Via the Right Scoop, read Noah’s post from yesterday for clarity if the headline above is unclear. The Senate was supposed to be in recess all weekend after Reid and McConnell made a deal on Friday night to hold a cloture vote on the cromnibus today. No dice, said Lee and Cruz; we want a vote on a point of order on whether Obama’s executive amnesty is constitutional and we want it immediately, not on Monday. Reid resisted so Lee refused to provide unanimous consent to holding the cromnibus vote as scheduled. Once that happened, Reid was forced to keep the Senate in session over the weekend. So he did — and he used the extra time on Saturday and Sunday to hold a bunch of procedural votes on presidential nominees who’d been bottled up in the Senate for months. Holding those procedural votes now means Reid will be able to hold cloture votes on them earlier than expected, i.e. sometime later this week or early next week, with a final confirmation vote for each soon thereafter. If Lee and Cruz hadn’t objected and the Senate had remained in recess all weekend, the procedural votes would have been pushed back for days — and at that point, with the timetable for final confirmation pushing into Christmas and beyond, it’s an open question whether Democrats would have stuck around to vote on them at all. In other words, if not for Lee and Cruz, the GOP might have been able to kill these nominations by delaying them to the point where Senate Dems gave up, leaving them to the incoming GOP majority to deal with.
But wait — how likely is that? How likely is it that Reid, with just a few days left in his eight-year tenure as majority leader and with enough votes to have all of these nominees confirmed (remember, there’s no filibuster allowed anymore for presidential nominees apart from nominees to the Supreme Court), would let Senate Dems simply walk away and hand those nominations to new majority leader Mitch McConnell? C’mon. That’s Lee’s point below; skip to 2:15 of the clip. It would, he says, be “political malpractice” for Reid not to keep the Senate going as long as necessary in order to force Democrats to confirm Obama’s picks. If Reid was prepared to give up on these nominees, there could be only two reasons why. One: Senate Democrats care more about extending their Christmas break than sticking around D.C. and ratifying a bunch of nominees, particularly O’s nominee for surgeon general, whom their base has supported for months. Or two: The rift between Obama and Reid is now so deep that Reid would just as soon screw the White House by giving up on O’s nominees than extend the lame-duck session a bit further to confirm them. Can’t be the latter theory, though, since Reid did, after all, start moving on those nominees this past weekend. So evidently Lee and Cruz are chumps because … they assumed Democrats would take their job seriously enough to confirm a bunch of people before New Year’s regardless of the precise timetable? I must be a chump too then because I assumed the same thing.
Still, you can see why this line of attack on Lee and Cruz is so appealing to both sides in Congress. For Democrats, it’s a way to discredit the Senate’s tea partiers. For the Republican leadership, it’s … a way to discredit the Senate’s tea partiers, who might pose problems for McConnell next year. The more this is seen as an “own goal” inside the caucus, the harder it’ll be for Lee and Cruz to attract allies on key votes. And in fairness to the McConnellites, it’s not clear why Cruz and Lee were so gung ho on holding a vote on the point of order. Of course Obama’s amnesty is unconstitutional; of course the Senate wasn’t about to let that fact impede passage of the cromnibus. Getting everyone in the chamber on record is useful to Cruz’s presidential campaign (Rubio and Paul naturally voted with Cruz so that they can’t be out-conservative’d on O’s amnesty in the primaries) but I’m not sure what Lee gets out of it.