Why Working Monday Through Friday Is a Tall Order in the Senate

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Majority Leader Harry Reid started the week with modest plans for the Senate: work Monday through Friday. Sounds straightforward enough, but the schedule got derailed along the way. And the Senate checked out Friday.

Here's what happened. On Monday, Reid previewed the four-week session ahead of Thanksgiving, saying the Senate would tackle a number of nominations, the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, and drug-compounding legislation.

Sounding a bit like a school teacher warning class that so many lessons need to be completed before the test, Reid said senators have to get used to working Mondays and Fridays.

"If we are going to finish our work in this 4-week period, that means we are going to have to work on Mondays and Fridays. I hope we don't have to work weekends, but we have to get this work done," Reid said.

To show how serious he was about the workload, Reid scheduled a vote for Monday.

But it was not to be. With five senators absent, Reid said, on Monday the vote to confirm Richard Griffin as general counsel to the National Labor Relations Board was pushed to Tuesday.

And work on Friday? No.

Reid's office said Republican interference explains not being in session on Friday. Instead of debating the non-discrimination bill Friday, Reid was forced to file cloture because of Republican opposition, spokesman Adam Jentleson said. Before the procedural vote can occur, Senate rules require an intervening day -- in this case, Friday -- unless both sides agree to waive it.

Senate Republicans rebutted that account, saying both sides agreed to hold the cloture vote Monday, according to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's spokesman, Michael Brumas.

The Senate is out until 2 p.m. Monday, with votes on judicial nominations expected at 5:30 p.m. If Reid's admonitions go heeded, the vote next week will go ahead.

"It is obvious Senators aren't making these Monday votes a priority," Reid said Monday. "We have a lot of people not showing up. … I think we have become very complacent and not worrying about the Monday night votes."

Still, the Senate had eight roll call votes this week, two of those to confirm administration nominees. Next week votes are expected on other nominations as well as on the non-discrimination act.

The Nevada Democrat also eagerly and regularly points out the House's working schedule, especially when it consists of fewer days in session than the Senate's.

"I have enough trouble with my schedule, but I just have to briefly comment on the House schedule," Reid said earlier this week. "They are going to work until noon on Wednesday and then they are taking off the next 10 days. From now until the first of the year, they have scheduled 18 working days. That is all I will say on that."

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