Reid gets tough

The price of obstruction just went up.

Harry Reid has gotten terrible press since taking over as Senate Majority Leader.  I’m not nearly close enough to the action to know what sort of job he’s doing, but the criticism of Reid for not acting like LBJ is nonsensical.  No one has ever ruled the Senate the way LBJ did, and once he moved on the rest of the Senate clearly said “Never again!”  If Reid tried to act like LBJ, it simply wouldn’t work – and he wouldn’t be Majority Leader for long.

And of course Mitch McConnell is no Ev Dirksen.  When the Minority Leader wants to gum up the works, he can.  And McConnell has been determined to gum up the works.  The obstruction of the confirmation process by “holds” has reached a height never before seen; eight months into the Administration, more than half the sub-cabinet jobs are still open. 

Today Reid served notice that the price of more obstruction will be the week-long recess – pardon me, “home work period” around Columbus Day.  It’s possible that Reid, like Obama, has been playing a little rope-a-dope, or that he sees his image of ineffectuality as costing him votes back home.  Either way, it means that the price of obstruction just went up.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

8 thoughts on “Reid gets tough”

  1. I think most of us would settle for Reid performing at least as effectively as Frist, nevermind LBJ. It's doubtful that getting a health care reform bill passed will be a boon to Reid's frankly abysmal poll numbers. Perhaps he has decided that he'd rather be remembered as the Majority leader who was instrumental in enacting real health care reform who also happened to lose his seat, rather than merely the latter. Regardless of his motivation, I won't be holding my breath in hopes of viewing signs of a backbone from Reid.

  2. I'm baffled as to why NV would dump Reid. From what I understand, he's been an excellent Senator for the state. Any Nevadans here that can enlighten me?

  3. "The obstruction of the confirmation process by “holds” has reached a height never before seen; eight months into the Administration, more than half the sub-cabinet jobs are still open."

    There'd be a connection between those two sentences, I suppose, if more than half of the sub-cabinet jobs were subject to holds. I don't think you can blame holds for jobs which are open because nobody has been nominated yet.

  4. Mark, perhaps you should rewrite. In the first paragraph, you point out that LBJ's domination was probably a one-time, and therefore we shouldn't just Reid by perhaps-impossible standards. Fair enough; anybody asking why Reid isn't LBJ should be reminded of that.

    However, in the second paragraph you basically say that (by a certain metric), Reid comes in dead last, or close, among majority leaders. *That* is a legitimate criticism. And as a commenter pointed out, Reid's performance is worse than Frist's, and Frist wasn't exactly famed as Mr. Ironhand.

    I think that it's fair to use a criticism that I've heard on the net, that the GOP has (at least temporaritly) f*cked it's brand up, and is at lows in Congress not seen for (guessing) 70 years, and doesn't have the Presidency, and *still* the GOP is able to f*ck things up. These critics point out that the GOP was able to do more with less, and ask the rhetoric question of just what the GOP could have done with the clout that the Democratic Party has.

  5. @Barry: "These critics point out that the GOP was able to do more with less, and ask the rhetoric question of just what the GOP could have done with the clout that the Democratic Party has."

    The GOP had the House, the Senate for most of the Bush years.

    They did quite a bit. Almost all of it catastrophically bad, in terms of both intent and execution, but they certainly did a lot of it.

  6. That's the point; and in the last two years the Senate GOP minority fillibustered quite successfully, at an extremely high rate. Now, GOP-level discipline would be a bad thing, but we're so far away from that that it'd take twenty years of successful tightening to even get near there.

  7. While I have several complaints with Harry Reid, who is not the strongest leader around, it isn't just that he can't be an LBJ, he (and President Obama) no longer have the weapons/tools that an LBJ (as ML or as Pres.) or an FDR had. Can you imagine the cries of outrage if either of them tried to 'buy votes' with patronage, or tried to do the sort of 'horse-trading' ("You vote for my bill, I'll vote — or see my caucus votes — for yours, even if we basically hate it.") that was SOP in LBJ's time.

    And can you imagine the sort of screams from the blogosphere if Reid or Obama made the sort of concession to racism that FDR did in excluding agricultural workers from SocSec — but it never would have been passed without it? And imagine Obama or Reid blackmailing a gay Senator into supporting a bill his constituents opposed by threatening to out him, as FDR did on important pre-war legislation with Sen. David Walsh — whose strongly Irish constituency wanted no part in doing anything to help Britain. (Ireland remained neutral in WWII. which gets forgotten.)

    Reid — as I hadn't realized until Steve Benen explained it today — doesn't even have the weapons that McConnell has. To quote Steve:

    "But one thing to keep in mind is that the Senate Republican caucus, unlike Senate Dems, have mechanisms in place to enforce party unity and discipline. When Democrats break party ranks on key bills, there are no consequences. Those who let GOP leaders down, however, know in advance that enticements like committee positions are very much on the line. Rumor has it that Grassley began trashing reform more aggressively in August when his Republican colleagues made it clear that his future assignments were in jeopardy if he worked with Dems to pass a reform bill."

    And add one important consideration. People have a habit of doing the same things reflexively until they can train themselves into realizing that conditions have changed. A lot of people have poked fun at Obama's searching for 'bi-partisanship.' But until last November, bi-partisanship wasn't a hopeless dream. "With all the fighting cats do, there are still a lot of kittens produced" was true in the Senate, last year. Even in the Clinton era, hell, even in the McCarthy era you'd find a Senator implying another one was a 'parlor-pink, fellow-traveling traitor' one day, and voting, or even working with that same Senator the next.

    Reid and Obama may realize in their heads that the Republicans are doing their best to imitate the Croatian Peasant Party in Yugoslavia of the 20s — the greatest example I know of pure obstructionism. But they haven't gotten it into their guts — yet.

    But i wish someone would try and make some suggestions as to what new weapons are there to be used. Is there any way that a Democrat can 'call for the regular order' and force the Republicans to actually filibuster — which means stopping all other business until it ends or cloture is voted? Is there any Democrat who will declare that he or she won't agree to ANY unanimous consent degrees during this type of 'phony filibuster.' Is there anything a President or Majority Leader can do other than 'try and persuade' people who have had wax poured in their ears?

  8. Jim, your last paragraph is to me the question for which Obama, Reid and Pelosi had better come up with good answers, and soon. Otherwise, we'll see the GOP + Backstabbers block anything which doesn't enrich the elites.

    Not that the political establishment has a problem with that; it's that the political establishment will hapily let those three pass nothing but 'reforms' better characterized as 'deforms', while the majority of Americans give up on the Democratic Party. And then toss them aside. If Obama doesn't want to be a one-termer, he'd better figure out the levers of power.

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