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December 19, 2005
Reid Discovers Democracy, Leaves Bad Taste In His Mouth

We've become like the House of Commons. Whoever has the most votes wins. It hasn't worked that way in 216 years. -- Harry Reid, on the likelihood of losing a vote on budget cuts and defense spending, including ANWR

The Senate Minority leader shut down the Senate yesterday in yet another fit of pique brought on by reality. He discovered that a conference committee would shortly present a defense bill -- agreed upon by members of both houses -- that contained a provision allowing drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The thought of having a majority-rule vote on ANWR has driven Reid to threaten a complete shutdown of the Senate every time a presidential nomination comes to the floor, raising obstructionism to ever-new heights just in time for the next election cycle:

House and Senate negotiators yesterday reached year-end deals on a $42 billion budget-cuts package and a $453 billion defense-spending bill that includes a provision allowing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Now Republican leaders just have to find the votes to pass the bills.

Senate Democrats will try to filibuster the spending bill, arguing that adding the drilling provision at the last minute was a perversion of Senate rules.

"These rules mean nothing. It's like a game of monopoly with grade-school kids. But this is the United States Senate," said Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, before using a parliamentary technique to shut down floor action all night.

He also said he would not consent to passing any of President Bush's pending nominations this year, which in effect blocks seven district court judges and the president's picks to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

He can certainly try to do just that, but the Republicans have had enough of Reid's intransigence and parliamentary games. Bill Frist assured the media that he knows how to count, and that he has the votes to overcome Reid's petulance. Reid's frustration comes from the attachment of ANWR drilling to a budget bill, which by Senate rules cannot be filibustered. That removes the one tactic that has kept ANWR drilling from getting through the upper chamber even though it has had majority support for years.

If Reid thinks he can win long-term gains by shutting down the Senate and blocking a bunch of executive nominations, he should remember Newt Gingrich and think again. He will have to convince his cohorts to return to filibustering and obstructionism just in time to have that highlighted during the mid-term elections, when past elections have shown that to be kryptonite to Democrats. Five of his own caucus have to face re-election in states George Bush carried handily in 2004, and they won't be keen to be part of Reid's Traveling Extremism Show, where one has to explain why a majority doesn't rule in a democracy. He can also kiss the Gang of 14 agreement goodbye and watch as his filibuster leverage gets whittled down, Robert Byrd-style, each time he pulls that tactic from its sheath.

Reid still hasn't figured out that elections matter, and that losing four seats in the last election meant that Americans didn't want more of the same, tired obstructionism that Democrats offer. He's likely to get sent back for the same curriculum in 2006 if he presses his luck.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 19, 2005 6:06 AM

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