WASHINGTON – The
Reid outlined the ambitious agenda for the month ahead – which also includes a possibly renewed showdown over pending executive branch nominations – as he opened the first Senate session since lawmakers approved the compromise deal to
At the top of the list is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, known as ENDA, which would prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Under current federal law, employers cannot discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin, age or disability. According to advocates of the bill, 21 states and the District of Columbia extend the prohibition to include sexual orientation, while 16 states and the District of Columbia include gender identity.
The bill was approved by a Senate committee in July, with three
Reid said the Senate would also consider the
Months after a last-minute agreement to approve stalled Cabinet nominations prevented a threatened Democratic attempt to change the Senate filibuster rules, Reid said he would again seek to hold confirmation votes on a number of other pending administration choices, including Rep.
"Obstruction has reared its ugly head" again, Reid said. "In the wake of a Republican government shutdown, the nation is watching for a sign the Senate can function efficiently and normally."
One nomination vote scheduled for Monday night was postponed because not all senators had returned to Washington. Reid warned his colleagues that they should expect such votes routinely in the next month and that absences would not be tolerated.
"If we're going to finish our work in this four-week period we'll have to work," Reid said, adding that it would allow lawmakers to avoid working during the traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas recesses. "We'll work on Mondays and Fridays" – when the Senate often does not hold full workdays – and "I hope we don't have to do weekends but we've got to get this work done."
Though the Senate was only now returning to work, Reid took note of the limited schedule of the Republican-led House for the remainder of the year: just 18 days scheduled. The House met last week for two days while the Senate remained on recess, approving a major water projects bill. It will have two full working days this week, with two House committees continuing their investigations of the problematic rollout of the Affordable Care Act.
House and Senate budget negotiators will meet Wednesday for their first full working session. But the House will then recess until after
Reid said that House Speaker
"Moderate Republicans have been complicit in allowing this disturbing trend to continue," Reid said. "As a conference committee sits down to negotiate a long-term budget agreement … moderate Republicans must not absent themselves."
Rory Cooper, a spokesman for House Majority Leader
"Sen. Reid should really get focused on the countless job-creating bills he has stalled in the do-nothing Senate," he said.