Senate reaches deal on Obama nominees – By SEUNG MIN KIM | 12/19/13 3:27 PM EST Updated: 12/20/13 12:31 AM EST

Janet Yellen is pictured. | Reuters

As part of the deal, Janet Yellen’s confirmation vote will be held in January. | Reuters

The Senate reached an agreement late Thursday on several key Obama administration and judicial nominees, ending an ongoing dispute over nominations that had tied up much of the chamber this month.

The confirmation vote for the most high-profile nomination — Janet Yellen as chairwoman of the Federal Reserve — will be held in January, according to the agreement. And the Senate will vote on the confirmations of Alejandro Mayorkas as deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, John Koskinen as commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service and Brian Davis as a U.S. district judge in Florida all on Friday morning.

Earlier Thursday, senators had been preparing for a rare weekend session as Republicans and Democrats were at loggerheads over when to hold votes on the handful of nominations that were remaining on the Senate’s docket. Senate Democrats were informed during their closed-door party meeting Thursday that they would be staying in Washington through Saturday, and Senate Republicans had sketched out a plan that would ensure one of its members would stick around on the floor at all times to keep their eyes on Democrats.

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In addition to those four, six other executive branch nominees were pending — mostly deputy posts for agencies such as the Treasury Department and the State Department. That batch of nominees will now be sent back to the White House since they weren’t cleared by the Senate by the end of the year.

Republicans had deemed the nominees on the calendar either nonessential or controversial, and had demanded some time to vote on amendments on the defense authorization bill — another piece of business the Senate has to take care of before lawmakers leave. And the GOP senators are still fuming after Democrats pulled the trigger on the nuclear option to change rules on most nominations.

Different Republican senators had varied concerns or demands with the nominations. For instance, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the chamber’s top Republican, announced his opposition to Koskinen earlier Thursday, saying he would not “rubberstamp” a new leader for the agency under fire for targeting conservative advocacy groups earlier this year.

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And Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had long insisted on a vote on his “Audit the Fed” bill in exchange for speeding up a vote on Yellen. The vote on her confirmation, which would have likely been held on Saturday evening, is now scheduled for Jan. 6.

The new date for Yellen’s confirmation vote should not matter much, since current chairman Ben Bernanke is slated to stay at the Fed through Jan. 31.

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IRS proposes new curbs on campaigning by tax-exempt groups – By Joseph Tanfani November 26, 2013, 7:54 p.m.

The rules would set clearer limits for nonprofits that have played a greater role in recent elections. 

 IRSThe proposed new rules by the Internal Revenue Service wouldn’t ban political activity, but would attempt to draw a clearer line between activities that are political and those that promote the general welfare. (Susan Walsh, AP / November 26, 2013)
WASHINGTON — In a long-anticipated move to restrict the flood of secret money in campaigns, the IRS for the first time proposed rules to rein in the political activities of tax-exempt groups that have emerged as heavyweight players in American elections.

Tuesday’s proposal, which faces a long and likely arduous path before becoming final, could dramatically reshape the campaign landscape.

Since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, nonprofit groups organized under section 501(c)4 of the tax code have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into television commercials to back candidates and political causes — without revealing their donors.

The groups include conservative organizations, such as Americans for Prosperity backed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, as well as liberal ones, such as Organizing for Action, which started out as President Obama‘s campaign operation.

Nonprofit groups and trade organizations reported spending $309 million in the 2012 election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, but much of their spending remains in the dark.

Such groups also have funneled millions into California elections, prompting an investigation and fines this year for some conservative groups that had concealed the sources of their money in ways that violated state rules.

As the influence of these groups has grown, advocates of campaign finance reform, along with many Democrats in Congress, have pushed the Internal Revenue Service to limit their activities.

“Unfortunately, groups on both ends of the political spectrum have tried to take advantage of the ambiguity in the law,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

Paul Ryan, senior counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, which advocates for tougher campaign finance rules, called the IRS proposal “a good sign coming from an agency that has done little or nothing” to regulate spending by nonprofits in politics.

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