While Nevada Caucuses, the Senate Can Wait
While Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) brought the House back in session this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is keeping legislative business at bay in his chamber while he eagerly tends to his state's first-ever January caucuses.
Senate Democrats have checked in every few days over the past month for perfunctory, pro-forma sessions, just to prevent President Bush from ramming through controversial recess appointments. But the notoriously deliberative (read: slow) body won't open its doors for legislative business until Tuesday, a full week after the House. All in the name of political relevance for Reid's home state.
Reid, who used every ounce of his political muscle to secure Nevada's spot right after Iowa and New Hampshire on the nominating calendar, is publicly neutral in the state's pivotal Democratic caucuses, slated for noon Pacific time on Saturday. But that hasn't stopped him from trying to bask in the political limelight.
Reid was officially a co-host to the Tuesday night Democratic debate between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) and former senator John Edwards (N.C.). He won multiple thank-yous on national television from debate moderator Brian Williams, anchor of NBC's "Nightly News."
Reid, who is slipping in popularity back home, according to some polls, is featured in Nevada Democratic Party ads running statewide that urge people to participate. "Let them hear your voice and be part of the change America needs," Reid says while walking through a classroom caucus site in his small home town of Searchlight.
While he's committed to the caucuses going smoothly -- not a sure bet, given the legal dispute over the nine caucus sites in casinos -- Reid is pledging to remain "uncommitted" when he and about 40 other folks gather for the Searchlight caucus.
Despite the leisurely pace getting things started in the Senate, Reid's office noted that the chamber was in session 50 days longer last year than the previous year's GOP-led Senate. "Everyone should expect a similarly busy legislative calendar this year," said Jim Manley, Reid's spokesman.
Waxman of the Week
Today marks the debut of a new, semi-regular feature for In the Loop.
This honor goes to the lawmaker who takes congressional oversight duties to the next level. It is named for Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who has honed the art of writing hard-edged letters to administration officials, industry titans and even baseball sluggers demanding information and maximizing publicity for his committee. But it will be given to any member of Congress who earns it, whenever it's warranted.
This week's recipient is, not surprisingly, Waxman, who oh-so-politely invited executives involved in the subprime mortgage crisis to explain at a Feb. 7 hearing the tens of millions of dollars they earned while those loans were tanking.
In one missive to Angelo R. Mozilo, chairman of Countrywide Financial, the biggest subprime lender to be caught in the meltdown, Waxman asks Mozilo to explain his reported $115 million severance package.
"You should plan to address how it aligns with interests of Countrywide's shareholders and whether this level of compensation is justified in light of your company's recent performance and its role in the national mortgage crisis," Waxman wrote.