Weekend Work for the Senate? The Bluff That Won’t Go Away

Upon Wednesday return, a quickly defused musing of weekend work

Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., seen here walking by a nonfunctioning elevator in the basement of the Capitol, and other senators returned from recess on Wednesday and were hit promptly with a threat of weekend work, which fizzled quickly. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senators returned to Washington on Wednesday and scarcely had time to head to lunch before their leaders unsheathed the threat of weekend work, an oldie but goodie bluff that was taken off the table before dinner time. 

Returning around noon from a two-week recess that was to stand in for the traditional month-long state work period, the chamber’s official order of business was considering the nominations of two judges to be on the 4th U.S. Circuit of Appeals: First A. Marvin Quattlebaum Jr., then  Julius Ness Richardson. The plan all along has been to confirm those two South Carolinians, then turn to a two bill appropriations package consisting of the Defense and Labor-HHS measures, at some point. 

But not long after reconvening, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, was ready to whip out the weekend menace.

“Well, it’s really in the hands of Senator Schumer and our Democratic colleagues — if they want to employ all the delay tactics and procedures that are available to them, they can keep us here until the weekend,” Cornyn said regarding specific timing about getting to the spending package. Cornyn and other Republicans have complained that Democrats, led by Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York, have dragged out the confirmation process for nominees at the expense of valuable floor time. 

“But if they decide to agree to yield time back, then we can get our work done in less time. The most important thing is to get the work done,” Cornyn added.

Cornyn clarified he was referring to needing to get through nominations before lawmakers could turn to the combined appropriations package and the goal was to begin consideration of the bill before the weekend: “I think that’s the plan,” he said.

Leaving aside that the chamber had just returned for the work “week” on Wednesday after two actual weeks away, senators Wednesday afternoon hastily agreed to pave the way, by unanimous consent, for consideration of the appropriations package after they’re done voting on Quattelbaum and Richardson. Senators cut off debate on the Quattelbaum nomination, 61-28, shortly after 6 p.m.

The turn of events surprised very few who know the Senate’s long history of hollow foreboding of working into days starting with “S.” But the alacrity with which this threat was inflated, then deflated, and within the context of a chamber returning mid-week and already thinking about the weekend ... was something. 

Kellie Mejdrich contributed to this report.

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