WASHINGTON — The partisan tension that has brought business in the Senate to a crawl eased Friday as Democrats and Republicans said they were calling a weekend cease-fire that will allow them to move on to more pressing issues next week, like the unfinished budget and defense bills.
If the mood for most of the week was sour, on Friday senators seemed more exhausted than anything else, having endured two late-night sessions in a row. Because senators were on the floor at virtually all hours, they worked in shifts. Democrats occupied the presiding officer’s chair while Republicans took turns speaking from the floor to denounce what they said was an effort to stifle debate and dissent.
But the majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, announced late Friday morning that he would allow senators to go home for the weekend and return Monday evening to continue voting on a backlog of President Obama’s nominees. By Tuesday they could start debating the budget bill, a bipartisan pact that passed the House on Thursday but still faces skepticism from conservatives in the Senate. They also would likely vote on the nomination of Janet L. Yellen to lead the Federal Reserve.
“We’re doing our utmost to finish our business here a week from today so that we can go home for Christmas,” a less-than-energetic Reid said. “I personally thank the senators for their cooperation this week.”
Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, summed up the thaw: “Both sides didn’t want to work over the weekend. . . . The zeal sometimes dissipates when you get into Thursday. And by Friday, it’s gone.”
It was a complete turnaround in tone from just a few hours earlier when Republicans and Democrats were quick to assign blame for this latest episode of gridlock: a fight fueled by recent changes Democrats made to stop GOP filibusters of presidential nominations.