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Senate leaders heed Perdue’s call to scrap summer break

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday announced plans to cancel the chamber’s annual August recess, bowing to a push spearheaded by Georgia U.S. Sen. David Perdue. 

The Kentucky Republican promised an additional three weeks in Washington this summer to confirm more of President Donald Trump’s nominees and advance must-pass government spending bills. 

“Due to the historic obstruction by Senate Democrats of the president’s nominees, and the goal of passing appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year, the August recess has been canceled,” McConnell said in a statement. 

Perdue spent the last month agitating for Senate leaders to cancel the annual break –mirroring a successful push he made last summer. This year, Perdue unveiled a new Trump-esque slogan, #MakeCongressWorkAgain, and held press conferences with conservative groups and other GOP senators to tout the campaign. The effort was buttressed by the president himself, who tweeted his support and vowed not to sign any massive, late-coming spending packages that have become commonplace over the last 20 years

Perdue cheered McConnell’s announcement a statement Tuesday but said “simply canceling the August state work period is not the goal.” 

“We should not go home until we have completed our work,” the first-term Republican and Trump ally said. “We should be working nights and weekends now to get the results the American people sent us here to deliver.”

Republicans are banking that the prospect of remaining in Washington for most of August instead of on the campaign trail will push Democrats to cut a deal, clearing the way for quick confirmation of certain nominees or advancing spending bills. Democrats are defending 24 seats this year, including 10 in states Trump won in 2016, and will likely be eager to be back home.

When McConnell delayed the recess last year by two weeks, party leaders agreed to confirm nearly 80 Trump nominees and leave a week earlier than planned. At the same time, the GOP didn’t make major progress on some of its other legislative goals at the time, including repealing Obamacare. 

Republicans have blasted Senate Democrats for systematically slow-walking the confirmation of Trump’s executive branch nominees. Democrats don’t deny they have slowed the process but argue the GOP started much of the fighting during the Obama administration.

The larger impasse over nominees has pumped the brakes on the consideration of several Georgia picks. Former Congressman Lynn Westmoreland’s nomination for a position on Amtrak’s board has languished for months. Ditto for judicial nominees Stan Baker and Billy Ray. 

Frustration over the annual gridlock on appropriations bills has mounted this year following multiple shutdowns and stopgaps, which leave massive federal agencies running on autopilot under outdated guidance from Congress. Party leaders created a new committee tasked with overhauling the process in March. 

“This attempt this year by staying here in August is to get funding done in spite of the broken budget process,” Perdue said in a brief interview Tuesday.

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.