Political News

Mitch McConnell plays a little dirty to keep his majority

Posted June 5, 2018 2:53 p.m. EDT

— Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's decision to keep senators in session over the traditional August recess will have the added benefit of keeping Democrats desperate to keep their Senate seats off the campaign trail for a month of prime campaign time.

It's devilish, brilliant politics.

Here's the official statement from McConnell's office, which doesn't mention the election:

"Due to the historic obstruction by Senate Democrats of the president's nominees, and the goal of passing appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year, the August recess has been canceled. Senators should expect to remain in session in August to pass legislation, including appropriations bills, and to make additional progress on the president's nominees."

President Donald Trump is on board with the idea of canceling the August recess, too. For senators only.

"The Senate should get funding done before the August break, or NOT GO HOME. Wall and Border Security should be included. Also waiting for approval of almost 300 nominations, worst in history. Democrats are doing everything possible to obstruct, all they know how to do. STAY!" Trump tweeted May 12.

Read between the lines. McConnell is canceling the recess not because of a hard deadline on anything -- lawmakers haven't passed all of their appropriations bills on time in more than 20 years, according to a recent Pew review. Despite Trump's vow never to sign a massive spending bill again, the Capitol Hill system, as it works today, does not require them to start this August. And nobody is calling for the House to cancel recess, although it's much easier for Republicans to pass funding bills there.

But it sure might help McConnell's chances of keeping his majority if Democrats up for re-election are stuck in DC.

Here's the backstory:

When Republicans were frustrated by a bunch of fringe candidates crashing onto their ballots and giving Democrats opportunities in the 2010 and 2012 elections, McConnell, then the Senate minority leader, was kept out of the majority he coveted.

What did McConnell do about the insurrection in his own party in 2014?

"I think we are going to crush them everywhere," he said in March of that year.

They did -- and Republicans took the majority.

Hoping to keep that majority, he'd like to now crush Democrats in a year they are supposed to be riding a wave.

Helping him is the fact that all those Democrats that won in 2012 and in a Democratic wave in 2006 are now up for re-election.

That means there are 26 Democrat-held seats and just seven Republican-held seats on the ballot in November. Of those, CNN considers five Democratic and two Republican seats "tossups." There are three "lean Democratic" seats, five "likely Democratic" seats and 13 "solid Democratic" seats. Republicans are defending just one "lean Republican," one "likely Republican" and five "solid Republican" seats.

It just simply hurts Democratic candidates a lot more if they can't campaign as much.

Notice that in the House, where Republicans are the ones defending more seats, they most certainly have not announced plans to cancel any August recess.

Is it going to be the single thing that makes Democrats unable to seize control of the Senate? Nope. But if you're McConnell and you currently enjoy a 51-49 majority, every little bit counts.

Also, remember that in Senate politics, what goes around comes around every six years. McConnell will be defending a ton of seats in 2020 -- 11 to Democrats 20 Republicans -- when his majority-making class of 2014 comes up for re-election.