Posted: 7:19 am Wednesday, December 17th, 2014
By Jamie Dupree
After Democrats used their last day in charge of the Senate to approve a final batch of judicial nominees offered by President Obama and watching a few more pieces of legislation run aground, Senators wrapped up the work of the 113th Congress, with many wondering what’s next when Republicans control both the House and Senate.
“The Senate stands adjourned until Tuesday January 6, 2015,” said Sen. Angus King (I-ME) to a nearly empty Senate chamber just before midnight; King, who is allied with Democrats, will be in the minority when the 114th Congress convenes that day.
Earlier, the Senate had approved a renewal of a series of tax breaks that expired at the end of 2013, what’s known as the “tax extenders” – but the vote only extended those business and personal tax breaks through the end of this year, meaning the next Congress will have to deal with that matter again in 2015.
Here is a rundown of that legislation.
The vote on that bill was 76-16, yet another vote where more liberal Democrats and more conservative Republicans mainly joined in opposition to a bill – but they were again badly outnumbered.
Here is the list of 8 Democrats and 8 Republicans who opposed the tax extenders legislation:
Coburn refuses to budge on Terrorism Risk Insurance
With the time in his own legislative career dwindling, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) followed through on his vow to block the renewal of a terrorism insurance bill, arguing the taxpayer was being used by major insurance companies to make major amounts of money, over $40 billion in the last twelve years he argued.
“The American taxpayer takes all the risk, except for 35 percent and the industry makes all the money,” said Coburn, blocking yet another piece of legislation during his time in the Senate.
“And with that, I must object to the bill,” Coburn said.
Coburn’s action came a day after the Oklahoma Republican had blocked a bill that would funnel more resources into suicide prevention efforts at the VA; Coburn made no apologies, saying this is all about saving the taxpayer money.
“I know most of my colleagues disagree with me,” Coburn said.
Also blocked on Tuesday night was an energy efficiency bill that had drawn Coburn’s opposition – while he wasn’t on the floor to object to its approval, the assumption was that he was the unidentified Republican who stood in the bill’s way.
“Something’s wrong with this process,” fumed Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who will be the Chair of the Senate Energy Committee early next year, as she vowed to bring the bipartisan energy efficiency bill back again in 2015.
Democrats enjoy final push for Obama nominees
Mixed in to the final legislative work of the 113th Congress was the underlying push by Democrats to confirm as many nominees of President Obama as possible.
The final tally was a 69 nominee blitz since Friday, as Democrats crowed about that and said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was responsible for the extra confirmations – as Democrats tried their best to create more division within Republican ranks.
I mean this sincerely: thank you, Senator Cruz.
— Adam Jentleson (@AJentleson) December 13, 2014
In order to speed their departure out of town, Republicans agreed to dispense with votes on a last group of nominations; that allowed Senators to walk out of the Capitol and head home – though some had already done that.
As I was combing through the vote rundowns from the Senate in recent days, I noticed that Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) missed the final two days of votes – he is retiring after this year.
Also not there for the end of his Senate career was Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) – Chambliss had gone back to Georgia on Saturday to watch his hometown high school football team win a state football championship, but he did not return for the final two days of Senate action.
Chambliss missed the final 40 votes in the Senate on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, as he wrapped up his 20 year career in Congress back in his home state.