What the Heck is Harry Reid Doing?

I cannot pretend to have any genuine insight into the curious mind of Senator Harry Reid, but recent events have tempted me to explore further the empty catacombs between his ears. In case you missed it, the Senator pushed the red button and went for the “nuclear option:” changing Senate rules so that presidential nominees can’t be filibustered, save for Supreme Court justices. Legislation can still be filibustered as well.

The manner in which Senator Reid conducts himself and leads the Democrats at a time that they are essentially cornered is absolutely fascinating. In Wednesday’s feature, I briefly touched on how Nancy Pelosi publicly dismissed the importance of 39 Democrats voting for a GOP bill pertaining to Obamacare. She failed to recognize the long-term goals of Congressional Democrats, in terms of their roles as politicians. 

Senator Reid has gone further than that and fails to recognize the long-term goals of Democrats as a political party. Filibusters grant power to the Senate minority so that they are not drowned out by the opposition, which is very different from how the House of Representatives operates.

At a time where media attention has been focused on Obamacare’s continuing failures, bringing in a rarely used (and dramatically named) Senate measure is an attempt at peacocking — “take a look at this flashy and unexpected move to distract from the administration’s signature legislation crumbling around them.”

However, the nuclear option isn’t only a shiny object to follow. Rather it’s fundamentally a short-sighted move borne out of frustration so passionate that it’s clouding Reid’s rationality. When he railed against the continued use of filibusters in his introduction to the measure, he was barely able to hide the exasperated tones in his voice. Or maybe he was grumbling at himself for being so opaquely hypocritical about the nuclear option. Senator Ted Cruz posted the following video on YouTube on November 21st, which shows what Reid thought of the nuclear option in 2008:

At a time when Senator Reid is pissed off about those gosh darn meddling Republicans, he’s given temporary gains precedence over the long-term well-being of the party he represents in the Senate. Fine by me, but that doesn’t make this whole episode any less puzzling.

On Wednesday, I wondered aloud whether Congressional Democrats would choose party unity over self-preservation. Today the Senate Democrats took the emotional route and went for the former at their own expense. Not surprisingly, three Democrats dissented. Ultimately, taking filibustering power from the minority party in the Senate will come back to bite them. The fact that it was voted in indicates that Senate Democrats are hedging against their own future influence.

Perhaps so many Senators voted with Reid because they have never experienced being the minority party in Congress. But the balance of party power constantly shifts in DC as time has shown again and again. One day — when it is depends on various factors — the Democrats will lose control of the Senate and Reid will be left scratching his head. Mitch McConnell made this point explicit when he stood on the Senate floor.

Sure, Senate Democrats can push through the presidential nominees they want and sit back satisfied that they crossed that off their list. But as 2014 moves closer and Obamacare looms over the Capitol Building, individual Democrats can’t seriously be thinking that they are absolutely invincible. Or maybe they are. I can’t pretend to understand them either.

Senator Reid and his brethren are smiling today, but will be eating crow before they know it. Various columnists are coming up with reasons for why Reid did what he did. Yet as hard as they try to rationalize it, there’s no way to conceal the pistol Reid’s pointing at his own foot.