Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is keeping senators in Washington for a rare Saturday session—and risking a government shutdown—after he went to extraordinary lengths to block Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) from forcing a vote to block President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty.
What happened on Friday night is a series of procedural tactics that Cruz and Lee engaged in with Reid. Cruz tried to force a constitutional point of order—which requires a 51-vote threshold—to challenge the constitutionality of Obama’s executive amnesty. Meanwhile, Lee was pushing an amendment to the cromnibus spending bill that just passed the House that would have blocked funding for Obama’s executive amnesty implementation.
Using parliamentary tricks, Reid blocked both Cruz’s and Lee’s measures, then sought unanimous consent to adjourn the Senate until Monday—at which time Senators would have been brought back in for passage for the cromnibus. But in consultation with Cruz, Lee objected to unanimous consent to adjourn the Senate until Monday unless Reid would allow a vote on the effort to block funding for Obama’s executive amnesty. Because Reid wouldn’t agree to allow the vote, he decided to keep Senators in Washington for the weekend.
Because Reid needs to, per Senate rules, fill the timeframe until senators can actually vote on cloture on the cromnibus bill—which they can first technically do at 1 AM early Sunday morning—Reid is now attempting to force through several controversial Obama nominees like NRA-opposed surgeon general nominee Vivek Murthy, Deputy Secretary of State nominee Tony Blinken, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director nominee Sarah Saldana.
The nominees—like Murthy—who have a hold placed on them still need to clear a 60-vote threshold to be confirmed, which means five Republicans would need to enable any nominee assuming all the Democrats vote for each one. So it doesn’t mean Reid will be able to succeed on them anyway.
“While the Senate considers the CRomnibus spending bill, all we’ve done was simply request to hold a vote on a measure to stop President Obama’s amnesty,” Cruz said in a Facebook post about his and Lee’s efforts on Friday evening. “Instead, Majority Leader Harry Reid is holding a series of votes today for the sheer purpose of blocking that vote on Obama’s amnesty. Harry Reid’s last act as Majority Leader is to, once again, act as an enabler for President Obama, by blocking this vote on the President’s amnesty. He is going to an embarrassing length to tie up the floor to obstruct debate and a vote on this issue because he knows amnesty is unpopular with the American people, and he doesn’t want the Democrats on the record as supporting it.”
Garrett Murch, a communications adviser to incoming Senate Budget Committee chairman Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), said in an email to reporters that these tactics from Reid are similar to how the Senate Democrats haven’t produced a budget in years.
“Last night, Senator Cruz sought to have senators go on record whether they believed the President’s executive amnesty is Constitutional, and Senator Lee sought a vote on prohibiting spending on said executive amnesty,” Murch said. “Reid blocked both attempts. Just as he did for three years in not producing a Senate Democrat budget, Reid is shielding his members from having to show their constituents where they stand on Constitutional separation of powers, the rule of law, immigration policy, and protecting American workers and national security.”
“While there will not be a shutdown, Reid could very easily have done the democratic thing and simply allowed votes,” he continued. “Senators would have been free to vote for the President’s lawlessness, defeated Cruz and Lee, moved on to the year’s remaining business, and been on flights home this morning. But Reid would not allow that. As such, efforts continue to let the American people know where their elected officials stand on an unconstitutional executive amnesty of monumental consequence to our nation’s future.”
Cruz noted in his statement that Reid’s efforts risk a government shutdown.
“No one wants a government shutdown,” Cruz said. “We are only seeking a vote. As soon as the Majority Leader allows a vote on a measure to stop President Obama’s amnesty, we can and should move forward on this bill to fund the government. If he does not, then we will continue to insist upon regular order and use every tool at our disposal to ensure there is a vote.”
Lee, according to Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn who spoke with Politico’s John Bresnahan, offered Reid a five-day Continuing Resolution to keep the government open but Reid is refusing to take up the offer.
As a result of Cruz’s and Lee’s efforts, they will now get a vote after the cromnibus cloture vote on Cruz’s constitutional point of order. The measure only requires 51 votes to pass, and since all 45 Republicans will likely vote for it, only six Democrats would need to support it for it to succeed. But, since everyone expects the Democrats who say they oppose Obama’s executive amnesty—there’s 12 total, at least—to not vote in a manner consistent with their rhetoric, it is expected that Cruz’s point of order will not pass the Senate.
“We support the Republican Senators trying to force a vote on President Obama’s unilateral, unconstitutional executive amnesty,” Glyn Wright, the executive director of Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, said in an email. “No one wants a shutdown, but we want a vote. The American voters deserve to see where their elected officials stand on the rule of law and separation of powers. In his last few moments as Majority Leader, Senator Reid is using procedural gimmicks, yet again, to blame conservatives, shield his members from having to take a position on a controversial issue, and using the time to push through controversial nominees.”
“Conservatives understand the mandate they were given by voters, which is why they are doing everything possible to stop Obama’s unlawful amnesty,” Heritage Action spokesman Dan Holler added of Cruz’s and Lee’s battle with Reid. “Our country would be in much better shape if they’re GOP colleagues joined them in that effort.”
Gregg Phillips, founder of the conservative group the Voters Trust and someone who’s spent three decades in state parties, campaigns, PACs and more, said this is a time for choosing for Republicans in Congress.
“It’s gut check time for many of the Republicans – either they support the Constitution or they support Obama’s illegal amnesty,” Phillips said. “The lack of backbone will be on display for all America to see. Sen. Cruz was brilliant in his maneuver.”
Many establishment Republicans, however, have openly opposed Cruz’s and Lee’s efforts to force a vote on this.
“I fail to see what conservative ends were achieved,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), a supporter of amnesty and original member of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight,” said about what Cruz and Lee are doing, per a tweet from CQ Roll Call.
Flake was apparently upset he has to work on the weekend. “Sen. Flake opposes keeping Senate in session over the wknd,” CQ tweeted with his quote.
It’s worth noting that the only person keeping the Senate in session over the weekend is Reid, as all he has to do is allow a Senate vote on Lee’s amendment to block funding for Obama’s executive amnesty in the cromnibus. That amendment would likely fail if it came up for a vote, and if Lee got the vote he wouldn’t object to the unanimous consent request for the Senate to adjourn.
Of course, if Lee got his vote, then liberal Democratic Sen. Liz Warren (D-MA) would almost certainly demand a vote on her amendment to strip parts of the cromnibus bill that liberal Democrats oppose like handouts to Wall Street by rolling back Dodd-Frank provisions and loosening campaign finance provisions. Those amendments would likely pass the Senate since there’s widespread Democratic opposition to those provisions in the cromnibus, and force the House to reconsider the Senate’s newly amended cromnibus with those provisions removed. The deal probably wouldn’t pass the House again since Speaker John Boehner barely muscled it through with procedural chicanery and GOP leadership allegedly lying to members.
Sources throughout the Senate also tell Breitbart News that Reid had been planning to force through all of these nominees–with the exception of Murthy–next week anyway. Nonetheless, as some establishment Republicans scream and moan about having to work on Saturday, those who break with Cruz and Lee will be in big trouble with the grassroots moving forward.
“We strongly support Sens. Sessions, Cruz, and Lee as they fight to insure that the Congress does not appropriate funds for an unlawful, unconstitutional order,” Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin told Breitbart News. “We urge their colleagues to join them in that fight. This is not a fight about amnesty; this is a fight over whether or not America will remain a Constitutional Republic.”