Cease-fire declared in Senate over nominations

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) heads to the Senate floor on Capitol Hill. McConnell and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have worked out a cease-fire in the battle between Senate Republicans and Democrats over new rules that limit filibusters.
(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — Senate leaders on Friday called a cease-fire in a weeklong fight over the chamber’s new rules that limit filibusters, ending a nearly 48-hour marathon session.

In the end, senators’ aversion to what would have been a rare weekend session trumped the desire to score political points. Republicans had been dragging out debate over nominations to protest the move by the Democratic majority late last month to all but eliminate the minority’s ability to filibuster presidential nominations.

Under the deal reached by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), votes on a final pair of nominees that could have kept the Senate in session until Saturday night will now be pushed to Monday. That will allow the Senate to take up on Tuesday the House-passed budget agreement. A final slate of pending nominations, most notably Janet Yellen as chairman of the Federal Reserve, could be taken care of with time to spare before the scheduled Christmas recess.


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“The Republican leader and I have spent some time together, and I think we’ve had a productive discussion,” Reid said in announcing the truce. “We’re doing our utmost to finish our business here a week from today so that we can go home for Christmas.”

Until the agreement, the Senate had been bogged down by Republicans’ refusal to waive any portion of the time allowed under Senate rules for debate on nominations after procedural motions have been dealt with. For some nominations, that means a possible 30 hours of discussion. The two parties often come to informal agreements to limit debate time so the Senate can proceed to other business.

To eat up the debate time and force the issue, Reid held the Senate open all night Wednesday and again Thursday. Republicans used the time to make a series of speeches denouncing President Obama’s healthcare law and protesting the Democrats’ use of the so-called “nuclear option” of changing Senate rules by majority vote.

In their final votes Friday, the Senate confirmed a candidate to be deputy secretary of State and then advanced another State Department nominee. Earlier this week, the Senate confirmed two new judges for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Obama’s choice to be the new top regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a new secretary of the Air Force and four lower-court judges, among other nominees.

On Monday the Senate is expected to confirm Jeh Johnson as secretary of Homeland Security.

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