WASHINGTON -- Senators reached a late-night deal Thursday to confirm a trio of nominations while setting up a final vote in January to install Janet Yellen as chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, putting aside a bitter dispute so that lawmakers can leave Washington on time for Christmas recess.
The accord, announced just as senators were preparing for the first of eight votes scheduled Thursday night and Friday morning, ends for the moment a Senate saga that had played out after Democrats made a landmark change to filibuster rules that all but eliminated Republicans' ability to block President Obama's executive and judicial branch choices.
After voting to give final approval to a key Defense bill and to advance the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to be deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the Senate will break for the night.
Starting at 10 a.m. Friday, the Senate will hold six more votes that will ultimately confirm Mayorkas, John Koskinen as commissioner of the IRS and Brian Davis as a district judge in Florida. That will put Yellen on the cusp of confirmation, but a final vote will be delayed until the Senate returns on Jan. 6.
Most senators had appeared resigned to holding a rare weekend session to confirm those four priority nominations and potentially six more that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had queued up. In the past, Reid's threats to keep the Senate in session on weekends had produced similar accords, although often quicker than the one reached Thursday night.
Since Democrats invoked the "nuclear option," lowering the threshold needed to advance most nominations from 60 votes to a simple majority, Republicans have used what remaining procedural tools they had to delay Senate business.
Until Thursday night's agreement, most Republicans had planned to leave town even as the Senate remained in session, while ensuring that at least one stayed in the chamber to object to any Democratic attempt to expedite the nomination votes.
Democrats said their members were willing to go the distance to see the nominations through. "We did not come this far to quit," Assistant Majority Leader Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said after a closed-door meeting of Democrats earlier Thursday.
"If it means working through the weekend and next week, so be it," Reid had said.