Congress

Republican senator likely to push colleagues to curtail August recess again

David Perdue says he wants time to consider spending bills

Sen. David Perdue of Georgia is likely to seek at least a partial cancellation of the August recess. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. David Perdue says he is likely to again call for the Senate to cancel its August recess — or at least part of the five-week break — so lawmakers can work on spending bills.

“If we don’t get it done, I’m still of a mind that we need to be here in August. I don’t know how to be any other way. It’s just a reality. We’re not doing our jobs. We’re not getting it done,” the Georgia Republican said Tuesday at a pen-and-pad briefing.

Perdue, who is not an appropriator, said he had spoken with senior members of the Appropriations Committee, including Chairman Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, about seeking to avoid a sweeping continuing resolution.

“My goal right now is to get HHS and Defense,” Perdue said, referring to the two largest spending bills, which together account for more than 70 percent of discretionary spending. “We only have 19 working days between now and the end of July. If we don’t stay here in August at least some of the days, it’s hard for me to believe that we are going to get all of this appropriated by Sept. 30. And a limited CR is still a defeat, but it’s not a big a defeat as if we don’t get Defense and HHS done.”

Throughout this year, McConnell has prioritized confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nominations.

The first package of four fiscal 2020 appropriations bills moving through the House, includes those Defense and Labor-HHS-Education measures, as well as two bills that generally have considerable support and powerful subcommittee chairmen in the Senate: legislation funding the State Department and the Energy Department.

Annual tradition

A partial termination of the August recess has become an annual tradition, but there could be a move to further legislating soon.

Perdue and 16 of his colleagues wrote a letter to McConnell in May 2018, requesting the chamber stay in Washington to work on spending bills. McConnell then announced the following month that the Senate would cancel its recess.

The Senate ultimately truncated the extended state work period in 2018, taking a week away from Capitol Hill in early August before returning later in the month. The tentative current schedule for the remainder of 2019 sets up a similar possibility, with a five-week recess that’s scheduled to start the first full week of August and run through the week that includes Labor Day.

Because in part of the timing of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur this year, the Senate  is scheduled to be out of session for a rather unusual two-week break starting on Sept. 30 (the final day of fiscal 2019) and running through Columbus Day on Oct. 14.

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