U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid met with Republican Senator Rand Paul in an effort by Democrats to speed Janet Yellen’s confirmation as chairman of the Federal Reserve.
The Senate’s second-ranking Democrat, Richard Durbin of Illinois, said he helped arrange yesterday’s meeting as a way to see if they could reduce the time for debate on Yellen’s nomination. Reid said today the Senate will adjourn for a U.S. holiday break the evening of Dec. 21 at the latest after confirmation votes on Yellen and other nominees.
“I know they had a good dialog, and they came away from it feeling very positive,” Durbin said today in an interview at the Capitol. “But keep in mind that it isn’t just Rand Paul that’s a problem when it comes to Janet Yellen.”
The Reid-Paul session was an effort to resolve a partisan tug-of-war that has slowed work as senators seek to adjourn for the year.
Democrats who control the chamber wanted to complete work today, though Republicans are using up all available time for debate to protest a Nov. 21 rules change. The shift denied them the ability to block President Barack Obama’s picks for executive branch and most judicial posts.
Paul, of Kentucky, said he will debate Yellen’s nomination as long as possible -- a maximum of 30 hours of debate under Senate rules -- unless he’s promised a vote on legislation requiring a public audit of the Federal Reserve’s operations, including setting the benchmark interest rate.
Durbin said that even if Reid and Paul reach a deal, another senator could demand that the Senate use all 30 hours of debate time on the nomination, potentially pushing a vote into the weekend.
Adam Jentleson, Reid’s spokesman, said Democrats have been told by Republicans that other lawmakers would object to shortening the debate time for Yellen, even if Paul was appeased, removing the incentive to strike a deal.
Still, the meeting could mark a breakthrough between the majority leader and a Republican who has tried to thwart the Democrats’ agenda in the chamber.
Paul in March blocked a vote on confirming John Brennan as director of the Central Intelligence Agency until he won a White House pledge against the use of drones to attack Americans. Paul spoke for more than 12 hours.
Reid, a Nevada Democrat, described the meeting with Paul to reporters in Washington today, saying he’s “grown to really like” Paul in spite of their political differences.