January 5, 2022

Harry Reid

The late Sen. Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who served as majority leader during a 30-year career in the Senate, will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda next week.” AP News

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From the Left

The left praises Reid’s accomplishments and style.

“Six weeks after Obama took office in 2009, all 41 Republican senators — just enough to sustain a filibuster — had signed a letter telling him they’d oppose any nominee for a judgeship unless Obama had advance approval of a Republican senator from the nominee’s state. Obama had already consulted with Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana before nominating a federal district judge from Indiana, David Hamilton, to the federal appeals court for the 7th circuit. Yet McConnell lined up every other Republican against Hamilton. The White House and Senate Democrats, including Reid, were stunned. Republicans’ message was clear: ‘They are not going to give Obama anyone without a fight’…

“When Republicans continued their obstruction into Obama’s second term, Reid dropped his longtime opposition to the nuclear option… Just over three years later, as majority leader, McConnell had his party end the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, too. President Trump’s three picks — Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — wouldn’t have been confirmed otherwise. Some Democrats blame Reid for opening the door to McConnell’s action in 2017. But anyone who thinks McConnell wouldn’t have gone nuclear absent Reid’s precedent hasn’t paid attention to just how far McConnell will go to capture the courts for conservatives.”
Jackie Calmes, Los Angeles Times

“A one-man bulwark for the Social Security program, Harry Reid fought both Republican and Democratic administrations that dared to make any changes that would cut benefits for millions of people whose lives depended on them. In 2012, as many Democrats were entertaining cuts, Reid stated matter-of-factly: ‘We’re not going to mess with Social Security.’…

“At a time when many Republicans and Democrats were getting cozy with trade deals that benefited corporate interests, Reid defied the status quo. He said no to a president he loved, and he maintained his opposition to every trade deal that came before him. Expressing dire concern that American working-class families were losing quality middle-class jobs in a global race to the bottom, Reid defiantly declared his position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement: ‘The answer is not only no, but hell no.’…

“And on health care, Reid maneuvered and persevered to pass the Affordable Care Act. He took great pride in delivering millions of Americans greater access to Medicaid… Reid was a tireless warrior for the working class.”
Faiz Shakir, New Republic

“The refashioning of Nevada into a blue state has a fair amount to do with demographic changes. But it’s also a considerable organizing achievement that has largely been a partnership between Reid and the Vegas-based Culinary Union, which represents workers at many of the city’s hotels, restaurants, and casinos. The Culinary’s very existence is an organizing triumph as a rare private sector labor union to successfully organize workplaces and grow membership in a right-to-work state…

“The party Reid built in partnership with his state’s Latino community and its largest union (many of whose members are, of course, Latino) is in many ways an important template for the overall trajectory of the Democratic Party — grounded in voters of color and union organizing, and relying on appeals to bread-and-butter economic issues without tilting either to socialism or vacuous ‘wokeness.’… [Reid] was very much a man of his times, but also a forward-thinking political strategist whose legacy has more to offer as a vision of the future than as merely a nostalgic reminder of the past.”
Matthew Yglesias, Vox

From the Right

The right criticizes Reid’s style and argues that eliminating the filibuster ended up backfiring.

The right criticizes Reid’s style and argues that eliminating the filibuster ended up backfiring.

“Reid’s biggest legacy was the elimination of the judicial filibuster in the Senate, which ultimately resulted in today’s 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Now Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is following in Reid’s footsteps — threatening to change the chamber’s rules, and weaken or even eliminate the filibuster by Jan. 17. It seems Democrats have not learned from Reid’s mistakes…

“Democrats should think back on all the conservative policies they delayed and derailed in the minority thanks to the filibuster — such as entitlement reforms, immigration reforms, lawsuit reforms, health-care reforms, budget cuts, expanded gun rights, protections for unborn life and defunding Planned Parenthood — and then imagine all that and more being enacted by simple majority vote when Republicans win back the House, the Senate and the presidency — which they likely will in the not-too-distant future. If Democrats like the Supreme Court Harry M. Reid wrought them, they will love a filibuster-free, McConnell-led Senate.”
Marc A. Thiessen, Washington Post

“From accusing Republican lawmakers of poisoning voters to accusing 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney falsely of being a tax cheat to nuking the filibuster, Reid would do or say anything if there were even a remote chance it would serve his and his party’s immediate interests. There was no legislative sleight of hand too deceptive nor any slander too low for Reid so long as it harmed his enemies and won his party more control…

“When reporters pressed the senator for evidence [that Romney committed tax evasion], he responded, ‘I don't think the burden should be on me. The burden should be on him. He's the one I've alleged has not paid any taxes.’ In 2016, during an interview with CNN, Reid essentially admitted to fabricating the tax cheat story. ‘I don’t regret that at all,’ he told CNN’s Dana Bash. ‘Romney didn’t win, did he?’”
Becket Adams, Washington Examiner

“In 2012, Democrats won Senate elections in Indiana, North Dakota, Missouri, Ohio, and Florida. Nine years is a long time in politics, but it’s not ancient history, especially considering the prevailing narrative on the left today that says the Senate is structurally rigged against Democrats. Nothing about the structure of the Senate changed between 2012 and today…

“What changed? Democrats under Harry Reid understood the Senate for what it was. They understood they had to win statewide elections to earn Senate seats. They nominated candidates and funded them accordingly. And guess what? They won a bunch of elections! Under Reid, it would have been unthinkable to let a sure loser like Amy McGrath suck up national media attention and $80 million in fundraising challenging Mitch McConnell…

“A weak and scandal-tinged candidate like Cal Cunningham wouldn’t have been the nominee in a competitive state. A nationwide slogan as obviously self-destructive as ‘defund the police’ would have been disavowed immediately and explicitly by every candidate…

“The Democratic Party under Harry Reid was much better at winning Senate elections than the Democratic Party today. And Reid did stuff that Democrats wanted: passed Obamacare, passed Dodd-Frank, passed the stimulus, nuked the filibuster, and lied about Mitt Romney not paying taxes. If [Democrats] want to learn anything from Harry Reid’s legacy, it should be this: If you want to govern, you have to win elections first.”
Dominic Pino, National Review

A libertarian's take

“Reid pioneered the now-ubiquitous tactic of filling the amendment tree and filing cloture on bills preemptively once the Senate began debating them. Filling the amendment tree blocks opponents of the bill from offering alternative proposals and protects its supporters from having to cast votes that could be used against them in their future efforts to win re-election. And filing cloture preemptively speeds Senate consideration of legislation and often confronts senators with a fait accompli, forcing them to choose between offering their amendments and passing the underlying bill…

“Before Reid, senators understood the majority leader's primary responsibility to be facilitating the participation of interested senators in floor debates and keeping the legislative trains running on time. After Reid, senators understand the majority leader's primary responsibility to be protecting senators from taking votes they want to avoid, crafting legislative compromises, and structuring the legislative process to ensure that the Senate approves them…

“Reid's successors have struggled to imitate his example. They have successfully stifled deliberation on the Senate floor. But, unlike Reid, they have not figured out how to fashion bipartisan compromise on most controversial issues (e.g., not infrastructure). Consequently, today's Senate neither debates nor deliberates. We have Harry Reid to thank for that.”
James Wallner, Reason

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