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Senate starting campaign recess 2 weeks early, will return after midterm elections

Lindsey McPherson, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Senate leaders on Thursday reached an agreement to accelerate consideration of several judicial nominations -- a deal that will allow the chamber to depart two weeks early for its midterm campaign recess.

The Senate will recess through the Nov. 6 election and is scheduled to return the following Tuesday.

The chamber had been scheduled to be in session through Oct. 26. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested he would keep senators in Washington as long as needed to confirm the list of nominees he wanted to get through before the campaign break.

"We will be moving forward and trying to wrap up some more nominations on the executive calendar, both for the administration and for the judiciary, before we begin to wrap up business here and head home for the election," the Kentucky Republican told reporters Wednesday.

Democrats had a strong incentive to reach agreement with Republicans to speed up consideration of the nominees since it's mostly their incumbents who are up for re-election this cycle.

Of the 33 Senate seats up this cycle, 24 are held by Democrats. Ten of those Democratic seats are in states President Donald Trump won in 2016.

The House already departed for its campaign recess on Sept. 28. Unlike the Senate, most of the House seats in play this cycle are held by Republican incumbents.

When both chambers return the week after the election lawmakers will need to quickly turn their attention to finishing the fiscal 2019 appropriations bills.

Seven of the 12 spending bills still need to be passed by Congress. The other five, compromising roughly three quarters of domestic spending, were signed into law before the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year.

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Lawmakers gave themselves a Dec. 7 deadline for completing the remaining appropriations bills. One of the primary issues complicating that goal is a debate over border wall funding. Some Republicans seem ready to partially shut down the government to fulfill one of President Donald Trump's most prominent campaign promises.

McConnell has said he plans to spend the lame-duck session processing more nominations.

Sen. John Kennedy told reporters Wednesday that his understanding is that McConnell wants to clear all of the outstanding judicial and executive nominations during the lame-duck session and is willing to hold senators in Washington through Christmas if needed.

"He is mad as a mama wasp, and he is determined to get these nominations through," the Louisiana Republican said. "And I don't think he's bluffing."

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