There's agreement on both sides of the aisle in the Senate that a great deal of work has to be done between now and January, primarily getting the government funded for another year to avoid another shutdown. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell's reasons for wanting a productive lame duck session, however, are very different
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is also aiming to chip away at a backlog of presidential nominations to the federal bench and the State Department over the next month, although Democratic aides say they will be unable to process all of the hundreds of pending appointments before turning the chamber over to Republicans.
Republican leaders, too, are inclined to clear the legislative decks of must-pass bills so they can start fresh in January, when they will have control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in eight years. Leaders from both parties are due at the White House for a lunch Friday to begin discussing the parameters of the possible in a new era of Republican domination.
There's no way the 156 pending nominations
all get acted upon. It's not logistically possible, unless Republicans miraculously decide to become magnanimous in the wake of their big win Tuesday and just agree to everything on unanimous consent and voice votes. But Reid's got to push through as many as possible, and should focus on judicial nominations.
Meanwhile, McConnell is going to have to deal with the Ted Cruz factor to do that clearing of the decks he wants. Government funding expires on December 11. McConnell wants a year-long funding bill, to get that out of the way in order to focus entirely on the 2016 budget next year, while "[s]ome conservatives are agitating for a temporary measure" that would force them to come back and deal immediately with slashing 2015 budgets. In other words, maximizing the potential for government shutdown show-downs over Obamacare, a strategy Cruz is certainly eyeing in his undying zeal to repeal the law.
November and December are shaping up to be a very bumpy ride, but it should provide some clues to how much power McConnell is going to be forced to concede to the Cruz wing of his conference.