Harry Reid, Obstructionist

Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) is obstructing a potential compromise over legislation to increase the minimum wage. You can read about it in this THE POLITICO article under the triumphant headline: "Harry Reid remains firm on $10.10 minimum wage."

That’s one way of putting it.

Reid has made clear that compromise is out of the question. Senator Susan Collins (R., Maine), a noted Tea Party radical, is reaching out to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the hope of crafting a bill that could actually pass. She has suggested a smaller wage increase, and the addition of some minor GOP-backed reforms.

Is it a long shot? Sure. But red state Democrats such as Mark Pryor and Mary Landrieu have already distanced themselves from Reid’s hard line. Or, as the excitable scribes at Daily Kos more eloquently put it: "Wimp Democrats look to split the baby on minimum wage." As usual, Harry Reid is more than happy to woo the Kos crowd, and serve up heaping platters of whatever the left-wing equivalent of "red meat" is. Heirloom pomegranates?

If the majority leader’s first priority was achieving a policy result, there might be a deal in the offing. (Emphasis on "might," but still.) Republicans know that the minimum wage is a losing issue for them, even if their opposition to an increase is more firmly grounded in economic reality.

That is also why, when it comes to raising the minimum wage, Harry Reid’s first priority is not actually to get anything done, but to spend the next seven months throwing tantrums on the Senate floor about how extremist Republicans and their heartless Koch overlords are waging war against poor people.

You can be pretty sure it's all a game when you start reading about the Democrats' "minimum wage push" or "minimum wage focus"—euphemisms for "political theater." The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent explains how the focused push on the minimum wage and other issues that are "designed to sharpen the economic contrast" with Republicans is explicitly designed to help Democrats win more votes in the midterm elections. "This is a great way to frame a race," a Democratic pollster told Sargent. "It gives voters a way to say, ‘just tell me whether you’re for or against this.’"

This, obviously, is how politics works (phony lamentations about our "broken system" notwithstanding). Reid is playing the long game, even if he looks pretty ridiculous in the short-term. Republicans may even want to take the opportunity to troll the majority leader on this point. People like compromise, and what Harry Reid is essentially saying here is that he won't work with Republicans; he's can't compromise lest he subject hard-working families to the wing-nut machinations of Susan Collins.

What Republicans can’t stand is the fact that the media narrative is almost always in line with the one that Reid and his messaging guru Chuck Schumer have devised. For example, the Senate is about to pass legislation to reinstate long-term unemployment benefits (which have already been extended multiple times). It will then move to the House, where it will probably die, and Harry Reid will waddle out on the Senate floor and starting yelling again. Reporters will report on the yelling. Tweeters will tweet about it.

You can bet the media is going to cover this chain of events (and all things related to the minimum wage) far more enthusiastically than they covered Thursday’s vote in the House to change the legal definition of "full-time" work under Obamacare from 30 hours a week to 40 hours a week. On Wednesday, Reid said he would be "happy to work with [Republicans]" on changes to Obamacare, "but we need something bipartisan in nature." So he’s in luck, because while Reid is rejecting even the thought of compromise as a nonstarter, House Speaker John Boehner is passing actual bills with Democratic votes.

This latest bill is perhaps as much as a political stunt as Reid’s minimum wage "push." Still, about 10 percent of the Democratic caucus (18) voted yes, which would be enough to pass legislation with 51 votes in the Senate. With the likes of Pryor, Landrieu, Kay Hagan, and Mark Begich feeling rightfully on edge about their reelection prospects, Republicans could probably get those votes. But Reid is never going to allow the Senate to vote in the first place.

For someone who (hypocritically) complains about the antiquated obstructionism of the filibuster, Reid has waged a de facto one-man filibuster against almost every piece of legislation the House has passed since 2010, many of which have had bipartisan support. This is good politics for Harry Reid. And if you had to pick one sentence to explain the entire Democratic policy agenda, that would be it. The self-professed "party of ideas" doesn’t seem to have come up with any new ones over the last several decades.

Maybe that’s to be expected. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are both very old, and the party’s presumptive nominee for 2016 would be 69 by the time she is sworn in. "I’ve got a pen," is pretty catchy, but leaders craving more power than they’re technically afforded under the law doesn’t really count as an idea.

Meanwhile, the modern left is a positively frightening sight to behold, but at least is brimming with innovative solutions like imprisoning people who hold unfashionable opinions about climate change. Democrats should run on that.

As always, Harry Reid is just trying to do the right thing by raising the minimum wage making people think he’s trying to raise the minimum wage and acting out his Koch-addled fever dreams on the floor of the United States Senate. If he seems increasingly unhinged of late, can you really blame him? Being Senate majority leader, a title he may soon relinquish, is a pretty sweet gig. One can shamelessly exploit the political system to amass improbable fortunes for his friends and offspring while recklessly accusing others of this very crime—and suffer no consequences.

So let it all hang out, Harry. But if you ever find yourself wanting, or needing, to consider a career change, I hear there’s good money in trinkets.