The Senate’s cherished short work weeks could be a thing of the past.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is planning to work longer hours, more Fridays and potentially keep the Senate in 24/7 at times to complete confirming President Donald Trump’s Cabinet and begin pushing his legislative agenda, according to senators and aides briefed on the plan. The move could help head off potential complaints from Trump and House Republicans that the chamber’s glacial pace is hurting the party.
McConnell has been discussing the matter with his leadership team and rank-and-file senators for weeks. But the breakneck schedule could begin as soon as next week, in an attempt to overcome Democratic resistance to Trump’s nominees and agenda, sources said. No GOP senators are arguing with the plan, Republicans said. McConnell is set to meet with Trump for the second consecutive day on Tuesday.
“We’re going to start later nights. Fridays. We’ve got so much to do,” said one senator briefed on the plans. “Doesn’t mean the Senate won’t be frustrating to both the president and the House, but you might see us work harder and longer hours to force the issue.”
While Senate Republicans will remain focused on confirming Cabinet nominees like Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state next week, the GOP is anticipating that Democrats will deploy parliamentary tactics to delay those votes. So the GOP is planning to use the time between beginning the confirmation process to undo regulations put in place under former President Barack Obama.
The House could begin using the Congressional Review Act as soon as next week to begin hacking away at Obama-era regulations, and McConnell is planning to use time in between nominations to process disapproval resolutions of that regulatory regime. Under the review act, Democrats can’t filibuster those disapproval bills in the Senate, so the plans could allow Republicans to make sweeping changes to environmental and economic policy while still confirming Trump’s Cabinet.
Under Senate rules, Democrats can force McConnell to waste a day of the Senate’s time before the chamber can even take a procedural vote on a nominee. But Republicans want to use that “intervening day” to begin unwinding Obama’s legacy.
Republicans had been hoping to confirm Trump’s Cabinet more quickly, but a conflict over Mike Pompeo’s nomination to be CIA director underscored that Democrats are unlikely to be cooperative, GOP senators said. And that’s why Senate Republicans are planning to scrap the usual Monday evening through Thursday afternoon schedule to capitalize on the party’s political momentum.
“We’ve got our game face on,” said a second senator. “Our most important commodity is time.”
Historically, threats to work longer days and week can be difficult to ultimately enforce. The Senate’s schedule changed little under McConnell once he took over from former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. And senators often say they are willing to work Fridays, but are privately pining to get back home on the weekends. Some senators spent a dozen hours each way commuting from Western states to the Capitol each week.