Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jay Newton-Small

That Explains It

Media pundits and Washington insiders have been puzzling over how and why Harry Reid could have unraveled a bipartisan jobs bill and in the process potentially provoked Evan Bayh’s retirement. This report by Jay Newton-Small notes that “it was with a bit of fanfare that the White House welcomed Thursday a bipartisan Senate deal on $85 billion jobs legislation forged after weeks of negotiations between Senators Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, and Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican.” The White House cheered and then — poof — “Reid hours later threw out the deal, replacing it with a stripped down $15 billion bill that would only provide scaled-back tax credits and help for small businesses, highway construction and state and local governments.” It was pure Reid — a high-profile bungle that managed to ensnare the Democrats in another round of finger-pointing.

Now perhaps he actually was pushed over the brink by scheming competitors. Newton-Small writes:

While Reid’s office says he pulled the Baucus-Grassley compromise because of opposition from GOP leaders, his left flank was also unhappy with the deal. Reid’s No. 2, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, led a group of progressive Senators against the bill, saying it gave too much away to Republicans and focused too heavily on tax cuts that had little to do with job creation. “Durbin was just trying to curry favor with the liberals,” says a senior Senate Democratic aide closely involved in the process. “Reid is hampered by Durbin and Schumer picking over his corpse right now — it’s really ugly.”

Well, that “senior Senate Democratic aide” might be Reid’s spinning an excuse and trying to tag Durbin and Schumer as the villains. Or it might be an accurate account, suggesting that Democrats aren’t as dense as they appear and would like nothing better than to see Reid get bounced from the Senate. They simply didn’t expect the loss of Bayh in the process.

In any event, Reid is once again in hot water:

“It’s a shock to us,” Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, told Fox News on Friday. “I mean, in the states we were all hoping to see a robust jobs bill, and we’re confounded by this action, absolutely confounded.” And fellow endangered incumbent, Senator Blanche Lincoln, an Arkansas Democrat, said in a press release that she hopes Reid “will reconsider. [The Baucus-Grassley] bill was carefully crafted to achieve significant bipartisan support.”

This hardly bodes well for the remainder of the year. If the name of the game is how to humiliate Reid (yes, yes, he often needs no assistance), then we are going to spend quite a bit of time watching Reid tied up in knots by his own side. With an invigorated Republican caucus, the loss of the Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority, and a White House unable to devise, let alone shepherd through Congress, its own policies, one can expect more chaos and more episodes of pin-the-blame on Harry.

In effect, the Senate Democrats have a lame duck as their leader — someone who in the best of times was not up to the task and is now facing his own demise as successors struggle for the upper hand. It’s not pretty for Democrats, but it sure is entertaining for the rest of us.

Media pundits and Washington insiders have been puzzling over how and why Harry Reid could have unraveled a bipartisan jobs bill and in the process potentially provoked Evan Bayh’s retirement. This report by Jay Newton-Small notes that “it was with a bit of fanfare that the White House welcomed Thursday a bipartisan Senate deal on $85 billion jobs legislation forged after weeks of negotiations between Senators Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, and Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican.” The White House cheered and then — poof — “Reid hours later threw out the deal, replacing it with a stripped down $15 billion bill that would only provide scaled-back tax credits and help for small businesses, highway construction and state and local governments.” It was pure Reid — a high-profile bungle that managed to ensnare the Democrats in another round of finger-pointing.

Now perhaps he actually was pushed over the brink by scheming competitors. Newton-Small writes:

While Reid’s office says he pulled the Baucus-Grassley compromise because of opposition from GOP leaders, his left flank was also unhappy with the deal. Reid’s No. 2, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, led a group of progressive Senators against the bill, saying it gave too much away to Republicans and focused too heavily on tax cuts that had little to do with job creation. “Durbin was just trying to curry favor with the liberals,” says a senior Senate Democratic aide closely involved in the process. “Reid is hampered by Durbin and Schumer picking over his corpse right now — it’s really ugly.”

Well, that “senior Senate Democratic aide” might be Reid’s spinning an excuse and trying to tag Durbin and Schumer as the villains. Or it might be an accurate account, suggesting that Democrats aren’t as dense as they appear and would like nothing better than to see Reid get bounced from the Senate. They simply didn’t expect the loss of Bayh in the process.

In any event, Reid is once again in hot water:

“It’s a shock to us,” Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, told Fox News on Friday. “I mean, in the states we were all hoping to see a robust jobs bill, and we’re confounded by this action, absolutely confounded.” And fellow endangered incumbent, Senator Blanche Lincoln, an Arkansas Democrat, said in a press release that she hopes Reid “will reconsider. [The Baucus-Grassley] bill was carefully crafted to achieve significant bipartisan support.”

This hardly bodes well for the remainder of the year. If the name of the game is how to humiliate Reid (yes, yes, he often needs no assistance), then we are going to spend quite a bit of time watching Reid tied up in knots by his own side. With an invigorated Republican caucus, the loss of the Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority, and a White House unable to devise, let alone shepherd through Congress, its own policies, one can expect more chaos and more episodes of pin-the-blame on Harry.

In effect, the Senate Democrats have a lame duck as their leader — someone who in the best of times was not up to the task and is now facing his own demise as successors struggle for the upper hand. It’s not pretty for Democrats, but it sure is entertaining for the rest of us.

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