Senate Republican leaders are pushing to wrap up the lame-duck session as soon as possible to limit the time available to outgoing Majority Leader Harry Reid to clear nominations.
“I think there are reasons why it’s probably helpful to get out of here,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who will be majority whip in the next Congress. “No. 1 of which is Sen. Reid can continue to move nominations through as long as we are here.” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., agreed and said there is a growing consensus among Republicans to hold off on pushing for votes on amendments to the $1 trillion spending package, also known as the cromnibus, which the House cleared last night.
“I think most people believe that we are better served to wait until we are in charge. Then we will be in a better position to try and win some of these” amendment votes, Thune said.
But he didn’t rule out the possibility of some amendment votes, which would keep the Senate in session longer. “I think that’s a discussion that is ongoing,” Thune said.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said he has proposed an amendment that would seek to block President Barack Obama’s executive action shielding undocumented immigrants from deportation. Sessions declined to say whether he would insist on a vote, but added that it would not take long to consider.
Progressive Democrats, who oppose certain provisions in the spending bill, may also push for amendments, which Thune said was another reason to quickly pass the bill as is.
“That’s a possibility if you start opening this thing up,” Thune said. “It’s been pieced together in a fairly thoughtful way, I think, and most House Republicans concluded that it was a good deal for Republicans and if you start unraveling it you run the risk of having things come out of there that a lot of our folks are supportive of.”
On tax extenders, Thune said the bill may take some time to clear because a Republican senator currently has a hold on the bill. He declined to identify the senator.
“That one is going to pass and it’s going to pass big, so the question is do they have to file cloture, let the clock run and go through all the hoops or does whoever has that hold let that go and be done with it,” Thune said.
Thune said Democrats might move the tax bill last because it has bipartisan support and it would give Democrats more time to push through nominations.
They “could try to do that, but we’ll get up, I would suspect, and offer unanimous consent requests to move to it and make it clear that they're blocking it,” Thune said. “I don’t know why they would do that other than they want to stack a bunch of nominations, or something else they want to do, in front of it, and we don’t intend to give them that opportunity.”
One nomination that has drawn fire from Republicans is Vivek Murthy to be surgeon general. The GOP has said he isn’t qualified for the job and the National Rifle Association opposes him for supporting gun control policies.
“I don’t see the vote happening,” Thune said. “He’s got a lot of controversy around him.”
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