As the Senate readies for the Republican takeover in January, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is using his final days at the helm to push through a series of presidential nominations that had been stalled by GOP opposition, The Washington Post
The move came in response to a conservative rebellion over immigration which crippled the smooth passage of the spending bill and forced senators into a weekend legislative session to get it passed.
During the Saturday session, Reid set in motion the confirmation process of executive branch appointees, which would fill vacancies at the State Department, public health and energy boards, and other agencies.
The voting schedule is set to begin Monday to confirm Vivek Murthy to serve as surgeon general, Frank Rose as an assistant secretary of state, and Daniel Santos to join the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.
Reid then intends to move votes on Antony Blinken to serve as a deputy secretary of state and Sarah Saldana to lead the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, the Post reported, both of whom have faced strong GOP opposition.
"Ted Cruz, by his shenanigans, gave us a wonderful opening to do nominations," said California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, according to the Post. "People need to get into these positions so they can work. He gave us an opening, and we took it."
But Republicans may stand in the way of an accelerated nominations process. To date, the GOP has resisted the confirmations, in part because of anger over Reid's decision last year to change the filibuster rules to push through confirmations.
Democrats are also up against the clock. With the Senate due to adjourn this week for the holidays, there's the risk that some may start departing Washington, making it difficult to complete the confirmations process with reduced numbers of lawmakers.
Cruz, a Texas Republican, on Friday mounted a challenge to the spending bill in an attempt to strip out funding for President Barack Obama's immigration order. The move drew criticism from lawmakers in both parties.
Democrats accused Cruz of a publicity stunt.
Republicans said the move was counterproductive
in that it wouldn't stop a vote on the spending bill and ultimately backfired by allowing Reid to start the confirmations process.
Cruz's rebellion could be a precursor to problems incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell might face when trying to unify the GOP conference on other items of legislation in the upcoming session, the Post said.
It also sparked concern among some in his party.
"Republicans should know, unless we can show the American people that we can govern, then we're not going to elect a Republican president in 2016," Arizona Sen. John McCain said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation."
A number of Republicans have already pledged to vote against Blinken because he supported Obama's effort to pull out troops from Iraq.
Saldana is also facing opposition after she said that she believed Obama's executive action on immigration was legal.
And Murthy has caused concern among Republicans for some time because of his support for Obamacare and gun control, and it is unclear how much opposition he might face, the Post reported.
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