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August 31, 2015

Senate Deal Sets Up Friday Christmas Exit, Pushes Yellen Confirmation to 2014 (Updated)

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 10:25 p.m. | A bit of bipartisan Christmas cheer finally arrived in the Senate around 10 p.m. Thursday.

That’s when senators locked in an agreement that will set up a series of votes Friday morning as the last of 2013, with Janet L. Yellen’s confirmation to head the Federal Reserve Board pushed until the Senate returns on Jan. 6.

Yellen was arguably the most important nominee that Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had wanted to see completed before Christmas. The agreement eliminates the need for an all-night session into Friday morning or an unusual Saturday session.

Under the agreement, the Senate will still have late Thursday votes, with another sequence of confirmation votes Friday morning before limiting debate on the Yellen nomination.

Many GOP senators, still bristling from the rules changes enabling Democrats to proceed on said nominees, were planning to hit the exits for Christmas after Thursday night’s 11:15 defense bill vote anyway, leaving Democrats working into the weekend processing nominees. In the minds of these members, as long as one of their colleagues hangs behind to block consent requests from Democrats that would allow everyone regardless of party to go home, they are OK with skipping votes they have no power to defeat.

The earlier plan left us asking many Republicans on Thursday the $800-for-last-minute-airfare-home question: Were you the one who drew the short straw that would require you to be on the Senate floor with Democrats instead of home with your families?

“It’s top secret,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said of which senators would remain in the Capitol. “I don’t have plane flights ready yet. I would just as soon we find some Christmas cheer and that we come to a bipartisan agreement. It would have to, to my mind, include allowing Republicans to have votes, allowing amendments. I’d be open to that in exchange for compromise on the nominations, but we’ve been going the opposite way.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., always full of holiday cheer, replied, “I’m afraid so,” when asked if he would be around through the bitter end of the voting. “It’s up to each individual, but I’ll be here.”

John Hoeven of North Dakota said Thursday afternoon that he had discussed the situation with leaders: “I told ’em I would [stay] if needed.”

Two GOP senators who would’ve been likely to make appearances at the weekend votes have lengthy voting streaks on the line. Susan Collins of Maine has never missed a roll call vote in her Senate career, and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa is on a streak that dates back to 1993, when he missed votes because he was traveling with President Bill Clinton on a tour of flooding damage back in the Hawkeye State.

That’s 6,806 consecutive votes for Grassley.

Democrats had lined up votes on 10 nominees they would like to see done, but with Thursday night’s deal, the first three will get finished everyone leaves for Christmas. No. 4 on the Democrats’ list is Yellen.

Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., said after a Democratic caucus meeting that, as he understood it, at least three Republican senators would be against any time agreements. He didn’t expect attendance problems on the Democratic side, though.

“I don’t have to give out an order. They’re going to stay. They are determined. They’re so sick and tired of stopping people like Janet Yellen,” Durbin said. “For goodness’ sake, do the Republicans really believe we are better off as a nation without someone running the Federal Reserve?”

Paul reiterated Thursday that he planned to require all time for debate to be consumed on Yellen’s nomination without an agreement for a vote on a Federal Reserve audit proposal, noting he had discussed the matter with Reid.

“I’ve talked to Sen. Reid several times about it. I’m still trying to get a deal,” he said. “We had a fireside chat this week. He has a great fireplace in his office, so we had a fireside chat.”

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