Is keeping Democrats off the campaign trail the only way the GOP can win in November?
The U.S. Senate under Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has become a model of do nothingness. But now in hopes of pinning Democrats down in Washington, D.C., instead of letting them campaign for re-election, McConnell has followed through on his threats and announced the Senate will cancel most of the August summer recess.
McConnell pegged the Hail Mary move on Democratic "obstructionism" and the need to approve a backlog of nominated judges.
But Republicans were openly cheering the partisan move, and in the process dismantled McConnell's flimsy cover story about a driving need for the Senate to suddenly start functioning.
"I think now they’re desperate because now they realize they’re more exposed politically because they’ve got so many people up running for re-election in red states," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
And last month, Sen. Mike Rounds (S-SD) gave away the game when he described the idea of shutting down the August recess as a campaign setback for Democrats.
"It most certainly has been an item that’s discussed,” he told the Washington Examiner. “There’s no way around it. If [Democrats] not able to go home at a time in which they’re campaigning, it’s more of a challenge for them.”
Everyone sees the ham-fisted move for what it is. "It’s a calculation of raw politics on the part of Mitch McConnell," says Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL).
The desperate maneuver confirms that the Senate midterm cycle is not planning out as Republicans hoped.
Once seen as easy way for Republicans to pick up seats, because several Democrats are running for re-election in states that Trump won by wide margins in 2016, such as West Virginia, Indiana and Missouri, the election cycle has turned sour for the GOP.
McConnell himself warned the party faced a possible “Category 3, 4, o 5” electoral storm in November.
That, despite the fact Republicans enjoy a huge advantage mathematically, only having to defend 8 Senate seats this cycle, while Democrats have to defend 26.
As for the proposed August stalling tactic under the guise of hosting a special session to get lots of work done, the Senate itself has produced almost no legislation of significance this year, as Congress under Trump has come to a near complete standstill in terms of passing bills.
The fact is, U.S. senators have rarely put in five-day work weeks this year, as CNN's Manu Raju noted:
McConnell cancels much of the Senate's August recess. First week in August still expected to be recess. McConnell cites Dems "historic obstruction" for move, though the Senate has rarely worked a Friday this year, comes in on Monday evenings and takes a recess every few weeks
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) June 5, 2018
Meanwhile, where Republicans got the idea that they can flip those red state Senate seats if they prevent Democratic senators from campaigning in August, when so many voters are distracted with summer vacations, remains anyone's guess. But desperate for any advantage for the fall campaign season, Republicans are using every cheap play in the book.
Oh, but if the Senate finds extra time on its hands this August, members could always pass that bipartisan bill protecting special counsel Robert Mueller from Trump's erratic behavior.