Tempers Flare as New Rules Strain Senate

12/14/13
 
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from The New York Times,
12/12/13:

If there is a rock bottom in the frayed relationship between Senate Republicans and Democrats, it seemed uncomfortably close as the final days of 2013 on Capitol Hill degenerated into something like an endurance contest to see who could be the most spiteful.

As the sun rose on Friday, senators had worked through a second straight late-night session — called by Democrats as a way of retaliating for Republicans’ delaying tactics on confirmations. They held their first vote of the day at 7 a.m., confirming Deborah James to be secretary of the Air Force. And absent a compromise, they may still be voting through Saturday, a prospect that has thrilled no one.

“I think it resembles fourth graders playing in a sandbox, and I’ll give the majority leader, Harry Reid, 99 percent of the responsibility for it,” Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and usually one of the more reserved members, said Thursday.

“He’s going to have ‘The End of the Senate’ written on his tombstone,” Mr. Alexander complained.

Republicans, furious that Democrats last month stripped away most of their power to filibuster presidential nominations, are using every procedural barricade available to them in the Senate’s two-century-old rule book, forcing it to run the clock as long as possible while they vote on a series of President Obama’s nominees.

Democrats, hoping to make the situation so unpleasant for their colleagues across the aisle that they eventually break, are scheduling votes at all hours of the day and night. Mr. Reid is threatening to refuse to let anyone go home until a backlog of dozens of nominees is gone — even if that means spending Christmas Eve in the Capitol.

Mr. Reid has votes planned through Saturday afternoon and will push through another battery of nominations next week, including some that would each require 30 hours of debate, like that of Janet L. Yellen to lead the Federal Reserve.

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