The Senate Majority Leader’s strange, almost out-of-control action yesterday to change historic rules of the Senate apparently out of frustration at being routinely Mitch-slapped by GOP Leader McConnell, coupled with Dick Durbin’s unprecedented call for a run on a major American bank that is the employer of tens of thousands of people, suggests a near collapse in Democratic Party leadership, modeled on the president’s own lurch into irrelevance.
Independents and some Democrats must be joining nearly all Republicans in the recognition of deep dysfunction in the Obama-Reid-Pelosi leadership axis. The lefty pollsters must be telling them that the numbers –weighted correctly and unspun for the MSM– are collapsing at every level, which is making an already desperate group collectively unhinged. The nearly two dozen Senate Democrats on next year’s ballots must know a wipe out is coming, but do they really believe throwing the Senate into chaos for the opportunity to avoid tough votes isn’t going to be held against them? The Reid action was the action of a radical wrecker of an institution, and if Reid is remembered at all in 100 years, it will be for that hasty, radical act.
Republicans in 2005 of course threatened to use the nuclear option employed by Reid yesterday but one with a crucial limiting principle: Filibusters would be restricted only in their employment against judicial nominees who had cleared the Judiciary Committee, and the historic approach of the Senate to legislation as well as Executive Branch nominees would be honored. There were sound arguments rooted in the Constitution for ending the unprecedented blockade of judicial nominees by Democrats in 2005, but no “point of order” had to be taken as the Gang of 14 intervened, using the ample time then Majority Leader Frist allowed to bring a compromise forward under the rules of the Senate.
Reid’s precipitous and demagogic actions have the left half the Congress in turmoil even as the Supercommittee is supposed to be trying to offer a solution that will prevent the Greek disease from crossing the Atlantic. Good timing that, but consistent with the Majority Leader’s record of never missing a chance to damage the country and the institution he leads.
What’s done cannot be undone. The senators can tell themselves that they can walk this dog back, but they can’t. No warning, no debate, no input, just a decree. Reid is learning from his former colleague now down the street at 1600. When the GOP retakes the Senate in 2012, it will be obliged to govern in the same way for at least one Congress and perhaps far longer or risk being the sap party. What one party does, the other must do or unilaterally disarm. The life of President Romney’s or President Perry’s judicial nominees just got much easier, at least for the first two years of his presidency, as did the wholesale repeal of Obamacare by simple majority vote.
Only an incompetent would prepare for a return to the minority by trashing the power of the minority.
We will cover the revolution in the Senate –it doesn’t look like one, but it is far, far more significant than anything happening on Wall Street or elsewhere– on today’s program, but only after I open the show with an interview with Martin Sheen. We’ll be discussing his new movie The Way, but a political question or two may slip in there, as well as many about Sheen’s Catholic faith.