IN 2010, Republican candidates ran against U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, as much as they ran against their actual opponents. This year, that distinction is going to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., although for a different reason. Pelosi was the sincere-if-misguided face of out-of-control, Big Government liberalism. Reid is the poster child for — and primary cause of — Washington dysfunction and toxicity.
In a video announcing his Senate candidacy, Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, pointedly noted, “The Senate is currently the most contentious body in our government. Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats are dividing Americans for political gain. I want to continue to bring Oklahoma common sense and solutions to a place that needs both.” Echoing Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, Lankford has repeatedly noted that Reid's leadership has increased discord and stifled debate in the nation's capital.
In neighboring Arkansas, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor. Cotton recently released a video bluntly titled, “Let's Fire Harry Reid in 2014.” Cotton urges voters to “take back the Senate from Harry Reid's control.”
There's a reason Reid has become the focus of those upset over Washington's inability to govern: He's earned it!
In a recent Wall Street Journal column, Kimberley A. Strassel acknowledged the 113th Congress was likely to be one of the least productive in history (as measured by bills becoming law), but she noted that the Republican-controlled House actually passed more than 200 bills in 2013. In contrast, the Democratic-controlled Senate didn't pass a single appropriations bill. Of 72 bills signed into law last year, 56 originated in the House.
Reid also has used procedural maneuvers to prevent amendments and associated debate. From July through early January, Republicans were able to offer only four amendments. Overall, Republicans were allowed to offer 74 amendments last year, but The New York Times reported that half came during a single 24-hour marathon when the Senate voted on 37 nonbinding advisory amendments to the Senate budget. In other words, Reid mostly allows amendments that have no impact.
The Times labeled Reid's leadership style as “brutish.” The newspaper reported that after exempting nonbinding budget amendments, the total number of amendment votes allowed during Reid's tenure as Senate leader has plummeted from 218 in 2007 to just 67 in 2013.
In December, senators finally took up a National Defense Authorization Act, but couldn't offer amendments. Reid apparently feared an Iran sanctions amendment would easily pass with bipartisan support. By blocking that effort, Reid also prevented Senate debate on the U.S. role in the Syrian crisis, Afghanistan and the fight against terrorism. Those are serious omissions verging on neglect of duty.
Republicans are not the only ones affected. The Times noted Sens. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., had major amendments derailed by Reid's tactics. Gillibrand's amendment regarded sexual assault cases in the military; Klobuchar's sought repeal of an Obamacare tax on medical devices.
Democrats often portray the House as being controlled by tea party “fringe” Republicans. But based on the actual results — last year's government shutdown notwithstanding — it looks as if those supposedly extremist lawmakers are much better at actual governing and consensus-building than the Democratic leadership of the Senate.
And Republicans are making sure the public knows it.