WASHINGTON -- Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) floated a possible deal Tuesday that would allow senators to go home for Christmas recess as soon as this week as long as Republicans agree to allow the pending slate of President Obama’s nominations to be carried over to the next session without being formally resubmitted, a time-consuming process that would otherwise be required.
The offer, which was certain to tempt lawmakers who are eyeing their first extended Christmas recess in years, was seen as a test of goodwill in the chamber in the aftermath of Republican anger over Democrats' move to prevent filibusters on most presidential nominations.
“We have a lot to do before Christmas, but we can get it done,” Reid said. “We just need a little bit of cooperation from Republicans. If not, we're going to face another long series of votes that'll bring us to the weekend and at least the first part of next week.”
On Monday, Reid took the first step toward setting up votes on 10 new nominees for judicial and administration positions, most prominently Janet L. Yellen for Federal Reserve chairwoman. Reid also indicated that confirming the new Internal Revenue Service commissioner and the chief deputy secretaries for the Homeland Security and Treasury departments were priorities.
The first nominee Reid set up for a vote, Alejandro Mayorkas to be deputy secretary of Homeland Security, faces stiff Republican opposition. Because the new Senate rules allow nominees to advance by a simple majority, his confirmation is all but certain. But Republicans have been using delaying tactics to draw out the process. If Reid insisted on holding votes on all 10 nominees, the Senate probably would have to remain in session up until Christmas Eve, next Tuesday.
Such an agreement is possible, aides to both parties said. Just last week senators agreed to put off votes that could have required a rare weekend session. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in his news conference Tuesday, demonstrated the depth of Republican resentment over the Democrats’ use of the so-called nuclear option to change the filibuster rule.
“It's a tragedy the way the Senate is being run into the ground by basically one person,” he said. “I hope that one of the majority leader's New Year's resolutions is going to be to operate the Senate in a quite different manner.”
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