Calls to nix August recess gain steam as GOP agenda hits roadblocks

Struggling to make progress on campaign promises like tax and health care reform, rank-and-file congressional Republicans are stepping up calls for their leaders to cancel or at least shorten the upcoming August recess.

The GOP agenda is about to enter a summer slump amid internal disagreements and efforts by Democrats to sideline legislation. These efforts will enter a new phase Monday evening when Democrats plan to start slowing down Senate work even more by making speeches and refusing to let Republicans take procedural shortcuts. 

President Trump took to Twitter Monday morning accusing Democrats of wanting to “stop tax cuts, good healthcare and Border Security.” 

But on the ground, congressional Republicans are looking for more time to break the logjam on tax reform and an ObamaCare overhaul. Perhaps the most pressing reason to cancel the month-long summer break would be to give lawmakers space to pass a budget resolution before the Sept. 30 deadline and avoid a partial government shutdown.

The House Freedom Caucus, which includes roughly 30 of the chamber’s most conservative members, was among the first to support the effort. The group said earlier this month that Congress must remain in session this summer to “continue working to accomplish the priorities of the American people.”

Trump, eager to notch his first major legislative victory, also appears behind the push.

White House budget Director Mick Mulvaney said last week that he supports Congress staying in session through at least part of August.

On Monday, White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway argued that Congress needs to pass legislation for the good of country, not with reelection next year in mind. She made clear that Trump, a businessman and real estate mogul by trade, wants faster results.

“When he says drain the swamp, it’s not just about getting rid of all the crocodiles in the water that we don’t need. It’s about moving at a different pace,” she told Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.” “I feel very confident that we’ll get health care and taxes passed this year.”

Republican Senate leaders set goals of having an ObamaCare replacement bill ready for a vote by July 4, or by the end of the month, at the latest. 

So while cancelling the recess won’t help Republicans meet their deadline, a delay could help them pass a bill before returning home to face voters and clear the way for a budget resolution before the September deadline.

Passing a budget resolution also could help pave the way for tax reform and other spending bills.

Still, an ObamaCare repeal deal is proving elusive, after the House passed its version in May. The conservative Republican Study Committee has written to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., voicing “serious concerns” over reports suggesting the Senate is “headed in a direction that may jeopardize final passage in the House of Representatives.”

Congress now has 45 days legislative days before Sept. 30.

While the House has already passed an ObamaCare replacement bill, the chamber also initiates the process for money-related legislation like budgets and tax bills. 

A few Senate Republicans have recently backed the no-recess idea.

“Congress has no business taking a recess when the people’s business remains unfinished,” Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., told The Hill newspaper.

But getting full support from Senate leaders and rank-and-file members to cancel the recess — an almost perennial request — is unlikely, several Capitol Hill sources told Fox News on Monday.

One problem is that Hill lawmakers historically use August to travel in delegations to foreign countries.

This year, a trip to China is scheduled through the U.S. Asia Institute, and a trip to Israel is being led by the American Israel Education Foundation, according to a high-ranking congressional aide. 

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and Mike Emanuel contributed to this report. 


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