“If ever time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.” – Samuel Adams
Not too long ago it appeared to be almost certain that Democrats would retake the Senate majority. The map was just too favorable for any other result. Democrats are defending just 10 total seats (only two of which are competitive: Nevada and Colorado) and will be playing offense in 24 GOP-held Senate seats (seven of which President Obama previously won. Most tellingly, Democrats could reclaim the majority just by winning states that Obama won twice.
Recently, that confidence has crumbled beneath the weight of new polls showing Republican incumbents leading their Democrat challengers in key states. The problem, as the New York Times has noted, is that “Democrats find themselves hobbled by less-than-stellar candidates in races that could make the difference.”
Rather than allow the candidates to compete on the merits of their messages, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid decided to take the election into his own hands. He charted a path to disrupt Republican efforts to do the hard work of governing, pushing instead for gridlock in order to deprive the GOP majority of policy successes and keep them in town and off the campaign trail. Alexander Bolton writes for The Hill:
Senate Democratic leaders have discouraged their colleagues throughout this year from working with vulnerable Republican senators, according to lawmakers in both parties.
The election-year effort is aimed at depriving Republicans of bipartisan achievements they can tout back home.
The ridiculous behavior included withholding support from a bill to stop suspected terrorists from buying guns in order to prevent Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) from getting good press, and not advancing legislation on a tariff bill of importance to the business community until Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) removed his name as a lead sponsor of the measure.
Neither good policy, nor simple statesmanship, mattered to the Democratic leaders who sought to use the few tools at their disposal to bully Republicans out of the legislative process. The decisionmaking rubric that should have mattered: Is the bill good for Americans, was set aside for a far more cynical measure: Is the bill good for Republicans up for reelection? If it was, then something had to change.
Sadly, this is far from the only misanthropic trick up Harry Reid’s sleeve. The worst display of crass partisanship came in the waning days session when Reid’s “mayhem project” kicked into full gear to produce false outrage over a continuing resolution to keep the government funded. The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes:
Retaking the Senate no longer seems like the cinch that Democrats imagined earlier this summer, and now they’re responding with budget obstructionism that could end with a government shutdown. If they can’t win on the merits, they can attempt to provoke a fake crisis.
Earlier this month Democrats laid out their demands for a funding bill. “If they want to get out of here,” Reid said, “we’ve got Zika resolved. Do a clean CR and they can leave in 10 minutes” with “no vexatious poison-pill riders.” So when Republicans offered up a “clean” resolution that would keep the government funded at current levels with no questionable riders, $1.1 billion to fight Zika, funding for the recently passed legislation to battle the opioid epidemic and $500 million in disaster aid, i.e. over and above what Democrats asked for, it should’ve been a no brainer.
Instead, Democrats manufactured outrage for purely political reasons. The WSJ writes:
The new wild goose chase is that the bill is a micro-aggression against Flint, Michigan, because it doesn’t include disaster relief for that lead-water crisis. Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow pronounced the measure “unacceptable” in a press release last Thursday, claiming that “there’s no reason we cannot include urgently needed funding for Flint.”
But wait. As recently as Sept. 15, Ms. Stabenow also put out a press release declaring that “I am extremely pleased that the Senate has finally passed urgently needed help for families in Flint.” Yes, the Senate has already passed—95-3—a $9.4 billion bill called the Water Resources Development Act, which the House will pass this week, with at least $100 million earmarked specifically for Flint and $50 million for lead poisoning and public health.
Perhaps if Democrats would spend half as much time figuring out ways to help Americans as they did trying to punish Republicans, Congress could actually get stuff done. Instead, we’re left with a glut of “inspiring men” and a dearth of “experienced patriots.” Hopefully voters realize the difference this November.