Senate Republicans are ready to keep the Senate open through 6 a.m. Sunday, with members scheduled to speak on the floor throughout the weekend to decry Majority Leader Harry Reid for changing the Senate's rules.
The decision to jab back at Reid over a series of executive nominations was firmed up Wednesday at a conference meeting, Senate GOP aides said. But whether the Senate remains in session through the weekend depends in part on whether Democrats yield back their debate time.
Democrats will likely yield back much of the debate time on the 10 pending nominees, but said that whether the Senate stays in session over the weekend was still in flux, a Senate Democratic leadership aide said.
Reid said earlier this week he would be willing to keep the Senate in session. But Republicans are eager to make Reid and Democrats feel the heat. What better way, the thinking goes, than to work the weekend?
"We just can't take it lying down," said Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, who said he is slotted to speak from 8 to 9 p.m. on Thursday. "It's an outrage that he's persuaded his colleagues — on some pretext — to change the rules."
The GOP's decision comes hours after budget negotiators announced their two-year bipartisan deal. It underscores the hard feelings between Senate Republicans and Reid, who with the support of most Democrats changed the Senate rules on presidential nominations on Nov. 21.
If Reid wants to spend the last weeks of the year on nonurgent nominations instead of defense-authorization amendments, a senior GOP aide explained, then Republicans are going to make him pay for it.
The Republicans' thinking, a Senate GOP aide explained, is that Democratic members will become so frustrated at the notion of staying through the weekend and overnight that Reid will relent on pushing the current group of nominees through.
But Democrats point out that since the rules change, Republicans can't block the nominees; they can only slow the process of considering them.
"If that's what they need to get their ya-yas out, OK," said Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson.
Democrats also wonder at the GOP strategy.
"It's a weird thing to do," a senior Democratic leadership aide said. "One of our best narratives on them is obstruction. They're highlighting their impotence."
But Republicans see the nuclear option playing into their concerns about big government.
"That whole deal was Obamacare II," said Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas. "It was just brute force — in the sense of just ramming things through."