- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 13, 2014

Congress cleared the $1.1 trillion spending bill late Saturday, ensuring there will be no more budget brinkmanship in fiscal year 2015, but only after senators overcame objections by several conservatives who’d wanted to use the legislation as leverage in the immigration fight.

The Senate vote came at 10 p.m., during a marathon voting session that lasted all afternoon and into the night, as Democrats lined up a number of President Obama’s nominees for final action beginning Monday.

Democrats want to get as many of those nominees through this year, knowing they will have less leverage next year when the GOP runs the Senate, and when Republicans are likely to look for some revenge for the way Majority Leader Harry Reid ran the chamber.

Mr. Reid, however, expressed optimism Saturday night that the vote session and overcoming objections on both the right and left to the spending bill may have let off steam, and will actually improve things.

“What we’ve gone through here the last day or so, I think is going to help us next year,” he said.

Still to come are bills to extend a number of expired tax breaks, and a federal terrorism insurance program. Both are expected to pass.

SEE ALSO: Government shutdown averted: Congress clears short-term funding bill

But the nominations are the big sticking point, with Republicans making Democrats suffer for their use of the so-called “nuclear option” last year, which used a shortcut to change the rules and make it tougher for the minority party to block nominations through filibuster.

Mr. Reid had about two dozen nominees he wanted to force through this year, including controversial picks to be the Surgeon General and to run U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which will see through some parts of Mr. Obama’s new deportation amnesty.

That amnesty has proved to be a major sticking point. Republicans insisted the funding bill, which funds most government operations through Sept. 30, only find homeland security through Feb. 27. They will use continued homeland security funding beyond that point as leverage to try to block the amnesty.

But a number of Republicans said that fight should have happened now.

“We absolutely have a duty not to fund — a responsibility not to fund programs that violate law, violate the constitution, allow the president to eviscerate and fail to enforce huge chunks of our immigration law,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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