WASHINGTON - A cross Congress ended its business for the year Friday as the Senate approved a new boss for the troubled Internal Revenue Service but remained slowed and bitterly riven over majority Democrats' weakening of Republicans' power to filibuster.
Before leaving town, senators voted 59-36 to approve President Obama's nomination of John Koskinen, a retired corporate and government turnaround expert, to become IRS commissioner. The tax collection agency is still reeling from this spring's revelations that its agents targeted tea party and other conservative groups for especially rigorous reviews when they sought tax-exempt status.
All Philadelphia-area senators voted for Koskinen's nomination, except Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), who voted no.
The Senate also moved Janet Yellen to the brink of becoming the first woman to head the Federal Reserve, voting 59-34 to end debate on her nomination. The chamber plans to confirm her to the powerful post when it returns from its holiday break Jan. 6.
Next year's congressional elections make major legislation unlikely. But for now, the two parties closed the book on a petulant 2013 by engaging in tit-for-tat blockades of each other that typified much of the year.
Senate Republicans derailed Democratic efforts to quickly extend expiring unemployment benefits and tax breaks for commuters who use mass transit. And the GOP prevented Democrats from formally keeping scores of judicial, ambassadorial, and agency nominations before the Senate.
Senate rules require that unapproved nominations be returned to the White House at the end of a congressional session, a requirement lawmakers sometimes waive.
"The normal way the Senate has operated for a couple of hundred years has been destroyed this year," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), referring to the Democratic-imposed changes in filibusters as he blocked the nominations request. "And to ask that normalcy come about now is just beyond the pale."
The Senate also voted Friday to confirm Alejandro Mayorkas as deputy secretary of Homeland Security and Brian J. Davis as a U.S. District Court judge in Florida.
Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, has been released from a Washington hospital.
Reid's spokesman, Adam Jentleson, said that Reid (D., Nev.) was resting at home after spending much of Friday at George Washington University Hospital.
Jentleson said doctors diagnosed Reid as exhausted but found nothing more serious after tests. Doctors have cleared Reid to return to work.