Harry Reid has some nerve. Not that we didn’t already know that, but now that he’s been knocked from his perch as Majority Leader, where he squeezed notions of democracy with an iron fist, he’s taken to casting stones at GOP Senate leadership over the operation of the chamber. Take a look at this passage from a recent op-ed in the New York Times:
We’ve known for months that government funding runs out on Oct. 1. Senate Democrats have been calling on Republicans for months — both publicly and privately — to sit down with us and work out a bipartisan path so that we can avoid another shutdown. So far, we’ve been met with nothing but silence.
Congress has just begun its August recess, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use this time productively and open budget negotiations. I say to my Republican colleagues, let’s get started — there is no good reason to wait until the last minute.
Perhaps he’s forgotten the record that he left behind? The one in which the federal government lurched from crisis to crisis because he refused to acknowledge the existence of the Republican-led House. The one in which his Senate failed to pass a budget for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015, which collectively represent half his tenure as Majority Leader. The one in which he used an arcane procedural trick called “filling the tree” more than 80 times to shut down debate (for reference, the previous six Majority Leaders used it 49 times–combined). And the one in which he limited the total number of amendment votes to just 15 in an entire year (a total that the new Republican majority matched in less than one month).
And most tellingly, the one in which he repeatedly declined to negotiate with Republicans to avoid government shutdowns.
For instance, did he forget about 2013, when the federal government nearly smacked against the debt ceiling only to have then-Majority Leader Reid refuse to negotiate with Republicans, instead demanding a “clean” increase. And Reid wasn’t alone. Obama also refused to negotiate, even after Speaker John Boehner called the president to say, “I just want to have a conversation. I’m not drawing lines in the sand. It is time for us to just sit down and resolve our differences.”
Now, finding themselves in the minority (in no small part because of Harry Reid’s egotism and intransigence), Democrats are not only demanding a seat at the table, they’re demanding the ability to manage the negotiation. Reid’s opening demand is that the sequester levels created by Budget Control Act, which both parties agreed to, be set aside in order to spend more on Democrats’ domestic priorities.
McConnell didn’t bite. And why should he, given how Democrats laughed at granting the GOP any concessions in previous debt limit negotiations.
“McConnell is very leery of reopening a debate over budget levels that we negotiated with Democrats and led to the first real cut in government spending since the 1950s,” a Senate GOP aide told The Hill. “That’s something he negotiated and he’s proud of and led to a very good result.”
To his credit, Sen. McConnell has been gracious, declining to engage in Sen. Reid’s effort to draw him into a public, partisan battle. Earlier this week he was asked by a reporter how he would live up to his pledge that there would be no more government shutdowns.
“Through negotiation,” McConnell responded. “We have a divided government. Different parties control the Congress than control the White House, and at some point, we’ll negotiate the way forward.”
Reid’s response? Sarcasm. “Ohhh, that’s great,” he told reporters.
President Obama’s response? Unprofessional attacks.
“It’s hard for me to express how much I love Harry Reid,” the president said to a room full of donors. “Harry and I drove over here together and we were doing a little reminiscing, and then figuring out how we’re going to deal with the crazies in terms of managing some problems. And then we talked about riding off into the sunset together.”
Even the White House press secretary was forced to admit that Obama “may have been a little flip in his language.” But at this point it’s come to be expected. Democrats aren’t serious about negotiating in good faith. No matter how many seats they lose, no matter how much the voters reprimand their policy positions, it just doesn’t seem to matter. Perhaps they just don’t realize that they don’t control a chamber of Congress anymore. Perhaps they just don’t care.