A turbulent lame-duck session of
Lawmakers signed off on a deal to extend $45 billion worth of tax breaks through this calendar year, ensuring that businesses and individuals can claim the deductions in their next IRS filings. The 76-16 vote also approved what had been a separate bill to create new tax-free accounts that can be used for the care of disabled family members.
The agreement sent lawmakers home earlier than many had expected just a few days ago, when Sen.
Congress passed the bill Saturday and Obama signed the package into law without ceremony Tuesday night, the White House announced.
Democrats ultimately used that Saturday session to set up votes on a number of controversial presidential appointments, including a new surgeon general who was confirmed Monday. By the end of the day Tuesday, the Senate had confirmed 69 of Obama's nominees since Friday.
The Senate formally adjourned shortly before midnight. The House, which has already wrapped up its work, will follow suit this week.
Earlier in the day, during a closed-door Republican luncheon, Cruz apologized to his colleagues for the disruption he'd caused, even as he publicly refused to back off his stance.
"People were frustrated over the weekend," said Sen. John
The animosity of previous days largely faded as the Senate hurried to complete its business Tuesday. As aides worked on the details behind the scenes, Sens.
Also Tuesday, the Senate voted to confirm Antony Blinken to the No. 2 position at the
But continued opposition from Sen.
The final vote of the 113th Congress was on confirmation of a District Court judge nominee, capping a productive 13 months of such confirmations after Democrats changed long-standing Senate rules to allow them to approve many nominations by a simple majority vote and avoid Republican filibusters.
For 13 senators, it was their final vote. Departing lawmakers, including some who were defeated more than a month ago, were accepting hugs and handshakes as others relished an earlier-than-expected start to their holiday breaks.
As he walked off the Senate floor for the final time, retiring Democrat
"It takes getting used to after 36 years," Levin, the longest-serving departing senator, said as he hurried from the chamber toward the Capitol's Rotunda.
In a surprising coda to a year in which both sides accused the other of grinding the chamber to a halt, it marked the earliest lawmakers had finished their business to end a Congress since 2008. The 114th Congress, with Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, will convene Jan. 6.
"We're ready for next year," McConnell said as he exited the Capitol.