The country can’t afford to give the Senate five weeks off for August recess

The country can’t afford to give the Senate five weeks off for August recess

July 22, 2022 0 By Ellen Novack

It’s obvious what Majority Leader Chuck Schumer needs to do: Put the bill on the floor and do it before recess—or cancel some of that recess if necessary to get this and the bills codifying abortion rights and contraception rights onto the floor. Do it before those Republicans up for reelection have to go home and spend the remainder of August campaigning, answering to their constituents. If Johnson is feeling heat about this—and actually smart enough to recognize that!—the rest of them are.

It might just end up with the result of those two rights—marriage equality and birth control—codified into federal law, an unquestionably good thing. More likely, it would demonstrate just how radical Republicans are in 2022—like the 195 House Republicans who voted Thursday to allow states to take birth control away from us.

There are other priorities for the Senate, but that’s a big one. So is getting that reconciliation bill to lower prescription drug costs and get Affordable Care Act premium costs down. It’s a travesty that the huge and transformative Biden plan for social, economic, and climate justice has been whittled away to just this, but these are important. They need to be done before West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin changes his mind again and decides to tank them, too. The Senate parliamentarian is reviewing the proposals now, a necessary step in the process of using budget reconciliation, which bypasses the filibuster.

All of this also ties into the budgeting process, something else that needs to be done before the end of September. Senate Republicans of course have been fighting the process. They don’t want to pass a budget for 2023 because they think they could win one or both chambers of Congress back and then control the process, making huge defense increases and freezing or cutting spending for everything else. Putting them back on their heels politically—with tough votes on privacy issues—could help in the budget negotiation.

It’s also important for Schumer to get as much done as he can while he can. Last week he and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) were both out with COVID-19. On Thursday, Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Tina Smith (D-MN) announced they had tested positive. That clarifies a couple of things: The Senate needs to be masking up again, and Schumer needs to move on these things as soon as he can get all 50 of his people on the floor, before they all head out for August travel and the superspreader events they’ll surely be attending.

September and October are always iffy for getting anything accomplished in election years. Assuming that you can wait until then to get stuff done this year is sheer folly.