A major Inauguration Day dispute is erupting between Senate Republicans and Democrats over how many of President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees could be confirmed late Friday – and whether the battle could extend into the weekend.
The latest flare-up started Friday morning when Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, sent a tweet saying: "I am prepared for the Senate to stay in session as long as it takes - all night, all weekend - to confirm President Trump's cabinet nominees."
"That’s what I’m prepared to do," Cornyn later told Fox News, while chiding Democrats for alleged delays in the confirmation process.
"This sort of tactic up front -- there's no dishonor in losing an election. But how you conduct yourself afterwards says a lot. All they can do is delay for delay’s sake."
Senate Republicans hold a 52-seat majority as Trump prepares to take office, meaning if they hold together they can eventually confirm every one of Trump’s nominees. Democrats, however, can slow down the process and certainly prevent most from being confirmed on Day One.
Cornyn added that since this is the first major dispute of the incoming Trump administration, Senate Republicans should "push back and push back hard. This strikes me as having the attributes of being a sore loser.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., meanwhile, says his side is only prepared to confirm two nominees Friday: John Kelly to become Homeland Security secretary and James Mattis to run the Pentagon.
Schumer says the Democrats will permit debate on the nomination of Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., to be CIA director. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is pushing for debate on that nomination, which could hold up the process until Monday.
Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., was more strident in his comments about the Democrats’ approach and was more willing to stick around until the nominees are done.
“We’ve got to seat a Cabinet. And we have to get it done. We have to get a defense team in place. This isn’t gamesmanship,” said Rounds.
Rounds noted he is scheduled to preside over the Senate for a period Friday evening and that, at this point, no one else is scheduled to preside after him.
“I’ll volunteer,” Cornyn said.
A senior Senate Republican source told Fox News that Democrats are trying to be “d---s” and that to play with the national security team – during a time of transition – is dangerous.
There is talk that Trump would like to go to the CIA on Saturday. But that could be a problem if the Senate hasn’t confirmed Pompeo.
When it comes to confirmations, Cornyn says he wants “parity” on Trump’s inauguration day, considering the Senate approved seven of President Obama’s nominations just hours after he took office eight years ago. But going from two confirmations to seven is a problem.
The Senate also had approved Obama’s nominees on what’s called a “voice vote,” not taking a formal tally. However, Schumer says he will require roll-call votes on both Kelly and Mattis.