Sen. John Kennedy is expecting to get an earful when the freshman Republican returns to Louisiana for the August congressional recess and holds his regular live radio town hall with constituents.
Voters will be angry Congress failed to pass either tax reform or a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, which were the two major agenda items they initially promised to complete by the summer break, he said.
Kennedy knows how he will respond to the frustrated callers.
"What I'm going to say to them is the truth, they are right," Kennedy said as senators fled the U.S. Capitol Thursday for the airport gates at nearby Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. "We are six months into this Congress. We failed on health care. We will eventually get it right, but I was very disappointed we couldn't pass a replacement for the Affordable Care Act."
Initial plans to pass a major tax overhaul by August were abandoned earlier this year, and lawmakers are now hoping it can get done before the first session of Congress ends on December 31.
The effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, which had an initial springtime deadline, fell apart during a late night Senate session last month when Republicans failed to win a simple majority within their own party to advance their measure.
A week later, what was once planned to be a very ambitious Senate work session ended with a whimper. Republicans managed only to pass legislation reauthorizing FDA user fees and a bill to strengthen a Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare program, two measures with relatively little partisan opposition.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also worked out a deal with Democrats to quickly confirm 65 Trump administration nominees, including nine ambassadors, clearing a months-long backlog caused by Democratic opposition.
Republican leaders, painfully aware of the emerging do-nothing narrative, played up the package of confirmations on Thursday.
"This is a big day," Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said on the Senate floor moments after the package of nominees passed by voice vote.
Cornyn also touted the legislation that the Senate cleared since January, including the repeal of 14 Obama-era regulations, a veterans bill and legislation sanctioning Russia, Iran, and North Korea, the latter two accomplished with bipartisan support.
The Republican-led Senate also confirmed Neil Gorsuch early this year to the Supreme Court.
"I know the focus of the press, and some of our focus has been on the unfinished business like healthcare reform…but perhaps one of the most significant things we've done the last few months is confirm Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court," Cornyn said.
But voters aren't sold on the accomplishments.
On the same day lawmakers left for the summer, Quinnipiac University released a new poll showing congressional approval hovering just above dangerously low single digits.
Republicans acknowledge the disappointment but said they have been churning out legislation, just not on the big stuff like healthcare and taxes.
"The headlines are probably not as happy because we haven't had the success on the healthcare and we're now getting to tax reform, but the legislative number, our calendar has been quite active," said Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. "But folks pay attention to the big issues and not the everyday issues."
Cornyn and other Republican leaders say Democrats are squarely to blame for some of the inertia.
Most legislation requires 60 votes to even get consideration in the Senate. In the current Congress, this rule means the GOP needs cooperation from eight Democrats to advance legislation.
The Democratic filibuster prevents the Senate from taking up key bills passed by the GOP-led House, including a measure to roll back Obama era banking rules that is aimed at helping small businesses and the economy and a bill to crack down on so-called sanctuary cities.
"True, we haven't been able to even get a bill up with Democrats on the floor," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told the Washington Examiner. "We've been lucky to get some nominees."
But tax reform and healthcare reform, the most important Republican agenda items, require only GOP votes to pass under a budgetary tool known as reconciliation.
McConnell made no excuses in his final press conference before leaving town when he rejected a call by President Trump to alter Senate rules and lower the filibuster threshold from 60 to 51.
"It's pretty obvious that our problem on health care was not the Democrats," McConnell said. "We didn't have 50 Republicans."
McConnell said the Senate will begin consideration of tax reform when Congress returns September 5. The House is also slated to produce legislation next month.
Senate Democrats, eager to influence the debate, are warning the GOP to abandon the 51-vote plan and instead work with them on a bipartisan bill.
The two sides differ significantly on how to achieve tax reform, suggesting a deal may be impossible to achieve. But Democrats are warning the GOP is facing failure just like it did on health care reform if it tries to pass another piece of major legislation with only Republican votes.
"I hope there has been a lesson learned," Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told the Washington Examiner. "If they are going to tackle these big issues through reconciliation again they are going to find themselves in the same predicament."