Senate Republicans Are Plotting a Talkathon

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 21: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill, November 21, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Senate voted 52-48 to invoke the so-called 'nuclear option', voting to change Senate rules on the controversial filibuster for most presidential nominations with a simple majority vote. 
National Journal
Michael Catalini
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Michael Catalini
Dec. 11, 2013, 7:58 a.m.

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.”

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