Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s final act as the most powerful person in the U.S. Senate chamber is one where he has relented to the Tea Party.
Reid’s Senate Democrats lost nine seats in the midterm elections–more than even the most generous prognosticators were expected–giving the GOP control over the U.S. Senate come January. And on Saturday evening, as his chamber readies the so-called “CRomnibus” spending bill for package, Reid has agreed to allow a vote on a measure from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on questioning the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty.
“Forcing a vote on the constitutionality of Obama’s amnesty is important for two reasons,” Cruz said in a statement his office provided to Breitbart News. “First, since President Obama enacted his unilateral amnesty after the elections, Democrats have never been made to answer for it. Tonight, they will and they will show America whether they stand with a lawless President, who is defying the will of the voters or the millions of Americans who want a safe and legal immigration system.”
Cruz went on to detail more reasons why this fight was important.
“Second, it allows Republicans to also show they are committed to ending Obama’s amnesty once and for all in the next Congress,” Cruz said. “If we agree it is indeed unconstitutional, we have no business funding it when the GOP controls Congress last year. The Constitution matters, and we must defend it. That is why we have fought so hard to ensure this vote.”
Reid allowing this vote comes after he threw a fit on Friday when Cruz attempted to get a vote on the point of order measure and Sen. Mike Lee (R-TX) attempted to get an amendment into the cromnibus that would have blocked funding for 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 needed to, per Senate rules, fill the timeframe until senators can actually vote on cloture on the cromnibus bill–which they will do soon–Reid has been forcing through several nominees from the Obama administration. Some establishment Republicans like Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), in an attempt to attack Cruz and Lee, claimed wrongly that Reid was never going to bring these nominees through the Senate during the lame duck session, but high-ranking Senate sources say Reid was always planning to confirm these nominees before Christmas.
So after a full day of partisan bickering back and forth–and establishment Republicans joining with Democrats to blame Cruz and Lee for being kept in Washington for the weekend–Reid has relented and in his final major act as Senate Majority Leader has agreed to grant Cruz his vote on his point of order.
The measure is expected to fail on the vote, as everyone has always expected it to. That’s because the Democrats–all 55 of them–are expected to vote against Cruz’s measure, while all of–or at least most of–the 45 Republicans in the Senate are voting for the Cruz measure. But Cruz wanted them all on the record now.
The measure failed when it came up for a vote in the Senate. But since some Republicans, like Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), were whipping votes, according to a congressional GOP aide, in favor of Obama’s executive amnesty against Cruz’s measure, a surprisingly high number of Republicans voted to reaffirm Obama’s executive amnesty. The measure failed with 22 senators voting for it and 74 voting against it. Toomey’s office hasn’t responded to a request for comment as to why he was whipping votes against Cruz’s measure, and in favor of Obama’s amnesty.