Republicans blame Cruz for year-end confirmations

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Republicans blame Cruz for year-end confirmations
Sen. Ted Cruz (TX-R) speaks with members of the media before attending the 2014 Lincoln Day Dinner at the Hilton Miami Airport in Miami, Friday evening, June 20, 2014. (Emily Michot/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 15: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks with a reporter in the Senate Reception Room in the Capitol on Tuesday, July 15, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - MAY 31: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during the final day of the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference on May 31, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Leaders of the Republican Party spoke at the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference which hosted 1,500 delegates from across the country. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 3: (AFP OUT) Senator from Texas Ted Cruz attends the annual White House Correspondent's Association Gala at the Washington Hilton hotel May 3, 2014 in Washington, D.C. The dinner is an annual event attended by journalists, politicians and celebrities. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, NH - APRIL 12: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at the Freedom Summit at The Executive Court Banquet Facility April 12, 2014 in Manchester, New Hampshire. The Freedom Summit held its inaugural event where national conservative leaders bring together grassroots activists on the eve of tax day. Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
US Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during the American Conservative Union Conference March 6, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland. The annual conference is a meeting of politically conservatives Americans. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - MARCH 06: Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at the CPAC Conference, on March 6, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland. The American Conservative Union (CPAC) held its 41st annual Conservative Political conference at the Gaylord International Hotel. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - MARCH 06: Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at the CPAC Conference, on March 6, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland. The American Conservative Union (CPAC) held its 41st annual Conservative Political conference at the Gaylord International Hotel. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
US Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas walks to participate in a cloture vote to end debate in the Senate on a bill to raise the debt limit until March 2015 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 12, 2014. The Senate later voted 55-43 to pass the debt ceiling increase and send it to US President Barack Obama for his signature. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) delivers a speech at the Heritage Foundation January 28, 2014 in Washington, DC. Cruz and others spoke about the upcoming winter Olympics in Sochi and Russia's human rights record. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (R) waits for the Senate subway after a vote January 6, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Janet Yellen was confirmed by the Senate with a vote of 56 - 26 to become the first woman to head the Federal Reserve Board. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 22: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) answers questions from the media after meeting with small business owners during the Fort Worth Small Business Roundtable on October 22, 2013 in Fort Worth, Texas. In the wake of the government shutdown, Cruz warned that the tea party shouldnt be dismissed by Washington political power players. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) answers questions from the media after meeting with Republican senators regarding a bipartisan solution for the pending budget and debt limit impasse at the U.S. Capitol October 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Senate announced that it had reached a bipartisan deal on funding the federal government and the extending the nation's debt limit after 16 days of a government shutdown. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks following a meeting of Senate Republicans on a solution for the pending budget and debt limit impasse at the U.S. Capitol October 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Senate announced that it had reached a bipartisan deal on funding the federal government and the extending the nation's debt limit after 16 days of a government shutdown. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
US Senator Ted Cruz walks to a meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill October 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. US senators scrambled together an eleventh hour compromise Wednesday that they hoped might protect Washington's battered financial standing by heading off fears of a default. The Senate deal must still pass a divided and unpredictable House of Representatives, but lawmakers were hopeful it will allow the US government to reopen and keep borrowing to meet its obligations. AFp PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Senator Ted Cruz, Republican from Texas, speaks to reporters on September 25, 2013, after ending his talk-a-thon on the floor of the US Senate in Washington, DC. Cruz ended his overnight protest against the new health care program at noon. Cruz spoke for than 21 hours, opening the way for a procedural vote on the plan to finance the government only if money pulled from Obamacare. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Kay Hymel, from right, Kathy Szeszycki, both of New Orleans and Elle McKnight, third from right, of Pensacola, Fla., hold Ted Cruz signs as they listen to the senator deliver a speech to 2014 Red State Gathering attendees, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. Possible presidential candidate Cruz predicts Republicans will retake the Senate this year and that "2016 will be even better." (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pauses as he delivers a speech to 2014 Red State Gathering attendees, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. Possible presidential candidate Cruz predicts Republicans will retake the Senate this year and that "2016 will be even better." (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
WICHITA, KANSAS- OCTOBER 9: Senator Pat Roberts is joined today October 9,2014 by Senators Ted Cruz and Tom Coburn at rally in WIchita. Sen. Roberts is in a tight race against Independent Greg Orman. (Photo by Mark Reinstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 26: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at the 2014 Values Voter Summit September 26, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Family Research Council (FRC) hosting its 9th annual Values Voter Summit inviting conservatives to participate in a straw poll. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 26: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at the 2014 Values Voter Summit September 26, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Family Research Council (FRC) hosting its 9th annual Values Voter Summit inviting conservatives to participate in a straw poll. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, talks to members of the media while walking through the U.S. Capitol basement in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Dec. 12, 2014. The Senate is poised to take up a $1.1 trillion U.S. government spending bill opposed by two senators who agree on almost nothing -- Democrat Elizabeth Warren and Republican Ted Cruz. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 3: Sen. Ted Cruz(R-TX) makes remarks outside the Capitol as conservative Republicans rally against the President's immigration executive action, on December, 03, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MYRTLE BEACH, SC - JANUARY 18: Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) greets supporters at the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition convention on January 18, 2015 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. A variety of conservative presidential hopefuls spoke at the gathering on the second day of a three day event. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Unhappy Republicans say Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has given President Barack Obama a present this holiday season - a gift certificate good for confirmation of 12 judicial appointments, not long after the voters had delivered the Democrats a lump of coal in midterm elections.

Cruz, a tea party favorite and potential 2016 presidential contender, disputed the claim through his spokesman on Monday.

But there was no dissent that Democrats, who must turn over power to Republicans in January, were in position to confirm not only the judges, but 11 other appointees before the Senate wraps up work for the year.

Among them are nominees that Republicans have sought to block for two relatively high-profile posts. They are Vivek Murthy to become surgeon general and Sarah Saldana to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that will oversee the new administration policy on immigration that Cruz wants to defund.

At the root of the dispute lay a combination of the Senate's all-but-indecipherable rules, Cruz's attempt to use their murky corners to his advantage, and a bipartisan desire of many lawmakers to finish work for the year and return home for the holidays.

"My concern about the strategy he employed is that it has a result he didn't intend," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said of Cruz' maneuverings on Friday night, when he sought to force a vote on Obama's immigration policy. Among the consequences, she said, would be confirmation of a number of appointees who are controversial, including some to "lifetime judicial" posts.

Some officials said Cruz was personally informed by GOP aides that Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid was primed to take advantage if he went ahead.

Under the Senate's rules, Cruz's maneuver allowed Reid to begin the time-consuming process of confirming nominations on Saturday at noon - when lawmakers had been scheduled to be home for the weekend.

Had Cruz not made his move when he did, according to officials in both parties, Reid would have had to wait until Monday night - more than 48 hours later. Disgruntled Republicans said they felt confident that Reid's rank and file would not have been willing to remain in Washington in that case, and only four or five nominees would be confirmed instead of 23.

Other Republican lawmakers were far more forceful than Collins in their judgment of Cruz on Monday. They declined to speak on the record, possibly feeling they had already done so enough during the unplanned, 12-hour Senate session on Saturday.

"You should have an end goal in sight if you're going to do these types of things, and I don't see an end goal other than irritating a lot of people," Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said then.

Particularly galling to one Republican was that Reid was now in position to win confirmation even for judicial nominees who had been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee since the midterm elections in which Democrats lost power. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Saturday evening that was a violation of precedent "and of course, I object."

Others said Cruz' maneuvering was reminiscent of his role in a showdown two years ago that led to a partial government shutdown that most Republicans warned him would be a mistake.

Cruz's stated goal this time was to force a vote on Obama's new immigration policy, which is removing the threat of deportation for an estimated 5 million immigrants living in the country illegally.

He made his move Friday evening, after senators already had been informed they were free to go until Monday without fear of missing any votes. In response to Cruz, Reid ordered a Saturday session. Some senators who had left for home drove back hastily to avoid black marks on their voting records.

Far more important, in the minds of Republicans, was that Reid responded by launching an immediate effort to confirm the judicial and agency appointees, some of them long stalled. One of them, Christopher Smith, has been awaiting Senate confirmation to an Energy Department post since January.

Cruz's office swiftly disputed the claim. "Everyone knows Harry Reid planned to jam forward as many nominees as he could," Phil Novack, a spokesman for Cruz, said by email. "Unfortunately, there are many on both sides of the aisle who would rather stoke stories about Ted Cruz to distract from the more important debate over the President's unilateral action to grant amnesty."

It wasn't the only surprise Cruz delivered to incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In remarks on the Senate floor, he suggested the Republican leader and House Speaker John Boehner might not be entirely trustworthy when they promised to force a showdown with Obama over immigration early in the new year.

"We will learn soon enough if those statements are genuine and sincere. We will learn in just a few weeks," he said.

McConnell has yet to respond.

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