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September 23, 2014

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Washington Politics:

For Harry Reid, supposedly easy 2011 became a knock-down, drag-out fight

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Sen. Harry Reid

WASHINGTON — At the end of 2010, having just presided over the most productive Congress since the “Great Society” years, Sen. Harry Reid predicted that his job for 2011 — to be a “cooling vessel for the heat of the House of Representatives,” as he characterized it — was “going to be much easier.”

Ha.

“Everything we’ve done this last year has been a knock-down, drag-out fight,” Reid said last week, reflecting on the last 12 months. “That isn’t the way things need to be.”

Congress has long been in the vice-grip of partisan divide, but Reid has operated in a far more precarious political climate ever since the Tea Party movement swept Republicans back into control of the House. Now, acrimony isn’t just omnipresent: it’s the only order of business in Congress, whether that business is meaty or mundane.

That has Reid, the erstwhile boxer who emerged from the past year of sparring less strategically bloodied than any of his counterparts, standing back and shaking his head.

“I hope this Congress has had a very good learning experience, especially those who are newer to this body,” he said. “Legislation is the art of compromise, consensus-building, not trying to push your way through on issues that you don’t have the support of the American people.”

It’s a paternalistic outtake for Reid, whose only real rank over his negotiating counterparts — chiefly House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama, but also Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi — comes because he has held his top position the longest.

But in the last year, Reid has taught each of his principal colleagues — and by extension, their constituents — a lesson in leadership that’s been vindicated by experience: 2011 may have taken Reid through the ringer, but it’s also tipped the political balance to his party’s favor.

Government shutdowns, debt ceiling debacles, and a near-miss on payroll tax cuts and unemployment insurance created a climate of constant crisis that did not resonate well with the public: polls this year put Congress’ approval rating as low as 9 percent.

“The public may not like it, but they created it,” said Brookings Institution scholar Thomas Mann. “The midterm elections elevating the Republicans to the majority of the House basically ensured an unproductive and highly contentious year. ... As far as Reid’s concerned, given that election, it was inevitable that nothing was going to get done. The question was, would any great damage be perpetrated?”

Congress managed to avoid catastrophe, but even modest issues became massive undertakings.

Compared to the Congress that came before, the legislative accomplishments of 2011 are downright pathetic. In the first two years of Barack Obama’s presidency, Congress passed a sweeping stimulus package, a health care overhaul, an unprecedented financial regulatory restructuring and a compromise on tax policy.

In the first half of the 112th Congress, the most ambitious ventures were rather routine tasks: keeping the federal government funded and making sure the United States didn’t default on its foreign debts. In both cases, it took lawmakers until the final hours of national viability to shake hands on a deal.

The country got so used to cliffhanger scenarios that a near-government shutdown scenario in mid-December barely registered with the public. But over the course of all these close calls, Republicans began to lose their message.

“The Republicans looked at the outcome of [the 2010] election as a mandate instead of, more accurately, just the level of unhappiness with the economy and the bickering inside Washington,” said Norm Ornstein, a congressional scholar with the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “And that would mean overreach.”

“Frankly, Reid doesn’t play a major part in this story,” Mann said. “[The Republicans] are the ones who decided to take hostages initially with the budget ... then with the debt ceiling, and now with the tax holiday and unemployment benefits and Medicare reimbursement for physicians.”

To count Reid out of the process isn’t exactly accurate: He brokered every successful policy compromise of the last year, emerging from the negotiating room every so often to broadcast his spin on the situation to the public — which was then amplified and redistributed by the 23 incumbent Democratic senators whose seats he’s trying to defend in 2012.

But keeping most Democrats simply and cohesively on message while Republicans frayed and eventually fell apart was likely his greatest accomplishment of the half-baked session.

“Harry Reid is the most skilled of those four [principal leaders in Congress],” said UNR political science professor Eric Herzik. Boehner, Herzik said, “has real problems with his group.”

Since the start of the 112th Congress, Boehner has been struggling to heal an internal rift between two factions in his sprawling GOP conference: the traditional conservatives and the fired-up, no-compromise fundamentalists, who often self-identify with the Tea Party.

He’s struggled, on contentious issues, to hold the 218 of 242 Republicans needed to constitute a House majority, opting in each case to first prove he can hold his party factions together around strict-conservative demands instead of approaching House Democrats to build bipartisan coalitions. In April, that meant demanding Planned Parenthood be defunded in order to avoid a government shutdown; in in July and August, it meant adopting a balanced budget amendment to approve a deficit reduction and debt limit increase; and in December, it meant hinging a payroll tax cut on Obama’s potential approval of a Canada-to-U.S. oil pipeline.

None of the demands (save the oil pipeline instruction, which Obama is expected to kill anyway) actually made it into the final compromises. But with each battle, the stakes grew higher and the rifts in the Republican party more exposed. Earlier this month, things came to a head when House Republicans engaged in a public spat with Senate Republicans over a short-term bill to extend payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits that had passed the Senate 89-to-10; in the end, Boehner could only end the standoff by calling the bluff of his entire conference, and conciliating.

“The attitude that so many of [the House Republicans] have is we’re not like the class of ‘94,” Ornstein said, comparing the new Republican crew to the last class of Republicans to sweep the House. “They caved. And [they think] if they hadn’t caved — and this rewriting history in a fashion that anyone who was there would say is insane — that if we hadn’t caved, we would have prevailed.

“Boehner knows what he ought to be doing. He also knows that to do it would mean the end of his speakership sooner or later, and it’s not like Eric Cantor has his back.”

Reid, who has been declaring the Tea Party’s agenda as transparent as the emperor’s clothes since he bested the movement’s dearest darling, Sharron Angle in the 2010 midterms, has been emphatically pointing out the GOP rift since the start of the 112th Congress. Along with Democratic leaders in the House, he at first sympathized with, then later blamed, Boehner for being a weak leader, and accused Republicans of being faithless negotiating partners and always walking away from deals.

Until this summer though, Obama didn’t seem — or want — to see it.

“It’s taken Obama a long time to realize that he has no negotiating partner on the other side of the aisle,” Mann said. “He’s felt obliged to play it out, and he bent over backwards to accommodate Republican interests and beliefs, and got nothing but further collapse.”

But that changed during the debt ceiling debate, when Boehner stopped returning the president’s phone calls, abandoning a deal Obama thought they had all but struck.

“All [Obama’s] criticisms now will be of the Republican Congress, and that strengthens Reid’s hand,” Mann added.

Having the unwavering support of the president in future congressional stalemates could also strengthen Reid’s longer-term chances to remain in charge of the Senate — something that depends on his party getting more than a score of decisive wins in 2012.

“It gives him an agenda. The polls are moving in their direction, and Republicans seem quite on the defensive,” said UNLV political science professor David Damore. “It seems to me like any momentum or any goodwill [Republicans] might have had coming out of the midterms is largely gone.”

Reid’s already using those signals to sound an optimistic chord on upcoming business of the new year, such as the longer-term payroll tax and unemployment negotiations Congress has to conclude before the end of February.

“I’ve talked to Senate Republicans, plural, who think there should be a fair tax on rich people,” Reid told reporters last week, slyly predicting that one of the Democrats’ most politically divisive policy initiatives — getting millionaires to pay more in taxes to offset the cost of job-creating programs and deficit reduction — had a quiet bipartisan caucus of support building.

“From our perspective,” Reid said, “this is a new day.”

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  1. Give 'em hell Harry!

  2. It's a horrifying thought but crazy Sharron Angle would be representing Nevada in the US Senate if deranged teabaggers would've had their way. Thank goodness sanity prevailed and voters kicked her to the curb.

    Give 'em hell, Harry!

  3. Funny thing, blister8. Reid and the Democrats offered concessions to Republicans on such programs as Medicare, which Republicans--as anyone with a brain knows--are trying to eliminate entirely--and REID is the excessive partisan? Please. Disagree with Reid and anybody else if you like, but kindly stop urinating in my ear and telling me it's raining.

  4. Don't worry, Senator Reid, the voters here in Nevada will do their damndest to make it easier for you after the next election.

    We vote in President Obama for another four years, get rid of that bum appointee Heller, and make those freshmen Tea Party failures Amodei and Heck go away, Nevada will do their part to help. Turn Nevada into a good representation for a Democratic Party bastion of freedom.

    It's up to the rest of the nation to get rid of this unbelievably warped Tea/Republican Party bastardization of conservatism that, as every day goes by, increases the destruction of America. If they infest our government more, you will NEVER EVER see GDP growth for years and years, only decreases in our output.

    I mean, c'mon. You don't need a crystal ball to see this 112th Congress is the most useless we've ever seen. In 2011, we have endured a total of FIVE debacles where things got decided at the last minute by hostage taking and not diplomacy. One of those unnecessary brinksmanship debacles ended up with America's credit rating downgraded. And it really needs to be pointed out they only have just about an eleven percent approval rating. Hell, they have beaten out only Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson in popularity. But just barely.

    All of those deplorable statistics above are due to the infection of the radical extemist Tea/Republican Party elements. It is guaranteed that absolutely NOTHING would get done if more of them get in.

    Only thing left for Americans, especially the middle class average hard working people, to do is to re-elect President Obama for another four years and put in Democratic majorities in the Senate and the House.

    That's the only thing that will fix America.

    Because this idiocy with the Tea/Republicans is not working. If more of them knuckleheads get in, they would take us further down into a dark, deep hole. One we would never ever get out of.

  5. Comment removed by moderator. Inappropriate

  6. You keep mentioning about Social Security.

    That statement was uttered by Senator Reid. This is true. But the way you throw it out there, I guess it's supposed to be some kind of dog whistle that gets the neo-conservatives howling in unison. Actually, his statement is taken out of context the way you pound it out there all the time.

    Because at this very moment in time, there is actually nothing wrong with Social Security. There is enough money in there to meet the needs of the American people. And there's verified to be enough to last for quite a few more years. It is not broke. Even when it gets into trouble (without fixes), it's still guaranteed to pay off 75 percent of commitments.

    Senator Reid tried to get people to sit down at a table and make changes to Social Security. In order to correct problems that will be encountered later. Common sense solutions that will make Social Security even better. Fixes that would be easy to do and would not effect Social Security in the long run.

    But all he has faced is opposition from a Tea/Republican Party that makes no amends they want it destroyed, that it's a criminal enterprise ("a Ponzi scheme"), that it should be privatized (a totally inadequate and substandard outlet that would only benefit rich people, filthy rich who would probably end up destroying it in the end), and some even want it de-funded and forgotten.

    Senator Reid tries a common sense approach to it. But what does he face? A radical extremist Tea/Republican Party who are more interested in taking a sledge hammer to it rather than do simple courses of action that would improve it and make it last.

    THAT is why I voted for Senator Reid. THAT is why the Tea/Republican Party is waning here in Nevada. Because that kind of Social Security destruction talk is nothing but pure political suicide for ANY politician who messes with it. There is a retired community in Nevada that will slap a politician silly for talking that crap. They wouldn't even get elected in charge of streetsweeping with that nonsensical talk.

    He's our Senator. Get used to it. He works for Nevada, not against it. Not to mention of immense benefit to America for the work he has done also. If it drives you crazy, I can't help that. Then perhaps you shouldn't comment on these LV Sun articles anymore if it bugs you that much.

    WE voted him in. Because he is what Nevada needs. We deal with truth. Not propaganda. Senator Reid deals with problems while those on the other side of the aisle only deal with party politics ONLY.

    The Tea/Republican Party offers nothing. Not only to Nevada, but the entire nation. A nutball like Sharron Angle definitely has nothing that would be of any beneficial value to Nevada. I'm so glad many Nevadans saw it that way too and relegated her to nothing but a footnote in Nevada political history.

  7. Thanks for the laugh, LastThroes.

    But be careful.

    Watch out.

    You take a chance at being labeled a communist islamo pinko socialist teleprompter reading 99 percenter Kenyan colonialist with a deep seated hatred for white people who hates Christmas so much his Christmas cards only show his dog.

    Like me.

    "How many Tea/Republicans does it take to change a light bulb?"

    Senator McConnell: "NONE! We just want President Obama to fail!!!!!"

  8. For the uninformed: Social Security is not OK. Sure, there is supposed to be plenty of money in the Trust Fund, but the Treasury has "borrowed" (read that as pillage and spend) upwards of $2.5 Trillion dollars and given the Trust Fund what amounts to an IOU. The way the Treasury and Fed are going, there is no chance that the Trust Fund will ever be paid back. Try Google on "where is the social security money" to get educated on this issue.

  9. Harry Reid is the best Senator this state has ever had during my 38 years of residency in Nevada! Imagine, if you can, a Tea Party idiot, (Angle) seated in the Senate, instead of the Majority Leader that we happily reelected. The new year will produce compromise in the House/Senate because it is an election year. These Teabag imbeciles will figure out that their short tenure in the House is at risk if they don't snap out of their anti-government, Norquist driven agenda, and come to the table with ideas that help the country, and not their misguided ideological crap that is being totally disavowed by the vast majority of the country's electorate. Bye Bye Boehner, the worst House Speaker ever. He caved to the Teabag rabble, and hopefully he'll be gone in 2012. NOTICE: Be advised, Joe Heck and Mark Amodei; the people are watching and waiting to see if your interests and beliefs coincide with the Nevada Electorate, and not some Norquist, Teabag bull...t that will surely result in you both being defeated for reelection.

  10. Social Security has been guaranteed to serve Americans until at least 2036 or so.

    After that, it will still have enough money to pay 75 percent of payments to eligible recipients.

    It should be pointed out that when you Google something, and you are looking for an agenda, there's a good probability you are going to find what you want to hear.

    That don't make it true though.

    If you go to Government sites on the web, they relate exactly what I stated in my above comment as the truth.

    The fact of the matter is that if the Tea/Republican Party were to sit still long enough at a conference table and actually make it through a meeting with undivided attention to rationally discuss how to tweak and fix Social Security for the future, it could very easily be done.

    But no. THEY WANT IT DESTROYED. THEY WANT A MONKEY WRENCH THROWN IN THE GEARS. Period. This has been their goal ever since its inception in the New Deal. All indications don't point to anything else except to that fact.

    But what's funny is they try to throw propaganda out there and do anything they can to disrupt Social Security.

    But they know deep down in their very soul this is political suicide to try come out with a position to outright destroy it. This is why they want to talk others in doing it for them, trying to snow people into doing it.

    It's not working though.

    They know they would face a backlash at the voting booths so incredible it would wipe them off the political landscape for at least a few generations or so.

    And it's very important to make sure they understand this as not a threat, but a fact.

  11. Harry Reid's reelection last year must really irritate the good old boy Jim Reid from California.

    And Jim Reid most people call conservatives cruel.

  12. Now the publishers of Las Vegas Sun has officially stitched their lips to Harry Reid's backside. There is not a word of truth in this press release unless you call a Harry Reid press release "news"

    Wonder how he will explain paying for the lost war Obama is getting us into with Iran?? Can't blame that on Bush!

  13. There you go again, Mr. Reid. Throwing out those buzzwords created in some neo-conservative think tank that are meant to do nothing but cast aspersions on Social Security. Words and phrases like "raiding the trust fund" and "lock box." It amazes me people believe this stuff and don't look it up. But then it don't surprise me neither. Especially when there is an agenda to go after Social Security.

    Call me liberal or whatever you want, but mark my words: Any politician who makes a direct move to try to dismantle, destroy and/or do anything that will cause Social Security to go away...will be crushed politically.

    Fact: Tea/Republicans hate Social Security. Their actions all throughout the years prove this to be an umitigated fact.

    Fact: Tea/Republicans will NEVER stop pursuing this course of action. Again, all throughout the years, they have not hidden this fact they want Social Security to meet with catastrophe...any kind...that will end up with Social Security going away.

    Fact: Tea/Republicans will say anything, do anything, make up stuff, jump up and down, scream, beat their chest, howl at the moon, to achieve those self-serving ends of destroying Social Security.

    And that's fine. Do your thing.

    It's not going to happen.

    Again, I say this: Politicians know and understand that to mess with Social Security to try to degrade and/or destroy it...it will be like touching the third rail on the train tracks. Seemingly overnight, they will be obliterated.

    They need to be continually reminded the voters out here will follow that course of action.

    Go for it, Tea/Republicans. I dare you. You'll see your stupid party disappear so fast it'll make your head spin.

    That's why Senator Reid is our Senator here in Nevada. For his stance on Social Security. At least that is one of the reasons why he is popular. He stands up for US. The average hard working middle class Nevadans.

  14. acejokers states: "We are ripping off the current generation of workers upon whose payment is necessary in order to keep the program going."

    Again, you have no earthly clue what you are talking about.

    For years, you have probably paid into Social Security.

    You are now totally and completely eligible to reap the benefits for it in your golden years.

    How the hell is that "ripping off" others?

    And to make comparisons to Bernie Madoff's criminal enterprise is totally and unequivocably not the same. By saying that, it's the same as my stupid Congressman Heck calling Social Security "a Ponzi scheme."

    Social Security, upon its initial creation, was a program made to fix an unbelievable wrong in American society that was discovered during the worst hard time we have ever faced; the Great Depression. During that time, there was nothing for anyone to fall back on. People dug through the trash just to survive. People died from neglect, starvation, malnutrition and indifference after America lost all of its wealth. There was absolutely nothing to fall back on.

    Hence Social Security was created so this would never happen again.

    And so far, it is a wildly popular institution. An institution that is now carved in stone. And cannot and will not ever be removed.

    All I hear time and time again is references to Social Security being synonymous with a criminal enterprise. I'm so sick and tired of right wing news media attacking Social Security with nothing but a pack of lies all the time; trying to do the Tea/Republican Party's dirty work for them by spouting unadulterated crap and outright lies.

    Enjoy your comments, acejoker, but I have a feeling we're going around in circles. You just want to pound out there constantly and continually talking points that have no basis in fact regarding Social Security.

    Good luck with that.

    But I say again... All of us are watching the Tea/Republican Party closely. They make outright moves to destroy it, we will obliterate them in the next election. This is indeed a fact.

  15. Actually, you are operating under misconceptions about the meaning of your arguments, acejoker.

    You are STILL making some kind of case that Social Security has the same comparisons to Bernie Madoff's Wall Street scam and the infamous Ponzi Stamp Scheme from the past century.

    And there are no comparisons.

    Both of those instances were criminal enterprises.

    To explain that further, the reason they were criminal was because there was clear intent to make money by fraud.

    Social Security was not, is not and never will created with criminal intent. None of the politicians that conceived Social Security ever did it with the INTENT to make money under fraudulent circumstances.

    But you seem to love to throw out neo-conservative talking points as red meat. And that's fine. You do what you gotta do.

    Additionally, from the way you comment on this article, you seem to equate everything Social Security is bad and all of that is OWNED by Senator Reid. That clearly defies any belief at all.

    Social Security is simply people taking care of people. It's NOT people victimizing people, which is something the Tea/Republican Party just absolutely LOVES to do. There is a trend lately where excuses are made to say it's bad in hopes it busts apart and they can line up to make money off of it. And believe me, they would just orgasm at the chance to mess with Social Security and benefit financially from doing that.

    Again, Social Security is not an entitlement and/or a privilege that can be taken away and/or dismantled. IT'S AN INSTITUTION CARVED IN STONE.

    And once again, Tea/Republican politicians everywhere need to continually be reminded they will disappear from the political stage if they do anything to Social Security other than to improve it. They need it made clear if they mess with it, it would be just the same as if they tried to tear down the Washington Monument. It's not going to happen.

    Senator Reid clearly stands in the way of the nutballs out there who hate Social Security. And that's fine. We want him to stand up for it.

  16. One last word, acejoker.

    I am amazed you call Social Security a criminal enterprise, yet you are a benefactor of it.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but from an earlier post, you lead people to believe that you are receiving Social Security.

    I'm sure you are more than deserving, but it seems this is the height of hypocrisy to cast disparaging remarks about it, but you partake.

    I would think you would seek for Social Security to continue to help people, and not make comments against it.

    Anyways, Happy New Year.

  17. Okay, great, acejoker.

    You get the final word.

    You call me silly and a fool because my beliefs are different than yours. And I guess because I type what I believe, you take it not only as a difference in viewpoints, but as some kind of a personal attack on you. And believe me, I don't mean it like that. I'm just stating my beliefs about this.

    The reason I stated you were a bit hypocritical was because, all these years, you contributed to Social Security. You are a participant. With the understanding that later on, in your golden years, you are more than perfectly qualified to collect the benefits from what you paid into for others. People are now paying for your benefits. Just like you paid for others earlier. People taking care of people. It's your turn.

    But now, you seem to want to change the parameters and control things you can't control, changing the system around, but in the same breath, you say it's totally unfair, it's a criminal enterprise. And somehow Senator Reid and anyone from the Democratic Party that is in charge is tied into this perceived nefarious act against America.

    Dunno what to say except that we're goin' around in circles here. You seem more interested in demonizing me for my views, want to pound out there some conservative viewpoint I'm totally uninterested in nor want to ever follow, and label me as a liberal, like it's supposed to mean something bad, so therefore, with that hanging on my neck, I must be the enemy and must be despised or something.

    I guess you want the last word. Which you can have. If you respond to this comment. Knock yourself out.

    I am here to just type stuff and drive you crazy. Sheesh.

    Good luck to you in the future and have a Happy New Year.

  18. For the most part, Senator Harry Reid has worked hard to represent the interests of the People of Nevada and the USA. I am NOT going to say he is perfect, nor that he is not influenced by lobbyists or the mega-rich. There are way too many homeless people throughout this nation as proof of the legislative neglect they receive, which is sad.

    It is all about our PERCEPTIONS of any other person, rather than that of ourselves, where we are given to varied judgements. As an example, the stereotype of those in the Tea Party, to cite Colin: "Fact: Tea/Republicans hate Social Security. Their actions all throughout the years prove this to be an umitigated fact.

    Fact: Tea/Republicans will NEVER stop pursuing this course of action. Again, all throughout the years, they have not hidden this fact they want Social Security to meet with catastrophe...any kind...that will end up with Social Security going away."

    This seems odd to me, as I have friends who are Tea Party members, the majority are older, retired, on Social Security. They appear to be more upset with cuts in Social Security and their Medicare getting messed with than wanting to make these institutions disappear. So their characture seems inappropriate. They are a vocal bunch, with lots of blame and hateful accusations.

    There weren't great choices last election. Many of us held our noses while we voted. The up-coming Presidental election seems just as bad. Folks will have to get in the faces of our Representatives to have any say. Those who were obstructing government will most likely NOT be elected into office as the People are fed up, and our country needs to change its course of action, not continue bickering, posturing, and not getting the job of governance done.

    We need to keep Social Security and Medicare for our citizens. It is what a great country facilitates and does for its People.

    What LAWMAKERS need to do, is retool American industry, loosen regulations, enforce our borders and immigration laws, focus on the feed, fuel, and fiber industries, in production, processing, manufacturing, and distribution. Our returning American Veterans need jobs to come home to, as well as graduating youth need jobs to meet them. They would be remiss and neglectful in not addressing the needs of the everyday little guy American.

    Blessings and Peace and a very Happy New Year!
    Star