WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The last political scuffle of the year between the White House and the Democratic-led Congress played out on the floor of the Senate Friday morning -- even though nearly all the senators had left the Capitol for the Christmas holiday earlier in the week.
Democratic senators will hold short "pro forma" sessions over the holiday break to prevent recess appointments.
In a session that lasted under a minute, Sen. Jim Webb, D-Virginia, opened and then immediately gaveled closed the Senate.
His sole reason for doing so was to block President Bush from naming controversial "recess appointments" -- a constitutional mechanism that allows the president, during congressional recesses, to fill top government posts for up to one year and avoid Senate confirmation.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced late Wednesday he would keep the Senate open with a series of "pro forma" sessions through mid-January.
Tense talks had just broken down with the White House on a deal that would have allowed the president to make dozens of those appointments if he agreed not to appoint one controversial official, Steven Bradbury, to be the permanent head of the influential Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department.
Bush declined to accept the Democrats' offer, and Reid refused to approve Bradbury because of Democratic concerns about Bradbury's involvement in crafting legal opinions for the administration on interrogation techniques of terrorism suspects.
Similar sessions were conducted for the same reason over the Thanksgiving recess.
Webb won't be the only senator tasked with presiding over the shortened sessions. Other Democrats -- including Sens. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Cardin of Maryland and Chuck Schumer of New York -- will share the duty. E-mail to a friend