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Cruz at center of Senate meltdown

 

Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzThe Hill's 12:30 Report Cruz defends Trump's Taiwan call Ark., Texas senators put cheese dip vs. queso to the test MORE, the firebrand conservative freshman from Texas, has blown up the Senate leadership’s plans to have a peaceful weekend by forcing round-the-clock votes on President Obama’s nominees and the $1.1 trillion omnibus.

Cruz took to the floor late Friday to castigate congressional leaders for trying to pass the 1,600-page spending bill after only a few hours of debate and questioned the resolve of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellSenate Democrats dig in as shutdown approaches Overnight Healthcare: Burwell huddles with Dems on fighting ObamaCare repeal Overnight Finance: House passes spending bill as shutdown looms | Fate in Senate unclear | Labor groups pan Trump's Labor pick MORE (Ky.) and Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerBoehner compares Trump to Teddy Roosevelt Boehner: 'Thank God' I wasn't in the middle of election Ryan delays committee assignments until 2017 MORE (R-Ohio) to fight Obama’s executive order protecting five million illegal immigrants from deportation.

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“Even though millions of voters rose up just one month ago to protest how President Obama and the Senate Democrats were running Washington, business as usual is continuing inside the marble halls of the United State Congress,” Cruz said in a fiery floor speech. 

Because of objections from Cruz and his ally Sen. Mike LeeMike LeeSenate sends annual defense bill to Obama's desk Overnight Healthcare: Medical cures bill finally heads to White House Overnight Energy: Trump taps EPA foe to head agency | Energy reform bill officially dead MORE (R-Utah), the Senate will begin slogging through procedural votes on nominees starting at noon Saturday and vote to end a filibuster of the omnibus spending package at 1 a.m. Sunday morning.

“It appears that we’re going to have to have a series of votes all day tomorrow starting as soon as we get here and perhaps into the morning,” Reid said shortly before temporarily adjourning the chamber Friday night.

A senior Senate Democratic aide said the Senate may hold up to 40 procedural votes on nominees this weekend due to what he called the “extreme pettiness on the part of Republicans.”

The plan sets up a final vote on the omnibus at 7 a.m. Monday and confirmation votes on 20 nominees starting Monday.

Reid attempted to postpone work until 5 pm Monday to avoid requiring Senators having to vote throughout the day on Saturday and early morning Sunday but Lee objected, citing the “grave concerns” of the American people “with the president’s decision to take action unilaterally with regard to executive amnesty.”

Had Reid gotten his way, votes on the omnibus would have started late Monday afternoon.

“I don’t see any reason why the United States Senate should suspend its operations while the American people are waiting for us to act,” he said.

Cruz will raise a constitutional point-of-order against the spending bill on Sunday to protest Obama’s immigration order, setting up vote that he says will require his colleagues to take a position on the controversial issue.

“This procedural tool will ensure that every Senator will be on record regarding the constitutionality of President Obama's illegal amnesty,” said Cruz’s spokeswoman Catherine Frazier.

Any senator can raise a constitutional point-of-order objection, which does not require consent.

Cruz questioned whether McConnell and BoehnerJohn BoehnerBoehner compares Trump to Teddy Roosevelt Boehner: 'Thank God' I wasn't in the middle of election Ryan delays committee assignments until 2017 MORE are fully committed to battling Obama on immigration.

“I would note that a whole lot of citizens across the country feel a little bit like Charlie Brown with Lucy and the football, wherein fight after fight leadership in Congress says, we’ll fight next time — not this time, no, no, no. The wise thing to do is to fight in a month, fight in two months,” he said on the Senate floor.

The senior Democratic aide noted McConnell left the Capitol Friday evening apparently believing he had a deal with Reid to avoid a weekend vote-a-rama, telling reporters, “see ya Monday.”

“Senator McConnell left the Capitol apparently thinking there was a deal but his caucus rejected it after he left, while Senator Cruz took to the Senate floor to openly question Senator McConnell’s honesty and integrity,” the aide said.

Republican senators and aides said Friday they were prepared to approve the omnibus and a package extending expired tax provisions that same day. The GOP sources said the only hold up was Reid’s insistence on also confirming 20 of Obama’s nominees.

Democrats, however, said Cruz remained an obstacle, dismissing what one aide called “the crocodile tear act” on nominees.

“Republican objections to voting on the government funding bill itself are holding up an agreement to vote on the government funding bill,” the Democratic aide said.

The Texas freshman certainly did not sound like someone prepared to okay swift action on the omnibus as he railed against it Friday evening.

“This bill is not designed to help working Americans. It is designed to pay off all the promises made to lobbyists who funded campaigns over the past year,” Cruz said in his lengthy floor statement.

“Before the United States Senate is a bill that does nothing, absolutely nothing to stop President Obama’s illegal and unconstitutional amnesty,” he said.

Reid set up a vote early Sunday to end filibusters of the spending bill and executed a procedural maneuver to block colleagues from amending it.

Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff Sessions House passes water bill with Flint aid, drought relief Liberal Dems: Trump filling Cabinet with 'stooges' Poll: Most say Trump will change DC MORE, a conservative Republican from Alabama, wants to offer an amendment that would prohibit the use of federal funds for Obama’s order halting deportations.

Liberal star Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenPressure grows on Perez to enter DNC race The Hill's 12:30 Report AFL-CIO endorses Ellison for DNC chair MORE (D-Mass.) wants a vote on amendment that would strip language repealing a key provision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law restricting derivatives trading by government-insured banks.

Neither Sessions or Warren will get a chance to amend the omnibus unless Senate leaders craft a deal that would speed consideration of the package in exchange for votes on amendments. 

This post was updated at 1:01 p.m.