Their power ebbing, Senate Democrats launched a last-minute drive today to confirm roughly 20 of President Obama's nominees, and several Republicans blamed Tea Party-backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for creating an opening for the outgoing majority party to exploit. Lawmakers took a break from their intrigue long enough to send Obama legislation that provides funds for the government to remain open until Wednesday at midnight, easing any concerns of a shutdown. A separate, $1.1-trillion long-term funding bill remained in limbo, but lawmakers in both parties said it eventually would pass.
Republicans tried to slow the nomination proceedings, but several voiced unhappiness with Cruz, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, who tried to challenge the spending bill last night over concerns about Obama's immigration moves. That led swiftly to the unraveling of an informal bipartisan agreement to give the Senate the weekend off, with a vote on final passage of the bill deferred until early this coming week. That, in turn, led Reid to call an all-day Senate session to be devoted almost exclusively to beginning time-consuming work on confirmation for as many as nine judicial appointees and an unknown number of nominees to administration posts. (Read more government shutdown stories.)