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October 6, 2015

Yellen Leads Nominees Reid Wants Confirmed By Christmas

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned that the Senate could be working right through Christmas Eve processing nominations, running through a list of nine more individuals he would like to see confirmed by year’s end.

“It’s up to the minority to determine what, if anything, they’re going to stop us from doing,” the Nevada Democrat said. “I’m happy … to work with them on time, but there are certain things … we have to get done before Christmas.”

Atop the priority list after legislative work on the big-ticket budget deal and defense authorization bill is President Barack Obama’s choice of Janet L. Yellen to be the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve.

The legislative items should ultimately have clear paths through the Senate, each achieving 60 votes on the important procedural votes. The nominees may have to clear time hurdles, but they no longer have a similar 60-vote requirement, thanks to the change in precedent Reid engineered through the “nuclear option.”

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch became the latest to offer reluctant GOP support for the budget agreement earlier Monday.

“This agreement isn’t everything I’d hoped it would be, and it isn’t what I would have written. But sometimes the answer has to be yes. The reality is that Republicans only control one-half of one-third of government,” the Utah Republican said in a statement. “Ultimately, this agreement upholds the principles conservatives stand for and, with Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate, it is the best we could hope for.”

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul has threatened to try to hold up the Yellen confirmation in a bid to secure a vote on a Federal Reserve audit proposal. Reid could file cloture to work around Paul, bit it would eat time. The Fed chairmanship is one of 21 senior positions in the executive branch that still comes with 30 hours of post-cloture debate except by unanimous consent.

The batch of top priorities identified by Reid also includes Obama’s choice to take the helm of the Internal Revenue Service and to be a top deputy of Jeh Johnson, who will be confirmed by day’s end as the new secretary of Homeland Security.

“The Senate must also confirm Janet Yellen to head the Federal Reserve, Alejandro Mayorkas to be Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security and John Koskinen to lead the Internal Revenue Service,” Reid said in his prepared remarks for the floor. “The nominations of Judge Robert Wilkins’ to be a member of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and of Brian Davis of Florida to be a district court judge are also priorities. Mr. Davis’ nomination has been pending for two years.”

Reid can call up a motion to invoke cloture on the Wilkins nomination at any time, since there’s a pending motion to reconsider a previous failed bid to break a filibuster.

“The Senate must also move quickly to confirm Sarah Sewall as under secretary of state, Jessica Wright to be under secretary for readiness at the Defense Department, Sarah Bloom Raskin to be the second in command at the Treasury Department, Mike Connor to be second in command at the Interior Department, Sloane Gibson to be deputy at the Veterans Affairs Department and Rick Engler to the Chemical Safety Board,” Reid added.

Beyond the nominations Reid wants to see confirmed, there’s also the issue of the routine military promotions list that usually moves by unanimous consent minutes before the Senate departs for recess. In addition, Democrats are certain to seek consent to hold over an assortment of other nominees for consideration in January, working around a part of Senate rule XXXI that requires nominations to be returned to the White House at the end of a session.

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