While you were sleeping last night, the Senate was working – ish.
The Senate held an overnight session Wednesday as it continued to plod through a drawn-out fight over presidential nominations, confirming just two of 10 currently pending nominees by sunrise. With eight more to go before the Senate can move on to the pressing policy business it must complete by the end of the year, the chamber is slated for continuous overnight sessions until early Saturday. Late Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid even threatened to keep lawmakers in town through the Christmas holiday if necessary.
So, why the procrastinating-college-freshman schedule?
Reasonable human sleep schedules for the Senate and its support staff are a casualty of the “nuclear” fallout over Democrats’ elimination of the minority party’s filibuster powers for executive and judicial nominees other than those for the Supreme Court.
After Reid and Democrats pushed through a rule change that reduces the threshold for breaking a filibuster of a nominee from 60 to 51 votes, Republicans are exacting their revenge the way that only senators can: by insisting on following the body’s rules in the way that most annoys the other party.
GOP senators are insisting on using all of their time for debate over each nominee, rather than the usual practice of yielding back some of the allotted hours or forging another agreement to speed up the process.
That meant wee-hours floor speeches overnight, which Republicans used to call the rules change an affront to the rights of the minority party.
And it meant overtime hours for Capitol Hill support and security staff as well as for the junior Senate members who preside over the chamber.
"About to take the 3-5 a.m. shift," freshman Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., tweeted early Thursday morning. "Need an amendment to Senate rules allowing Red Bull on dais."
NBC's Kasie Hunt contributed.
First published December 12 2013, 11:43 AM