Friday, October 19, 2007

What's the deal, Harry?

I was very close to making the title a call for a new Senate Majority Leader, but I am holding off for now. I fully realize that there is a slim, if any, majority for the Democrats in the Senate, and I fully realize that it is pretty easy for the minority party to make most things get 60 votes to even get the “upperdown vote”.

And yet, when Reid was minority leader, he couldn’t (wouldn’t?) pull off the same tactics when it came to horrible bill after horrible bill was rammed through. However, this isn’t really my reason for writing this diary today. It is one thing to have your hands tied by procedural maneuvers, or even to be gun shy for political reasons – but it is another thing to actively do things that would undermine the values that this country (and presumably the Democratic Party) holds dear, especially when it is behind the scenes and in a sneaky manner.

There are two things that jump out within the past week or two that Reid has done that really, REALLY irked me. The first was with respect to reports of a secret deal that Reid was spearheading with respect to the confirmation of Hans von Spakovsky as FEC Commissioner. Here, Reid was looking to make a deal to get Hans – a man who is the least qualified to serve on the FEC – confirmed in exchange for two other Democrats being confirmed as well. Now, I understand deals that are for political expediency, or deals that are for political comity.

But when it comes to dealing with the republicans in Congress over the past few years, there has been absolutely no reciprocation in this area – in fact it has been quite the opposite. What makes matters worse for me here is that we are talking about election integrity in a time when three out of the past four elections have had their integrity severely called into question. Regardless of whether the FEC is “toothless”, as many people say, the message that Reid is sending (in addition to the precedent that this would be setting) is that he doesn’t care all that much about election integrity issues.

This is precisely the opposite of what the Senate Majority Leader should be doing in terms of setting an example. To use backroom deals for political expediency, especially on matters as significant as election integrity sends a horrible message to Americans, constituents, interested parties and of course, party activists. Thankfully, Obama has placed a hold on Hans’ nomination for the time being.

The other issue, of course, relates to yesterday’s hold on the FISA legislation that Senator Dodd informed Reid that he intends to place. Now, I don’t know if he has or will change his mind, but he at least signaled his intent to bring the FISA bill to the floor anyway, putting Dodd in a position where he would have to filibuster. Once again, this is an issue of taking actions on an issue that much of the public is firmly on one side of (warning - .pdf file), yet the action likely goes AGAINST the public sentiment. Additionally, it puts one of his own Senators in a situation where he would be forced to “be at odds” with his own Majority Leader. And of course, we know how that will play in the press.

I will credit him for his support and co sponsorship with Feingold on Iraq, but that is more of a Senator than as a Senate leader. There have been other issues, some of which are beyond and some which are within Reid’s control. There are situations where he has been outmaneuvered, others where he has taken a stand that is baffling, and others that are just flat out maddening.

We may not like McConnell and he may be a snake but he is loyal to the republican party’s “values” (or whatever you can call them nowadays). There are too many things that Reid has done, said or we have found out which make me scratch my head. And frankly, these two more recent acts really make me wonder what he is thinking and doing in his role as Majority Leader.

With a nickname like “Give ‘em hell Harry”, he isn’t supposed to be giving hell to the Democratic Party and the vast majority of Americans that want to see the change, dedication and actions that he promised would come if only the Democrats were in the majority. I don’t expect him to get us out of Iraq singlehandedly or to move mountains.

I expect him to stand up for what is right, to lead his party in the Senate and to NOT undermine election integrity or the movement to counter the gross violations of the Constitution that this administration has done time after time.

And frankly, more of what he is doing is disheartening me than it is motivating and exciting me.

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