The country and media are dumbfounded by the degree of congressional disarray and dysfunction, especially in the Senate, which has no debt plan and has gone over 800 days without a budget. You need look no further than the senior senator from New York to understand why this is so.
Where there is fighting, name-calling and paralysis, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer is in the thick of it. He insisted on staging a series of symbolic votes on the extension of the Bush tax cuts in 2010, which only undermined the White House’s bargaining leverage and delayed passage of the Bush tax-cut extension. In the continuing resolution fights this spring, he was there egging on an expansion of the talks that was not feasible. The White House again had to put him in his place.
And it was Schumer again who launched the recent demonization campaign against House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). In Schumer’s telling, Cantor was “standing in the way of a deal.” He was the only one in the room with no debt plan. (Actually, that would be the Senate Democrats.) Schumer was out to make a target, not a deal.
Senate Republicans look upon Schumer, not Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), as the figure responsible for the Senate Democrats’ refusal to put forth a budget or a debt plan of their own. A senior Republican aide told me, “Shadow Majority Leader Schumer is perhaps the most craven politician in Washington. If legislation is good for the country but counter to his attack ads, he’s against it. If an idea is bad public policy but good for the DSCC, he’s for it. And if you’re looking for the reason why the Senate is dysfunctional, he IS it. “
Moreover, it certainly is the case that Schumer makes the White House’s job more difficult. Is it any wonder that President Obama is meeting with House Republicans out of earshot of the Senate Democrats? At this point, Obama has a huge problem: no deal, nothing to run on in 2012, and no clear fall guy now that the House Republicans have passed a cap, cut and balance plan favored by an overwhelming majority of Americans. The aide remarked, “Schumer is why the President doesn’t have a big solution on the debt deal that he can tout in the elections. And he’s the reason Sen. Reid can’t find a coherent policy and messaging plan — it’s hard to lead when you’re in Schumer’s yoke.”
The mainstream media, willfully or not, seem oblivious to this problem, inevitably casting the House Republicans or general “dysfunction” (as if it were a cloud hovering over the Capitol) as the culprits responsible for the partisan sniping and the stalemates. It’s not that hard to figure out who disproportionately contributes to this situation. Reid is emasculated by Schumer, and Obama is incapable of leading on policy. It’s a miracle anything at all gets done.