GOP senators spar over tactics
Washington – — Unhappy Republicans say Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has given President Barack Obama a present this holiday season — a gift certificate good for confirmation of 12 judicial appointments, not long after the voters had delivered the Democrats a lump of coal in midterm elections.
Cruz, a tea party favorite and potential 2016 presidential contender, disputed the claim through his spokesman on Monday.
But there was no dissent that Democrats, who must turn over power to Republicans in January, were in position to confirm not only the judges, but 11 other appointees before the Senate wraps up work for the year.
Among them are nominees that Republicans have sought to block for two relatively high-profile posts. They are Vivek Murthy, confirmed late in the day as surgeon general, and Sarah Saldana to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that will oversee the new administration policy on immigration that Cruz wants to defund.
At the root of the dispute lay a combination of the Senate’s all-but-indecipherable rules, Cruz’s attempt to use their murky corners to his advantage, and a bipartisan desire of many lawmakers to finish work for the year and return home for the holidays.
“My concern about the strategy he employed is that it has a result he didn’t intend,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said of Cruz’ maneuverings on Friday night, when he sought to force a vote on Obama’s immigration policy. Among the consequences, she said, would be confirmation of a number of appointees who are controversial, including some to “lifetime judicial” posts.
Some officials said Cruz was personally informed by GOP aides that Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid was primed to take advantage if he went ahead.
Under the Senate’s rules, Cruz’s maneuver allowed Reid to begin the time-consuming process of confirming nominations on Saturday at noon — when lawmakers had been scheduled to be home for the weekend.
Had Cruz not made his move when he did, according to officials in both parties, Reid would have had to wait until Monday night — more than 48 hours later. Disgruntled Republicans said they felt confident that Reid’s rank and file would not have been willing to remain in Washington in that case, and only four or five nominees would be confirmed instead of 23.
Cruz’s office swiftly disputed the claim. “Everyone knows Harry Reid planned to jam forward as many nominees as he could,” Phil Novack, a spokesman for Cruz, said by email. “Unfortunately, there are many on both sides of the aisle who would rather stoke stories about Ted Cruz to distract from the more important debate over the President’s unilateral action to grant amnesty.”
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