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Washington (AFP) – The US Senate’s Republican leadership on Tuesday scrapped most of the chamber’s August recess, claiming it needs the extra time to approve President Donald Trump’s pending nominations for key posts after obstruction by Democrats.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that instead of taking the entire month of August off ahead of November’s mid-term elections, as originally planned, senators will be in their home states for the first week of the month, then return to Washington.
“I think we have enough work to do for the American people that we should be here during these weeks,” McConnell told reporters.
“It’s inconceivable to me that we can’t use these weeks.”
McConnell cited the “historic obstruction of Senate Democrats of the president’s nominees.”
Trump has routinely accused the opposition party of slow-walking Senate confirmation of his nominees.
The Senate confirmation process has become a partisan battleground in recent years. The White House claims a record number of unconfirmed posts, but critics also say Trump has yet to appoint nominees to several positions.
In addition to nominations, the Senate must approve government and military spending bills for fiscal year 2019, which begins on October 1.
Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress, are likely worried that a full five-week break would leave insufficient time to hammer out spending, increasing the possibility of a crippling government shutdown at the height of campaign season.
McConnell’s dramatic decision was seen by some as an effort to squeeze vulnerable Senate Democrats, many of whom would prefer to be back home campaigning in August ahead of the November election.
Of the 35 Senate seats up in 2018, 26 are held by Democrats.
But the Democratic Party’s leaders expressed support for working through August.
“We Democrats welcome this additional time” to focus on health care, an issue that is increasingly at the forefront for American families, said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Insurance “premiums for the American people will be rising across the country,” due to policies put forward by Trump and congressional Republicans, Schumer said. “The summer is the time to act.”
Republicans have long sought to dismantle Obamacare, the health care reforms enacted during Barack Obama’s presidency.
Several steps have been taken during Trump’s tenure to weaken the law, but Republicans have failed to kill it outright.
Schumer said that with the Senate in session during August, Trump should remain “here in Washington working with us as well, because he caused a lot of these problems.”
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