The Senate will cancel most of its annual August recess, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told senators Tuesday, an election year move that will force vulnerable Democrats to shuffle their campaign schedules.
The Senate will now recess for one week in August instead of four, said McConnell (R-Ky.). He made the announcement in a closed-door lunch with Republican senators, according to several people familiar with his comments who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
His decision had been widely anticipated in the Senate Republican Conference. Some GOP senators sent a letter to McConnell last month urging him to keep the chamber in session to vote on judicial and administration nominations along with legislation, and Senate leaders have said the appetite to stay in town has grown in their ranks.
“We have a lot of important work to do,” McConnell said after the lunch. He said that to make progress on spending bills and nominations, “it’s necessary for us to be here in August and to do our work.”
The additional workweeks in August mean that endangered Democratic senators on the ballot will face a dilemma: Stay in Washington and attend to Senate business during time they could otherwise use to campaign back home, or remain in their states and face criticism that they are shirking their responsibilities in government.
The new schedule could also enable their Republican challengers — many of whom hail from the private sector or state government — to have the states to themselves during the late-summer stretch.
The House still plans to be out of session in August.
Democrats are defending 26 Senate seats this year, including two represented by independents in Vermont and Maine, and 10 in states Donald Trump won in 2016. Republicans have nine incumbents on the ballot.
The new August schedule is problematic for one vulnerable Republican: Sen. Dean Heller (Nev.), who is facing a reelection contest in a state Hillary Clinton won in 2016.