Posted: 8:00 am Saturday, July 1st, 2017
By Jamie Dupree
With a growing backlog of major legislation, some Republicans in the Congress say it’s time for their leaders to make a major change in the Congressional schedule for 2017, and force lawmakers to give up a five week summer break that extends until Labor Day, in order to make progress on President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda.
“It sounds like they’re going to go ahead and stay with the calendar as it is,” said, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), “and that’s a mistake.”
The current schedule has lawmakers off the next week for a July Fourth break, working the next three weeks, and then off from July 28 until the day after Labor Day on September 5.
If you look at that schedule through the end of September – which is the end of the fiscal year – there isn’t really much time to get a lot of work done.
“Our current Senate calendar shows only 33 potential working days remaining before the end of the fiscal year,” said a letter sent to the Senate Majority Leader by a group of GOP Senators.
“Therefore, we respectfully request that you consider truncating, if not completely foregoing, the scheduled August state work period, allowing us more time to complete our work,” read the letter signed by ten Senators – David Perdue (R-GA), Steve Daines (R-MT), Joni Ernst (R-IA), John Kennedy (R-LA), James Lankford (R-OK), Mike Lee (R-UT), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Luther Strange (R-AL), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Thom Tillis (R-NC).
Not to be outdone, there were letters on the House side as well, as a group of GOP lawmakers asked Speaker Paul Ryan to keep Congress at work in the heat and humidity of August.
“We request that you cancel Congress’s current plans to recess for the month of August to ensure there is enough time to address the long list of pressing issues on our docket,” read the letter from Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ).
That missive was also signed by Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Ken Buck (R-CO), Ted Yoho (R-FL), Scott Perry (R-CA), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Dave Brat (R-VA), Jody Hice (R-GA), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Raúl Labrador (R-ID), H. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Thomas Garrett (R-VA).
“We vowed to repeal Obamacare, pass pro-growth tax reform, reign in federal spending, and work towards balancing the budget. The American people put their faith in us and are counting on us to carry out these goals,” the lawmakers said.
Even if the Congress stayed in session in August, it’s not clear what would actually get done on that GOP agenda – as I wrote yesterday, items like tax reform, infrastructure, and a budget outline aren’t ready right now for the floor.
— Sen. James Lankford (@SenatorLankford) June 30, 2017
Most people don’t know that federal law actually requires the Congress to adjourn sine die for the year by July 31; instead, Congress routinely works until close to Christmas in most years.
In rare cases, lawmakers have stuck around deep into August – but it doesn’t always assure progress.
For example, I remember in 1982, when negotiations on a major tax bill kept the Congress working until August 19, when the final plan was approved in the House and Senate.
In 1994, Democrats kept the Senate at work several extra weeks in August, but were unable to produce a bill on health care reform, even after staying at work until August 25. The House also stuck around extra time in August, but also failed to act on health reform.
While some GOP lawmakers asked to work more, there were other Republicans who weren’t exactly embracing the idea of scrapping the August Recess.
“I think we have time to get everything done that we need to get everything done,” said Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA). “But in the event we don’t, I’m always open to staying and finishing our work.”
We’ll see if GOP leaders decide to work a little bit more in coming weeks.