Democratic senators have been sidelined in legislative debates because of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) tight grip on amendments.
The lack of votes has become a liability for vulnerable Democratic incumbents from conservative states.
Republicans have attacked Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and other endangered Democrats for voting their party line consistently or lacking the power to force their leadership to take a vote on a controversial amendment.
Begich, who was elected in 2008, has never received a roll-call vote on an amendment he’s offered on the Senate floor. The last time Pryor got a roll-call vote on one of his amendments was in March 2010.
This is akin to the defendant who murdered his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court as an orphan. Who elected Reid? All of these Democrats. The victim routine is a bit much since Democrats collectively could do something about it, if they are so aggrieved. Brad Dayspring, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee wisecracks, “They should all be forced to wear, ‘Blame Me I voted for Reid (& Obama)’ stickers at campaign events.”
But here is one thing voters could do: Vote out a Democratic majority. Consider all the items that would get votes and potentially attract bipartisan majorities: The Keystone XL pipeline, domestic energy development, reeling back the runaway Environmental Protection Agency regulations on coal, Menendez-Kirk sanctions against Iran. There is broad agreement to increase the 30-hour week definition of “full-time” in Obamacare and to junk the medical device tax. At this point there might even be enough votes for a special prosecutor in the Internal Revenue Service e-mail destruction case, which has strained the credulity of a wide cross-section of Americans. (Why should Democrats carry water for the White House at this point?) There is a stack of bills from the House that are entirely un-objectionable — except to Reid and the far left. A GOP Senate majority surely would pass a bunch of them on topics including flexible work hours (the president says he wants reform in that area), job training program reform and higher education transparency.
The irony is that these red state Democrats are the sort of moderates the media keeps pining for. These are the deal makers and common sense folks in the middle. But they are stymied by their leader. Had Reid allowed some of his vaunted deal makers to work across the aisle not only would “gridlock” have been reduced but also these senators might be confident of saving their seats. Instead their ranks are likely to be filled by Republicans, in some cases by ones who refuse to compromise. The Senate gets more polarized and even less gets done.
If you want to make one change in the national political class to stimulate compromise, encourage moderate solutions and deal with problems on energy, education and jobs you could not do better than to remove Reid. He stands athwart the Senate shouting “Stop!” Maybe Dems should start promising to dump him if they get reelected.