanimous consent or voice votes as the August recess got underway in 2017 might have happened without a cancellation threat since that’s been the normal practice of the Senate.

These 16 senators, however, believe the threats affected the behavior of Senate Democrats.

“Our diligence was rewarded with reason, and that can happen again,” the senators wrote.

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