Reid sets up procedural vote on gay rights bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture Thursday on the motion to proceed to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

That sets up a Monday evening vote to advance S. 815, which bans workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

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Pro-gay rights organizations have lobbied hard for the legislation, which was introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

“After months of lobbying and meetings with the overwhelming majority of Republican Senate offices, we’re confident we have the 60 votes to defeat any attempted filibuster,” said Tico Almeida, founder and president of Freedom to Work. “It's long past time the Senate approved LGBT workplace protections.”

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has said it is one of his legislative goals to pass this bill before he retires, but it’s unlikely that the House will take up the measure because some Republicans argue that the bill violates religious freedom.

Reid also set up two Monday votes on judicial nominees Gregory Woods to be U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York and Debra Brown to be U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Mississippi.

Before adjourning for the week, he asked unanimous consent to form a conference committee with the House on the Water Resources Reform and Development Act.

Reid also passed two bills by unanimous consent. H.R. 2094 amends the Public Health Service Act to increase asthma-related grants so states can train school personnel to administer epinephrine. H.R.3302 renames the Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in Bay Pines, Fla., the C.W. Bill Young Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center — Young, a former congressman, died earlier this month.

Earlier this week, Reid said the Senate would work on a couple pieces of legislation in November, including the Defense spending bill and legislation that would increase the minimum wage.