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

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (L) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (2nd L), followed by Democratic senators and representatives, emerge from the Senate side of the Capitol building as they march down the steps to speak out against what they say is Republican abuse of power May 18, 2005.
National Journal
Michael Catalini
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Michael Catalini
Nov. 1, 2013, 10:59 a.m.

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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