Reid urges col­leagues to tem­per fil­i­buster use

Says back­ing Obama was ‘dream job’

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Sen. Harry Reid warned his col­leagues not to abuse the fil­i­buster, asked for a re­turn to pork-bar­rel spend­ing and begged them to find a way to limit the power of in­ter­est groups to spend money in elec­tion, say­ing Thurs­day that the fate of Amer­i­can democ­racy de­pends on it.

The Nevada Demo­crat who led his party to po­lit­i­cal heights of a 60-vote ma­jor­ity, then watched as it slipped away over the last six years, de­liv­ered a pair of swan song speeches, re­gret­ting noth­ing from his hard-nosed ap­proach to pol­i­tics, while dol­ing out ad­vice to all who would lis­ten.

He is re­tir­ing at the end of this year, cap­ping a 34-year ca­reer in­clud­ing four years in the House, then the last three decades in the Se­nate. He has said he would have stuck around for another term but for an ex­er­cise in­jury in 2015 that left him en­tirely out of ac­tion for weeks and still hob­bles him.

For the last 12 years he’s led his party in the Se­nate, in­clud­ing her­culean ef­forts to ad­vance Pres­i­dent Obama’s health care, stim­u­lus and fi­nan­cial re­cov­ery

laws in 2009 and 2010, then shift­ing to play de­fense for Mr. Obama in the face of a ris­ing Repub­li­can wave from 2011 on.

He also left a last­ing legacy as the man who ex­panded the use of fil­i­busters, then re­versed him­self and trig­gered the “nu­clear op­tion” to change Se­nate rules, cur­tail­ing the power of the fil­i­buster so he could push Mr. Obama’s nom­i­nees through the cham­ber.

Stun­ningly, Mr. Reid urged his col­leagues Thurs­day to be wary of the pow­er­ful leg­isla­tive tool.

“I do hope my col­leagues are able to tem­per their use of the fil­i­buster. Oth­er­wise, it will be gone,” he said.

His ad­vice is un­likely to be heeded in a cham­ber whose par­ti­san­ship he helped fan. In­deed, while most Se­nate Democrats showed up to hear his 80-minute floor speech Thurs­day morn­ing, al­most none of the cham­ber’s Repub­li­cans were in at­ten­dance.

“His time here has been one of a fail­ure, ob­struc­tion and grid­lock,” Sen. John Bar­rasso, Wy­oming Repub­li­can, told re­porters ear­lier this week, sum­ming up the GOP’s thoughts on their po­lit­i­cal op­po­nent.

A num­ber of Mr. Reid’s fel­low se­na­tors re­marked on his brusque ap­proach to ne­go­ti­a­tions, or even to con­ver­sa­tions. Phone calls with Mr. Reid of­ten ended with him hang­ing up, even in mid­sen­tence, on who­ever was on the line.

“It’s said that it’s bet­ter to be feared than loved, if you can­not be both. As me and my col­leagues here to­day, and those in the gallery prob­a­bly agree with me, no in­di­vid­ual in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics em­bod­ies that sen­ti­ment to­day more than my col­league from Nevada,” said Sen. Dean Heller, a Repub­li­can who’s been Mr. Reid’s seat­mate since 2011.

Mr. Reid, for his part, played pol­i­tics hard. He reg­u­larly mocked Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush and Repub­li­cans in Congress, in­clud­ing call­ing one of them a “loser” in an in­ter­view with Politico, a Capi­tol Hill web­site, this week.

But House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, speak­ing at an un­veil­ing of Mr. Reid’s of­fi­cial por­trait Thurs­day evening, called him a “mas­ter” of leg­is­lat­ing, and said he was a gen­tle­man as a law­maker, “very re­spect­ful of ev­ery­one’s point of view.”

For Democrats, Mr. Reid’s pug­na­cious ap­proach was a virtue.

Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Bi­den de­layed a trip to Canada to at­tend the por­trait un­veil­ing, and 2016 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton also at­tended, us­ing the event to praise Mr. Reid while also do­ing a bit of post-elec­tion pol­i­tick­ing her­self, blast­ing an “epi­demic of ma­li­cious fake news.”

“It’s now clear that so-called fake news can have real-world con­se­quences,” she said — though she didn’t specif­i­cally at­tribute her elec­tion loss to it.

Mr. Reid, in in­ter­views with news out­lets this week, said Democrats don’t need any ma­jor changes af­ter the elec­tion. He blamed the re­sults on FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey’s late-sea­son an­nounce­ment that he was re­new­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Mrs. Clin­ton’s se­cret email server.

At one time Mr. Reid was con­sid­ered one of the more con­ser­va­tive Democrats in the cham­ber, a pro-life gun rights sup­porter who in­tro­duced one of the strictest im­mi­gra­tion crack­downs of the last few decades.

But he changed with his party, chas­ing it left­ward, be­com­ing a fierce ad­vo­cate for il­le­gal im­mi­grants, a crit­i­cal de­fender of abor­tion rights and one of the NRA’s most ar­dent crit­ics.

And for the last eight years he con­sid­ered his chief job to pro­tect Pres­i­dent Obama, craft­ing the leg­isla­tive strat­egy that ma­neu­vered Oba­macare into law, then de­fend­ing the White House from Repub­li­cans’ as­saults for the rest of his term.

In his speech Thurs­day, Mr. Reid said work­ing to ad­vance the Obama agenda was “a dream job.”

His ded­i­ca­tion to Mr. Obama was so thor­ough that ear­lier this year, he was the lone se­na­tor to vote to try to up­hold the pres­i­dent’s veto of an anti-ter­ror­ism law­suit bill.

Mr. Reid will re­tire as the long­est-serv­ing se­na­tor in the his­tory of Nevada, top­ping by three days the ten­ure of John Jones, a Repub­li­can who served in the late 1800s.

And it was in Nevada where Mr. Reid made his deep­est mark: si­phon­ing bil­lions of dol­lars to the state, sin­gle-hand­edly re­shap­ing the fed­eral court there and pro­tect­ing it from be­com­ing the dump­ing ground for the na­tion’s nu­clear waste or for ex­pan­sion of coal-fired power plants.

“They tried, but I won. They lost,” Mr. Reid said.

The list of leg­isla­tive ac­com­plish­ments un­der his name is slim. The Li­brary of Congress shows him as the chief spon­sor of 23 mea­sures that be­came law, with most of them Nevada land-use is­sues. His big­gest bills were mea­sures in 2007 and 2013 to force more ethics dis­clo­sures and lob­by­ing rules on Capi­tol Hill.

Where he shone was in shep­herd­ing his party’s pri­or­i­ties through. He or­ches­trated the Christ­mas Eve vote that first cleared Oba­macare through the Se­nate, then, af­ter los­ing Sen. Ed­ward M. Kennedy’s seat in a spe­cial elec­tion, he turned to fast-track bud­get tools to over­come a GOP fil­i­buster that threat­ened the fi­nal vote.

“As the se­nate Demo­cratic leader, he got things such as health care re­form and the pres­i­dent’s stim­u­lus bill done, de­spite the odds,” said Jim Man­ley, a long­time Demo­cratic op­er­a­tive who worked for Kennedy and then Mr. Reid.

As his of­fi­cial por­trait was un­veiled Thurs­day af­ter­noon, Mr. Reid rec­og­nized in the crowd for­mer Sen. Ben Nel­son, a Nebraska Demo­crat who re­tired rather than run for re-elec­tion af­ter cast­ing the crit­i­cal 60th vote for Oba­macare.

“Ben Nel­son gave up his ca­reer for some­thing he be­lieved in,” Mr. Reid said. “Ben, the na­tion owes you a lot. The peo­ple of Nebraska owe you a lot.”

But those kinds of votes cost Democrats. Mr. Reid saw his 60-seat ef­fec­tive ma­jor­ity evap­o­rate over the next few years, in­clud­ing a nine-seat swing in 2014 that gave the GOP con­trol of the cham­ber once again. This year, Democrats were con­vinced they’d re­take con­trol — but an elec­tion-night surge lim­ited the GOP’s losses and left Repub­li­cans in con­trol.

“He came to Wash­ing­ton with a func­tion­ing Demo­cratic Party, the ma­jor­ity party of the coun­try, and he leaves it a party in ruins. It’s April 1865, and the Demo­cratic Party is Rich­mond. It’s a smol­der­ing crater of what it once was,” said Michael McKenna, a Repub­li­can op­er­a­tive who’s tracked the Se­nate for years.

Mr. McKenna said Mr. Reid was in­stru­men­tal in weak­en­ing Congress’ pow­ers, choos­ing to em­brace Mr. Obama and to op­pose Mr. Bush at ev­ery turn, to the detri­ment of the Se­nate.

Tops on that list was his 2013 de­ci­sion to trig­ger the “nu­clear op­tion,” chang­ing fil­i­buster rules to help Mr. Obama speed through his nom­i­nees. Now that same change will help Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump push through his picks, with lit­tle Democrats can do to stop them.

“Se­na­tors are now much more con­cerned about their par­ti­san iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. Congress has be­come ei­ther an ad­junct to, or an ag­i­ta­tor against the ex­ec­u­tive branch. It stopped be­ing a co-equal branch,” Mr. McKenna said. “Harry Reid did his part to un­der­mine the in­sti­tu­tion of the United States Se­nate.”

For his part, Mr. Reid said Congress gave up its power when it ceded ear­marks, the pork-bar­rel spend­ing that dis­ap­peared when the GOP won con­trol of the House in 2010.

“Why should we as mem­bers of Congress give that au­thor­ity to the White House?” Mr. Reid said. “Bring back ear­marks.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

FAREWELL: Sen. Harry Reid, the re­tir­ing Nevada Demo­crat who led the Se­nate Democrats for a dozen years, im­plored his party to stay strong in 2017.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Hil­lary Clin­ton joined fel­low Demo­crat, the re­tir­ing Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Thurs­day as his of­fi­cial por­trait was un­veiled in Wash­ing­ton.

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