May 11, 2018
If Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) needs backup in his effort to clear the backlog of presidential nominations, he just got it. Sixteen Republican senators are now urging their party to squeeze every last second out of this legislative session, even if it means doing the unthinkable: canceling summer recess.
In a letter to McConnell, they argue there's too much unfinished business to leave town for a month -- not when there are hundreds of nominations on the table, a dozen appropriations bills to finish, and the chance to confirm more judges. Led by Senator David Perdue (R-Ga.), they pledge their support for McConnell to forgo the Senate's normal R&R and plowing through the president's to-do list instead.
Looking ahead, there are only 67 working days left on the calendar this fiscal year. That number drops to 52 if you exclude Fridays, as we usually do. This leaves only 12 weeks to get 12 appropriations bills out of committee and consider them on the floor. That alone is an impossible task. When combined with the crucial need to confirm more nominees, it is clear we do not have enough time.
"We stand ready," they went on, "to work Mondays and Fridays, nights as well as weekends, to ensure the funding process is not used to jam the president with a bad spending deal." They're referencing, of course, the rush to pass March's $1.3 trillion omnibus, a colossal waste of money that wouldn't have been necessary if Congress had taken the time to budget through regular order. Time is already ticking on the September 30th deadline – and if voters' outrage is any indication, Republicans can't afford to make the same costly mistake twice.
Staying in session would also give Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) the chance to continue his run at the history books. An already great news week for President Trump got even better when McConnell knocked out another two confirmations in his already dizzying pace. The latest, Milwaukee attorney Michael Brennan, is headed to the Seventh Circuit, where he'll fill a vacancy that's been open eight years. To his credit, McConnell and Grassley have managed to slog through nomination after nomination, despite the obstacles Democrats keep putting in their path. The court-stocking continues next week with more votes. "We're going to confirm these judges," Senator McConnell insisted. "I don't care what tactics they employ."
While rumors swirl about a possible high court retirement, the majority leader's advice is blunt: do it now. "My message to any one of the nine Supreme Court justices, if you're thinking about quitting this year, do it yesterday." McConnell knows better than anyone how long it takes for a SCOTUS nomination to even make its way to his chamber -- up to 60 days in some cases, sometimes more. That doesn't leave much of a window for the showdown that would almost certainly take place. And with the midterms looming, the urgency is even greater. "Elections have consequences. We could end up without having a Republican Senate."
"We stand ready," the senators write, "to break through the confirmation logjam and get the government funded before we break in August... The President has outlined an agenda that will unleash economic growth, strengthen our military, and rebuild our infrastructure," point out Joni Ernst (Iowa), James Lankford (Okla.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Dean Heller (Nev.), Mike Lee (Utah), Ron Johnson (Wisc.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Roger Wicker (Miss.), Steve Daines (Mont.), Deb Fischer (Nebr.), Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Ben Sasse (Nebr.), Thom Tillis (N.C.), John Kennedy (La.), and Mike Rounds (S.D.). "We play a critical role in advancing this agenda, so together let's make Congress work again."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.