Earlier this week, Majority Leader McConnell cancelled most of the Senate’s August recess. He did so in response to the unprecedented obstruction of Senate Democrats in blocking floor votes on President Trump’s nominees.
The cancellation hurts Democrats, and not just because it’s a blow against their obstruction. There are more vulnerable Democrats than vulnerable Republicans up for reelection this year. The lack of a month-long recess will keep them off the campaign trail.
Clearly, the Democrats will try to strike a deal to get recess back. What will they offer McConnell?
I think the Dems will offer to grant unanimous consent for a bunch of non-controversial nominees they have been filibustering. How many? As many as would move in three weeks of round-the-clock floor time (about 15) and maybe a few more, just to sweeten the deal.
A good example is Jody Hunt, Trump’s nominee to head the Civil Division of the Justice Department. Hunt is a career DOJ lawyer who received some Democratic support when the Judiciary Committee voted. The Dems don’t really have anything against him. He’s just a hostage, first to Cory “Weed” Gardner and now to the Democrats.
The deal I’ve described will probably tempt lots of Republicans. They will urge it on McConnell, arguing that it gets them what they would get if they stayed in August. And, of course, it gets them their vacations.
Republicans should reject the deal because it cedes control to the Democrats over which nominees get votes in August. If the Senate stays in session, floor time will be available for controversial judicial nominees plus strong conservative nominees like Jeff Clark (Environmental) and Eric Dreiband (Civil Rights) at the Justice Department. If the Senate recesses as part of a deal with Chuck Schumer, it means Republicans don’t get a vote, at least not anytime soon, on the most important nominees — the ones conservatives should be most interested in confirming.
And remember, the controversial nominees are the ones who pose the biggest problem for vulnerable Democrats seeking election. For them, these nominees are no-win votes. Vote to confirm and alienate the base. Vote against confirming and blow some credibility as a “moderate” who “reaches across the aisle.”
Finally, as noted, the cost of remaining in D.C. is not symmetrical. For Republican senators it means less vacation; for Democratic senators it may mean losing seats. Thus, the August recess carries a political cost for the GOP.
I do not advocate cancelling recess for this reason. However, because Democrats have been so aggressive in obstructing judicial nominees and preventing the staffing of the Trump administration, they should pay the cost of the recess through votes on key and controversial nominees.
Republicans should insist on this.