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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to the media in Washington, D.C., on March 22, 2020.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to the media in Washington, D.C., on March 22, 2020.Mary F. Calvert / Reuters File

McConnell's Senate heads home, will return after Labor Day

On Tuesday, Mitch McConnell insisted that policymakers "get back to the table" and reach an agreement. Two days later, senators left town.


On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared on Fox News and insisted that policymakers "get back to the table" and reach an agreement on an economic-aid package, adding, "The stalemate needs to be ended."

The Kentucky Republican, who's up for re-election this year, went on to say, "There hasn't been a meeting of any consequences between the two parties since last Friday. That's too long, and it's time to sit down and get a deal done."

Just two days later, McConnell and his colleagues left Capitol Hill altogether. Roll Call reported:

The Senate has given up on its August legislative session without any agreement on a new COVID-19 relief bill as jet fumes -- leaving town in Senate parlance -- have overtaken any hope for a bipartisan deal.... While no deal between the Trump administration and Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is expected any time soon, the formal move to perfunctory Senate sessions is just further evidence little is expected to happen.

According to the current schedule, senators will return to work in earnest on Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day. (There will be pro-forma sessions between now and then, preventing Donald Trump from making recess appointments.)

If it seems a bit jarring to think members of Congress would go home without passing any kind of economic-aid bill -- which has been in the works for three months -- it's not your imagination. This is, by any fair measure, a tough dynamic to defend.

In the Democratic-led House, where members have also headed home, Democratic leaders have repeatedly indicated that they were prepared to delay the August break in order to complete work on the so-called "Phase IV" legislation. But in the end, there just wasn't any point: the White House doesn't appear interested in a deal; Chief of Staff Mark Meadows went on vacation rather than keeping the negotiations going; and the president is under the bizarre impression that his recent executive actions make an agreement unnecessary.

And there's McConnell, who apparently wants to see a deal, but who isn't doing much of anything to help negotiate one -- in part because he's on the sidelines, and in part because the Senate GOP leader doesn't really know how.

And so, nothing is happening, and the halls of the Hill are quiet. If there's a bipartisan legislative breakthrough, members have been told they may be called back to work with 24-hours' notice, but the prospects appear remote.

For his part, Donald Trump -- the self-proclaimed world-class dealmaker -- isn't even trying to play a direct role in negotiations, and he'll return to one of his private golf clubs later today.