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Reid in final push to clear Obama nominees, close Congress

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDem senator tears up in farewell speech Senate is choosing bureaucrats over Veterans GOP eager to see Harry Reid go MORE (D-Nev.) is making a final push to wrap up the 113th Congress and bring an end to eight years of Democratic control of the upper chamber.

Reid on Monday morning said that the year’s leftover work could be finished that same day, offering his colleagues a tempting carrot to cooperate and waive procedural hurdles so that they can close the session and leave for the holidays.

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“We have some important stuff to do. We can complete everything we wanted to today,” he said on the Senate floor. “Everything is scheduled now for moving forward, we could finish it today.”

Before senators can head to the airport, they need to vote on 23 of President Obama’s nominees and pass a one-year extension of expired tax cuts. Another priority is the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), which provides a government safety net for insuring major development projects.

After working late on Saturday evening in a surprise weekend session forced by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), senators are eager to get out of Washington as soon as possible.

Reid warned that he is prepared to stretch the final days of the session late into the week or into the weekend if Republicans don’t agree to speed up votes.

“We’re going to have to be here until we finish our work, whether that’s Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday,” he said. “So everyone should understand you can’t be leaving.”

Reid threw Republicans a bone over the weekend by agreeing to pull Carolyn Colvin, Obama’s choice to head the Social Security Administration, from the agenda. Republicans argued she could not get a vote while an investigation into a troubled $300 million computer project at the agency remained open.

The Senate will begin voting at 5:30 p.m. Monday to end GOP filibusters stalling the batch of nominees, a time-intensive process if Republican senators refuse to yield back procedural time.

Reid must wait for eight hours to elapse after cloture is invoked on each executive branch nominee before holding a final confirmation vote. District court nominees are subject to two hours of post-cloture debate before receiving a final vote.  

The first of the nominations being considered are also some of the most controversial: Sarah Saldana to be assistant secretary of Homeland Security and Vivek Murthy to be surgeon general.

Daniel Santos, Obama’s pick to serve on the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, and Frank Rose, the nominee to serve as assistant secretary of State, also top the list.

It's unclear how much time Republicans will be willing to yield back on all of the other nominations — they oppose most of them, but are motivated to get home to their families for the holidays. Democrats are hoping to reach a unanimous consent agreement to quickly clear several of the nominees.

Once nominees are dispatched, the Senate will move next to the tax extenders package, which is expected to pass easily, and TRIA, which could prove a heavier lift.

House Republicans sent over a TRIA extension that included language a provision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. Senate Democrats have made clear they will pass it only if Republicans agree to strip the Wall Street language.

House members left town Thursday night after passing the $1.1 trillion government-funding bill.