Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) managed to buy himself two more weeks this summer to try to push through a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and tackle some lesser known items on his to-do list. But lawmakers already are raising questions about how much will actually get done during those extra two weeks in August—particularly since, at present, senators only are at work in the Capitol three days a week at most.
No sooner had McConnell convinced senators to give up two weeks of their planned five-week summer recess than lawmakers were headed out the exits again—at 2 p.m. Thursday per usual. Idling curbside to take them to the airport were the same cars that brought them in for the first vote of the week Monday night.
“We’re essentially working three days a week,” Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) said, summing up the standard Senate work pattern.
Still, Sullivan was among several other GOP senators who argued McConnell’s case for extending the summer session beyond the planned July 29 departure. He and other Republicans said the extra time is necessary to get a health care bill through the chamber and deal with other priorities such as the Department of Defense authorization bill. McConnell also said he wants to use the extra time to pass a bill to reauthorize the Food and Drug Administration and get a head start on averting a crisis next fall over raising the federal debt limit.
But Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), who wants the DOD bill acted on soon, already appears to be raising doubts about how the extra weeks will actually be used. McCain spoke as McConnell continued to work on the health care bill.
“I will happily stay here an additional two weeks,” McCain said as the week was wearing down on Wednesday night. “I’ll stay three, four, even five weeks—as long as we have a plan to address the serious issues that face this nation. My friends, when the Senate completes its work this week, we will have considered a whopping total this entire week of three nominations.”
McCain suggested GOP leaders instead keep lawmakers in session on Friday and on the weekends to get their jobs done. But he also joined McConnell in blaming Democrats for the chamber’s work product, citing the long process required to confirm a federal judge.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D) dismissed the criticisms, saying they were nothing more than “hypocritical and preposterous complaints” to distract from Republicans’ ongoing struggle over the health care bill. The federal judge the Senate voted on before leaving town again actually was nominated by former President Barack Obama and should have been scheduled for a vote by McConnell in the last Congress, Schumer said.
McCain continued to raise questions about the plans via Twitter.
“I’m glad to stay here through Aug, but let’s get to work – come early, stay late & do work our citizens expect of us,” McCain tweeted.
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