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Reid Announces Weekend Votes After Blockade (Updated)

Cruz wants a vote on immigration. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Cruz wants a vote on immigration. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated Dec. 13, 12:15 a.m. | Conservatives stalled action on the Senate floor late Friday as leaders scrambled to wrap up the 113th Congress.  

Senators will reconvene at noon Saturday for a series of up to 40 roll call votes after conservatives sought to force votes to block President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration before consenting to a final vote on the “cromnibus” to fund the government. The collapse of a potential deal to set the votes on the spending bill for Monday came amid a longstanding feud about nominations, which will now take center stage on Saturday.  

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters Saturday’s session will feature a lengthy series of procedural votes in order to allow him to file cloture on a number of pending nominations. He said it appeared Republicans would require procedural votes to get in and out of executive session, where he could file the cloture petitions. The GOP, which takes over the majority in January, is loath to make it easy for Democrats to process President Barack Obama’s nominations.  

“Each one, we’ll have to do a separate vote,” Reid said, without specifying the number of votes. Indications were the Senate could have a vote-a-rama from lunchtime straight past midnight.  

Reid also said that absent an agreement, the Senate would vote at 1 a.m. Sunday to limit debate on the cromnibus spending package. While the procedural votes will make for a terribly long day Saturday, it also means Reid can process more nominations more quickly. A consent agreement including nominations may have meant that fewer would ultimately be confirmed. Reid also gets an entire day to file cloture motions as a result of the schedule change.  

A senior Senate Democratic aide said Democrats want to confirm about 20 nominees before adjourning for the year, including Vivek Murthy to be surgeon general. Republicans oppose Murthy because they believe he is unqualified and the National Rifle Association opposes him for supporting gun control policies.  

Other nominees on the list who have also drawn Republican opposition include Anthony Blinken to be John Kerry’s deputy at the State Department; Sarah Saldana to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement; and Carolyn Colvin to head the Social Security Administration. The list also includes some ambassadors and about nine judges, the aide said.  

Earlier Friday, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, who is expected to be the Judiciary Committee chairman, said that he opposed letting judges get confirmed who were nominated after the election.  

Things publicly fell apart after, in the intertwined debate on the $1.1 trillion spending bill and other end-of-session business, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, sought to raise a constitutional point of order to knock down the language providing stopgap funding for the Homeland Security Department. That was the one of the 12 annual spending bills left by the wayside in the “cromnibus” package.  

The procedural situation wasn’t right for offering such a motion, and Cruz told CQ Roll Call he would try again on Sunday, using a method that’s designed to have a simple majority vote threshold that Cruz says could succeed if Democrats “vote their conscience.”  

Unless senators agree to allow a short-term spending bill to pass by unanimous consent, the government would shutdown after midnight Saturday night.  

Cruz was joined by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who blocked a request by Reid to vote Monday at 5 p.m. on the cromnibus funding the government, after Reid refused to allow a vote on an amendment defunding Obama’s temporary executive amnesty. After commotion on the floor, Reid announced the Senate will convene at noon Saturday, with votes throughout the day and maybe into Sunday morning.  

“It’s inconvenient for a lot of people, but I’m sorry, that’s … we’re the Senate and we have to rearrange our schedules for the weekend,” Reid said.  

In a floor speech, Cruz said conservatives should “trust but verify” their own leaders when it comes to responding to Obama on immigration.  

In a speech that had something for every variety of critic of the more than $1 trillion fiscal 2015 spending package, Cruz criticized a variety of provisions, including one favorable to Blue Cross Blue Shield.  He made use of the metaphor of the “Peanuts” character Lucy in pulling the football away from poor Charlie Brown. In this case, he was criticizing Republican leadership for promises delayed.  

“I take them at their word,” the conservative firebrand said in his floor speech. “But I would note that a whole lot of citizens across this country feel a little bit like Charlie Brown with Lucy and the football, when fight after fight, leadership in Congress says we’ll fight next time. Not this time … the wise thing to do is to fight in a month, fight in two months, fight in three months. Not now.”  

“There comes a point where Charlie Brown has kicked the football and fallen on his rear end one two many times,” Cruz said. “So, when our leaders in both chambers say as a commitment we will fight and we will stop President Obama’s illegal amnesty, I take them at their word. But, I am confident the American people will hold them to their word.”  

Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.

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