Senate to delay August recess, some House members push for same

WASHINGTON – Senate leaders said Tuesday that they will delay their traditional August recess by two weeks, a move that has some Arizona congressmen wondering if the House should do the same.

Rep. Andy Biggs, R- Gilbert, has been pushing since June to do away with the August recess, a call he repeated Tuesday in a Twitter video in which he said “we still have to deal with … issues we promised the American people we’d work on.”

But Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, questioned how “well-intentioned” the Senate delay was, adding that after six months of GOP inaction “it would be surprising to have them accomplish any major legislative work in two weeks.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed the two-week extension of the work schedule on the “unprecedented levels of obstruction” by Democrats that he said has stalled action on judicial nominees and health care reform.

That reasoning was derided by Democrats, who were quick to point out that it was McConnell who blocked a vote on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, for almost a year until Obama was out of office.

McConnell said the Senate needs to finish action on its plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, before turning to the defense bill and backlogged nominations. In order to have the time to do that, he said, the Senate would begin its recess in the third week of August. Recess traditionally runs for the entire month.

Health care reform was just one of the reasons that Biggs said the House should follow the Senate’s lead.

He pointed to repealing Obamacare, reforming the tax code and balancing the budget as GOP “promises” to voters, who entrusted Republicans with control of both chambers of Congress and the White House. The party has “talked enough about our agenda,” Biggs said in a statement released by his office.

But Grijalva questioned the need for cutting into the recess, which lawmakers defend as time spent with their constituents, away from Washington.

“I share my Democratic colleagues’ concerns,” Grijalva said in a statement to Cronkite News, “and hope we can avoid any scenario that grants a political victory to Republicans at the expense of millions of Americans losing their health coverage.”

Democrats, and the Congressional Budget Office, have said that the current Republican-crafted plan in the Senate to replace Obamacare would cost 22 million Americans their health coverage in the next decade.

The House passed its own version of a health reform act, the American Health Care Act, in May but the Senate appears intent on crafting its own version. A revised version of the Senate plan could be ready with the next week, but a vote is not expected until after the Congressional Budget Office can review and “score” the bill.

Still, Biggs remains hopeful that the House will reduce its own August recess – currently scheduled to run from July 29 to Sept. 4 – saying in a statement that Americans “will not tolerate any more excuses for work left undone.”

“We must … assure the American people that we are capable of finishing the work we started,” his statement said.