The Senate spent nine hours on procedural votes that will allow Senate Democrats to confirm 24 more of President Obama’s nominations before adjourning for the year.
The rare Saturday session was prompted by objections from Sens. Ted CruzTed CruzConquering Trump returns to conservative summit The Hill's 12:30 Report Cruz predicts another Supreme Court vacancy this year MORE (R-Texas) and Mike LeeMike LeeLessons from the godfather of regulatory budgeting Congress must reform civil asset forfeiture laws A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (R-Utah) over the government funding bill.
"Because of Sen. Cruz’s actions and Republicans’ inability to stop him, Democrats will end up confirming more nominees by the end of this Congress than we would have been able to otherwise – including several key executive branch nominees and up to 12 of President Obama’s judicial nominees," said Adam Jentleson, Reid's spokesperson.
“Now we wait,” Reid said at the start of Saturday. “But while we wait we shouldn’t waste time.”
Reid had sought to reach an agreement to vote Monday on the $1.1 trillion “cromnibus,” which would avert a shutdown next week by funding most of the government through September, but Lee and Cruz objected. If the Senate had been in recess over the weekend, Reid would have had to file cloture on the nominations next week, decreasing the likelihood he could get through all 24 before the Senate adjourns for the year.
Many Republicans blasted Cruz and Lee’s “strategy” as being ill conceived. Their goal was to try and block federal funding from being spent on President Obama’s executive order on immigration — the problem is the Senate has reached a deal to hold the cromnibus vote late Saturday night without the consideration of any amendments.
House member left town after passing the long-term spending bill Thursday night, forcing the Senate to accept what it was sent or be responsible for another government shutdown.
GOP House members refused to fund the Department of Homeland Security beyond February as protest to Obama’s executive order, but Lee and Cruz said it didn’t go far enough.
Cruz shutdown the government in 2013 over ObamaCare spending and many Republicans say it gave the party a black eye. Some speculate his motivations are purely political. He is considered a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2016.
The procedural votes the Senate took Saturday are the equivalent of changing the television channel. Reid needed a majority of senators present to approve going back and forth between legislative and executive session while he filed cloture on the nominations — all of the votes broke along party lines. He is normally able to move through that process with a quick voice-vote, but because Republicans oppose the nominations it took most of the day.
Some of the most controversial nominations are Sarah Saldana to be Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security, Carolyn Watts Colvin to be Commissioner of Social Security and Vivek Hallegere Murthy to be Surgeon General of the Public Health Service.
Cloture and confirmation votes on all of the nominations are expected next week.
In addition to the cromnibus and nominations, Reid has said he also wants to complete work on the tax extenders bill and possibly the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act before the 113th Congress ends.