Democrats say Republicans are holding them up, which is why some want to change Senate rules to make it harder to filibuster nominees. That change would take place under a simple majority vote, breaking years of tradition and leading Republicans to call it the "nuclear option."
The meeting in the old Senate chamber broke up shortly before 10 a.m. Monday, but Senate leaders indicated that talks would continue into the night.
If not, Democrats appear ready to push ahead with votes on seven nominations, including several that Republicans oppose. One of these is Richard Cordray to be Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Board; the GOP also opposes two nominations to lead the National Labor Relations Board.
At 11 a.m., senators would start with the nomination of Cordray. If the Senate fails to agree to end debate on that nomination (by getting 60 votes), Democrats could threaten to change the rules at any time.
The nomination votes will occur sequentially — if the Senate votes to end debate on any one of the nominations, that triggers 8 hours of debate on that nomination right away. The others would wait until that nomination gets a final vote.
Republicans said late Monday that they are fine with some of the nominations, and that the sticking point is on Cordray and the two NLRB nominations, Richard Griffin and Sharon Block.
The other nominations are on Mark Pearce to the National Labor Relations Board; Fred Hochberg to be President of the Export-Import Bank; Thomas Perez to be Secretary of Labor; and Gina McCarthy to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Regardless of how the fight over the filibuster proceeds, the Senate is expected to start work at 10 a.m. by swearing in Senator-elect Ed Markey (D-Mass.). Markey resigned from the House formally on Monday, in anticipation of his swearing in on Tuesday.
By comparison, the House schedule has all the drama of a corn muffin. Members meet at noon, and in the afternoon they will consider three suspension bills:
— H.R. 2576, changing U.S. law to protect the intellectual property rights of pipeline manufacturers by striking a requirement that certain regulatory documents must be posted online.
— H.R. 1848, the Small Airplane Revitalization Act, easing regulations on general aviation aircraft.
— H.R. 2611, naming the Coast Guard headquarters in Washington DC the Douglas A. Munro Coast Guard Headquarters Building.