Reid calls for bipartisan truce on FDA bill this week

"I'm cautiously optimistic that the spirit of bipartisanship will continue because Democrats can't pass this legislation without the cooperation of our Republican colleagues," Reid said on the Senate floor Monday afternoon. "I certainly hope they'll allow us to advance this bill this evening without additional delays caused by another filibuster."

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As he has in the last several weeks, Reid blamed Republicans for blocking progress on major issues the Senate has faced. He noted last week's failed effort to move an Iran sanctions bill, which Republicans blocked because they want stronger language saying the United States would use force to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran.

"For two months, Democrats have worked to resolve Republican objections to this bipartisan measure," Reid said. "The stakes couldn't be higher."

He also blamed House Republicans for blocking a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) by not agreeing to a conference committee with the Senate. Reid said Republicans were relying on a "hyper-technical" rule under which the House does not have to accept the Senate-passed bill because it includes revenue measures, which are supposed to start in the House.

Senate bills that are "blue-slipped" in this manner are often just attached to a House-passed bill that is now in the Senate, but none were available. Still, Reid blamed Republicans and said the blue slip "isn't much of a fig leaf to hide their blatant obstruction."

"The truth is, Republicans are looking for any excuse to stall or kill this worthy legislation," he said.

Reid said the FDA bill is different because it could be a matter of life and death for some, and reiterated his call for bipartisanship on that bill.

"The FDA bill, which will prevent drug shortages and make life-saving medicines available more quickly, must not become another victim of this partisanship," he said. "I hope Republicans seize this opportunity to be cooperative rather than combative."

The Senate is now expected to vote on a motion to end debate on a motion to proceed to the bill sometime after 5:30 p.m.

Before he left the floor, Reid said there would now be an up-or-down vote on the confirmation of Paul Watford to be a U.S. circuit judge for the Ninth Circuit. That reflects an agreement reached this morning to allow the Watford vote to take place — before that agreement, the Senate was preparing to vote to end debate on the Watford nomination.