Canceling the Senate’s summer recess was supposed to be a Republican power play, designed to keep vulnerable Democrats in Washington, D.C., and off the campaign trail during the summer month.
But the ploy has turned out be something of an embarrassment for McConnell.
That’s because so many Republican senators this week refused to show up for an abbreviated, sham session.
“Some 10 senators, mostly Republicans, were no-shows as the Senate returned to session Wednesday for a truncated week of votes on judges,” the Associated Press reports.
The Judicial Committee could not even assemble the minimum nine senators necessary to establish a quorum to actually get anything done.
Now McConnell’s stewing about the shoddy attendance on his side of the aisle — and the fact that Democrats held a majority of the votes this week. He chastised his fellow Republicans in a private meeting Thursday, according to The Hill.
Incredibly, two of the no-show GOP senators this week, Mike Lee (UT) and Thom Tillis (NC) — neither of whom are up for re-election this year and do not need to worry about spending August campaigning for votes — specifically wrote to McConnell in May, urging him to cancel the August recess.
“We, and the American people, expect Congress to work tirelessly to restore American greatness,” they wrote three months ago.
The desperate move to the cancel the Senate’s August recess simply confirmed that the GOP’s midterm cycle is not unfolding as Republicans had hoped.
Once seen as a likely year for Republicans to pick up Senate seats — because so many Democrats are running for re-election in states that Trump won by huge margins in 2016, such as West Virginia, Indiana and Missouri — the Senate election cycle has instead become less promising for the GOP.
McConnell himself has warned the party faced a possible “Category 3, 4, or 5” electoral storm in November.
When the idea of canceling the recess was first raised months ago, McConnell insisted it was necessary to clear the legislative backlog. But Republican colleagues told a different, more partisan story.
“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).
Added Sen. Mike Rounds (S-SD), “There’s no way around it. If [Democrats] are not able to go home at a time in which they’re campaigning, it’s more of a challenge for them.”
It turns out the bigger challenge for McConnell is getting Republicans to show up in August.