Senate clears key nominations, leaves town for Christmas
December 20th, 2013
07:06 PM ET
9 years ago

Senate clears key nominations, leaves town for Christmas

(CNN) - Senators cast their last votes of the year Friday - confirming a new IRS commissioner and the No. 2 official at the Homeland Security Department - and dashed from the Capitol to start their Christmas recess.

Their final votes, to break Republican filibusters and approve several of President Barack Obama's nominees, seemed a fitting conclusion to a year when the divisive issues of filibusters and nominations were dominant.

Friday wrapped up a grueling week of work for Senate lawmakers, who conducted marathon sessions over stalled nominees. Majority Leader Harry Reid was hospitalized briefly for exhaustion. He was back home and cleared to return to work by evening.

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A late night deal Thursday between the parties shortened debate time and meant Senators would not have to stay into the weekend - or longer - to vote on a handful of stalled nominees Democrats were trying to clear.

Republicans, who are angry over rule changes Democrats put in place that limit the GOP's ability to filibuster nominees, had been reluctant to back off demands that all debate time allowed by Senate rules be used before confirmation votes take place.

The agreement let them clear Alejandro Mayorkas to be the deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security; Brian Davis to be a federal judge in Florida, and John Koskinen to the commissioner of the IRS.

Senators also voted to break a filibuster of Janet Yellen to be chairman of the Federal Reserve although a final confirmation vote won't take place until January 6.

Animosity between the parties was captured in a post-vote exchange between Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, the second-ranking Democratic leader, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina.

Durbin wanted approval to waive a rule that said any presidential nominations that hadn't been approved by the end of the year - Durbin said there were 238 such nominees - had to be returned to the White House where the president could then re-nominate them.

"To require the White House to start over is just literally a waste of time and unfortunate for these nominees, many of whom have been waiting for a long, long period of time. This is a chance," Durbin said, "to get next year off to a good start."
Graham said no.

"All I can say is that the normal way the Senate has operated for a couple of hundred years has been destroyed this year and to ask that normalcy come about now is just beyond the pale," Graham said.

"I understand that we're in a point of great emotions and feelings and stress in the Senate over the change in the rules of the use of the filibuster," Durbin responded. "Unfortunately it appears we're going to stay in that state for, at least, a short period of time."

Despite the testy exchange between the Senators, the two did agree to clear a batch of military nominations so that the men and women of the armed services won't be caught up in the political standoff.

Filed under: Senate • Senate Democrats • Senate Republicans
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Evergreen

    238 nominees still waiting for a vote?! This is shameful. If the rules had not changed, even more would have been held in limbo. Congress has to get its act together.

    December 20, 2013 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  2. Smitty

    Watching the film of these guys leaving looked like Barry at press conference today. Totally defeated is what Obama and the Senate look like. Does anybody ever get tired of making excuses for this nightmare Admin??????

    December 20, 2013 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  3. Randy, San Francisco

    Congressional and Senate politicians need conflict mediators to settle disputes. It works well enough for schools kids.

    December 20, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  4. ThinkAgain

    If you don't like the way our federal government is working (or not working), then get rid of the repub majority in the House and the repub obstructionists in the Senate.

    It's as simple as that.

    December 20, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  5. Bmike

    Good for the changes in the rules the republicans were constantly blocking everybody..they could..hmmm let me see if it had been bush would they done that..not likely..even Clinton..not all those times....stay blessed Obama

    December 21, 2013 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  6. just saying

    Friday wrapped up a grueling week of work for Senate lawmakers, who conducted marathon sessions over stalled nominees. Majority Leader Harry Reid was hospitalized briefly for exhaustion. He was back home and cleared to return to work by evening.

    aaaawwww..... poor wittle harry can't keep up with the work? maybe he should do us all a favor and resign? your little nuclear option has consequences dirty harry. embrace the suck!

    December 21, 2013 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  7. Thomas

    Now that wasn't so bad .

    December 21, 2013 03:38 am at 3:38 am |
  8. omeany

    I doubt we'll notice any difference.

    December 21, 2013 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  9. Norma Vessels

    The Republicans in the House and the Senate are just way too stubborn and childish. Full grown men, obviously intelligent men .. yet they act like that.

    December 21, 2013 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  10. rs

    So much for 24x7x5. The GOPO can't even carry our their retributional threats. Too old, my guess.

    December 21, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  11. Maria Rivera-Carvalho

    They stalled the president's agenda for five years and suddenly "saw the light" and started doing their jobs. Why? Because 2014 is an election year and they don't have anything to show for the enourmous amounts of money and benefifts they shamelessly accepted in exchange for doing nothing. Democrats waited the same amount of time to force the lunatic Obamaphobics to do their job. The whole senate, from both parties, should be impeached and made to pay back their stolen money.

    December 21, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  12. wendel

    well they got something done and the repos can just suck it up since they where not doing anything anyway.

    December 21, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |