The Washington Post
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: On the 16th day of a government shutdown with debt default a few hours away, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), surrounded by his leadership team, speaks to reporters about moving forward after a vote passage that ends the federal government shutdown and temporarily raises the debt ceiling, on Capitol Hill Wednesday October 16, 2013. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is keeping the U.S. Senate after hours to finish the people’s business. And many of his colleagues aren't happy about it.
Emboldened by a recent rule change known as the “nuclear option” that reduces the number of votes necessary to confirm presidential appointees, Reid is holding the Senate in session until a backlog of nominations is completed.
And Republicans, on the losing side of a recent battle over the issue, aren't too happy about it:
As the sun rose on Friday, senators had worked through a second straight all-night session — called by Democrats as a way of retaliating for Republicans’ delaying tactics on confirmations. They held their first vote of the day at 7 a.m., confirming Deborah James to be secretary of the Air Force.
“I think it resembles fourth graders playing in a sandbox, and I’ll give the majority leader, Harry Reid, 99 percent of the responsibility for it,” Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and usually one of the more reserved members, said Thursday.
After years of debate and threats, Democrats last month removed the power of Republicans to block nominees by threatening a filibuster. Democrats, who hold the Senate 55-45, reduced from 60 to a simple majority the number of votes needed confirm all nominees except those for the Supreme Court.
While many have decried the rule change as dangerous and out of character for the Senate, the reality is that Republican opposition had held up dozens of non-controversial positions needed for government to function effectively.
For example, the Senate earlier this week confirmed lawyer Patricia Millett to a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
The Senate is expected to take Sunday off and return early next week to confirm about a dozen more nominees, including Janet Yellen to head the Federal Reserve and Robert Wilkins to the D.C. Circuit Court.
Currently, there are about 75 nominees pending before the Senate.
"If we have to work through Christmas, we will work right through Christmas," Reid said.