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Ticks, Floods, and a Dash of Health Care

Recess talks vary widely across Senate leadership

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been speaking on a variety of topics around his state over the recess, not just health care. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been speaking on a variety of topics around his state over the recess, not just health care. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Finding the votes for the Republican effort to roll back the 2010 health care overhaul may be the most pressing matter at the Capitol, but it hasn’t been the only topic of conversation for senators back home over the July Fourth recess.

Take the example of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. During a speech to Republicans in Hardin County, Kentucky, on Friday, McConnell likened the health care negotiations to a “Rubik’s Cube.”

But that has not been the only matter on the majority leader’s mind. He held a news conference joined by local officials in Paducah, Kentucky, on Wednesday that focused on successful efforts to secure federal funding for a major project to update the city’s flood wall.

“This wonderful city has done a great job taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the river which is, of course, why the city is here in the first place. But with all the water comes interesting challenges,” McConnell said, according to SurfKY News.

The majority leader was in western Kentucky to announce that the Army Corps of Engineers has committed to more than $19 million worth of work on the system. He has other similar events across the commonwealth.

McConnell also spoke at a Rotary Club luncheon while in Paducah. According to an aide, the topics discussed included work with the Energy Department on the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, a key issue in the region.

That same day, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer was in Westchester County, New York, talking about ticks. Joined by the mayor of New Rochelle and other local officials, the New York Democrat called for Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to implement a part of the bipartisan Cures law pertaining to tick-borne illnesses.

“Lyme disease and newly emerging diseases like Powassan are in a sprint to spread this summer, but the federal response to combat this trend is moving along at a snail’s pace. We must do more, and we must do more now to protect kids and families,” Schumer said.

An instant classic of a Schumer news release touted his message from the event: “Schumer To Feds: Use New Tools To OFF! Lyme Disease.”

Other Republican and Democratic leaders have been out and about as well.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune took part in pair of holiday weekend parades, spending part of July Fourth in Lennox in eastern South Dakota. An aide to the South Dakota Republican said Thune was expected to have more meetings with constituents throughout the week.

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, meanwhile, said on Twitter that he met Monday with the Texas Hospital Association and the Texas Medical Association to discuss the pending health care legislation. 

Cornyn’s Democratic counterpart, Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, was concentrating on health care policy, planning to crisscross the state, holding six events in more rural and urban locales.

Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Patty Murray of Washington planned multiple interviews on health care, as well as a tour of a community health center.

“Senator Murray will be hearing directly from Washington state families in their own communities, talking to them about their priorities and concerns, and hearing their stories about what the Republican effort to jam Trumpcare through Congress would mean for their health and financial security,” a Murray aide said.

That’s in addition to the work Murray, as ranking member on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, would be doing behind the scenes to motivate stakeholders and Democratic activists to keep up pressure on GOP senators to oppose repealing the 2010 health care law.