In one final ignominious act of parliamentary genius, outgoing Senate majority leader Harry Reid rolled Republican troublemaker Ted Cruz of Texas over the weekend, robbing the GOP of a chance to stop Democrats in the lame-duck session. That’s the consensus in most Washington political circles, and it’s how Politico, the Washington Post, and NBC News, among others, have characterized what took place in the Senate Saturday.
Here’s the Post on what the paper calls Reid’s “late punch”:
After Reid (D-Nev.) exploited a weekend rebellion on immigration by rogue Republican senators as a $1.1 trillion spending bill was up against the clock, the Senate will move ahead this week on key executive branch nominations submitted by President Obama that appeared to be stalled not long ago….
The spending bill, to fund most of the government through late summer, passed Saturday night, but only after a process riddled with complications. The most notable was a push led by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) to fight Obama on immigration after it looked as if senators were headed home for the weekend.
Reid took advantage of their protest, using the rare Saturday session to advance Obama’s nominees in the confirmation process.
On Friday, Reid and Senate Republicans were prepared to push back a vote on the long-term spending bill until Monday and adjourn the body. That’s when Cruz and Utah senator Mike Lee objected and requested a vote on an amendment to the bill that would block funding for implementing President Obama’s executive order on immigration. Cruz and Lee got their wish (the amendment failed 22-74), but with the consequence of extending the session into Saturday, where Reid was able to move forward the confirmation of more than 20 Obama nominees for federal posts like the surgeon general and the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Some of those nominees have had strong GOP opposition, and Republicans had hoped to delay Reid’s actions until this week. But the Cruz-Lee gambit, Politico reported, allowed the Nevada Democrat to “exploit a procedural quirk and get the nominations rolling.” Several Republican senators expressed their frustration to Politico reporters for the supposed blunder.
That’s not how the Cruz and Lee see it. In an appearance on Fox News Monday, Lee pushed back on the idea that his push for the vote had given Reid a victory on these nominations. “That’s not true. Look, this is an outgoing Democratic Senate majority leader. It would have been political malpractice for him to adjourn for the year without getting these things through. I can guarantee you…not one person will be confirmed as a result of this that would have not otherwise been confirmed.”
Cruz’s office agrees, telling THE WEEKLY STANDARD that Harry Reid had always intended to push forward on the Obama nominees. A Cruz spokeswoman, Catherine Frazier, points to a Friday evening tweet from Reid aide Adam Jentleson that the majority leader “intends to do [nominations] before we adjourn” for the year. The effort to get a vote on the immigration executive action, Frazier argues, did not make it easier for Reid to get more nominations through the Senate. It did, she added, “shine a light” on the executive order.
But by Monday, any light shined was overshadowed by the reports of acrimony within Republican ranks over the move. One Senate GOP aide says Cruz and Lee “played right into Reid’s hands by giving him an extra couple of days to play with.”