Officials need to get moving

While the rest of us may be thinking of getting in a few last-of-summer days off in August, our U.S. senators will be chained to their workplace, the Capitol building.

Normally, members of Congress are in recess during August. But this year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has announced he plans to cancel the last three weeks of the recess.

McConnell has blamed obstructionism by Democrat senators. They have delayed action on too many matters, ranging from judicial appointments to appropriations, he has said. Lawmakers need to stay in Washington during most of August to make up for that, McConnell explains.

He has a point. It has been noted that it takes an average of 85 days for someone nominated for office by President Donald Trump to be confirmed by the Senate. That compares to 67 days for former President Barack Obama.

Clearly, partisanship has gotten much worse during recent years. The same check of confirmation times, by the Capitol newspaper “The Hill,” notes that the average confirmation time for former President George W. Bush’s appointees was just 44 days.

Give McConnell and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Ill., credit for some of the logjam, in a way.

While Obama used unconstitutional executive orders to implement some of his most controversial actions, Ryan and McConnell have put some major issues before Congress. Knotty issues such as immigration, tax reform and health care, dodged for years by lawmakers, have been taken up – and have had the effect of delaying action on other important matters.

Dealing with concerns such as confirmation of Trump’s nominees should not be terribly time-consuming. Either they are qualified or they are not.

Perhaps McConnell’s decision, giving senators an additional three weeks to clear the agenda, will help. Let us hope so. Both chambers of Congress need to get moving.