It happens every August. Washington DC shuts down as the men and women who make up the legislative branch of the government of the United States get out of Dodge for a month-long recess. During his presidency George W. Bush did likewise, spending the month at his Texas ranch. But this year Republicans are suggesting they may upset the political norms and stick around the humid environs of the nation's capital in order to get some work done.
In the first five months of the Trump presidency Republicans have managed one noteworthy legislative achievement -- getting their Obamacare "repeal and replace" bill through one chamber of Congress. Which, as anyone who understands how our government works is aware, means very little. Now the Senate is working on their version of the bill, and despite attempting to craft the legislation in secret, reports are that they're not getting much done.
Items still waiting to be put on the docket, and as yet untouched, include the vaunted Trump/GOP tax reform plan and a budget resolution, the latter needed to avoid a potential government shutdown at the end of September. Because of the rapidly dwindling number of days remaining on the legislative calendar, the need to pass that budget resolution has raised concerns among some congressional Republicans.
Oklahoma representative Tom Cole offered his thoughts on the matter to The Hill:
"Non-appropriators seem to think these things can be done instantly, that we just dream up numbers, pull them out of a hat. And so it may well necessitate us being here some time in August."
Cole thinks the chances of Congress hanging around in August are greater if the Senate should happen to get their health reform bill passed, which would then require a conference committee with the House.
Republican strategist Chip Saltsman thinks staying in town is a good idea, too.
"If you’re going back and you’re meeting with constituents, what can you point to and say, ‘This is what we’ve done after the first six months of controlling the entire apparatus of the federal government'?" Saltsman said.
"What’s been signed by the president? They have done some good things but as far as the big things the election was on — they haven’t finished ObamaCare, I don’t see a balanced budget anywhere, I don’t see an aggressive infrastructure package, I don’t see tax reform."
And there's the rub, as they say. The GOP is currently caught between the Scylla and Charybdis. If they pack their bags and bail on Washington for a month, they are going to leave themselves open to charges from the base of their party of being a "do nothing" Congress. They certainly don't want to attempt any constituent meetings in their districts, as those have generally not gone well in recent months, thanks largely to concerns about their Obamacare bill.
But if they stay in DC, what makes them think they will get any more done in one month than they have in the previous five? Trump's fingers still hover over his phone, ready at any minute to fire off the latest series of tweets. In the past those tweets have done little if anything to help move legislation or the larger GOP agenda forward. What they have mainly managed to do is draw attention away from that agenda onto Trump himself. And his constant complaints about the investigation into Russian meddling in the election have forced Republicans to spend much more time and energy on hearings related to that than most of them would certainly like to.
The GOP's statesmen are all gone from Washington, and what is left is a gaggle of directionless idiots who keep looking to be led by a president who has no clue about how to lead. Normally I would recommend to them, "Go ahead, get out of town. Take your break," because I know that would at least slow down the process of crafting and passing legislation that would hurt many Americans. But staying in DC during August isn't likely to move their agenda much more than putting it aside for a month would, and it could be a hell of a lot more fun to watch.