Harry Reid prepares to leave the Senate this month after 34 years


Senate Democrats are about to get rolled on Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks. They could spend years in the minority. And instead of the GOP collapse that many expected on Nov. 8, it’s now Democrats soul-searching about what went wrong.

But as Harry Reid prepares to leave the Senate this month after 34 years in Washington, he says everything is just fine with his party, thank you.  

cxllb32ukaeroy2To hear Reid tell it, the party’s electoral collapse wasn’t a result of poor messaging or even a bad candidate. It stemmed from looser campaign finance rules, FBI Director James Comey and the influence of a few powerful individuals — namely the Koch brothers, his long-running nemeses. The outgoing Senate minority leader is unapologetic on behalf of his party, and remains resolute that Democrats don’t need to chart a new political course after their 2016 debacle.

“They have Trump, I understand that. But I don’t think the Democratic Party is in that big of trouble,” Reid said in a half-hour interview with Politico on Wednesday, one day before he’ll deliver his farewell address. “I mean, if Comey kept his mouth shut, we would have picked up a couple more Senate seats and we probably would have elected Hillary.”

And Reid not only refused to admit any misgivings about invoking the “nuclear option” for most nominations — a move that’s backfiring now by empowering Republicans — he predicted it’s just a matter of time before the filibuster is done away with altogether.

Though the filibuster is Democrats’ best weapon against Trump, Reid said it would be a “mistake” for his party to reflexively oppose whatever Trump proposes. But the outgoing minority leader also wants Democrats to stand firm for their core principles, urging lawmakers to do “everything in their power” to block “wacky” Supreme Court nominees and to not be “complicit” in supporting GOP priorities like tax cuts for the rich and repealing Obamacare.

And Reid called a Republican senator a “loser” for his tirades against the Affordable Care Act, Reid’s signature legislative accomplishment as majority leader. It was a reprise of Reid’s famous put-down of George W. Bush a decade ago.

The no-apologies, no-regrets posture was true to form for the blunt-spoken son of Searchlight, Nevada, who scrapped his way to the pinnacle of power in the U.S. Senate.

But this is hardly the scenario that Reid envisioned for his departure: with a President-elect Trump and all-GOP Congress firmly in control of Washington. And Reid’s most controversial move as leader — invoking the “nuclear option” on Senate confirmations — will leave his party essentially powerless to halt Trump’s Cabinet selections.

Reid insisted that it was the right thing to do.

“I don’t know if it’s my biggest achievement, but I’m satisfied we did it. We had to. Look at why it was done,” said Reid, who turned 77 this month. “We got almost 100 judges approved … we saved the integrity of different agencies of government. No, think of what our country would’ve been without that.”

Reid predicted that the 60-vote filibuster threshold for legislation and for Supreme Court nominees will ultimately disappear altogether — calling it a natural evolution of the chamber.

The rules are “going to erode, it’s just a question of when,” Reid said. “You can’t have a democracy decided by 60 out of 100, and that’s why changing the rules is one of the best things that has happened to America in a long time. It’s good for us, it’s good for them.”

Republicans blame Reid for most of the Senate’s stagnation in recent years, and his evisceration of the filibuster is one of their prime examples. Reid’s decision to water down the filibuster prompted now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to declare that the Nevada Democrat will be remembered as the “worst majority leader ever.”

Three years later, Reid says he understands why McConnell responded the way he did.

“I have no ill will toward him. He was mad,” Reid said. “He got his rear end kicked, OK?”

Reid even admitted that while he disagreed with McConnell’s retaliatory tactics, which led to Merrick Garland being blocked from being confirmed to the Supreme Court, he had to give Republicans credit for the result: control of Congress and the White House and, in all likelihood, a more conservative Supreme Court in time.

“Mitch rolled the dice, and he won. I told him personally: ‘Mitch, I disagreed with how you did it, but it’s admirable that you did it,’” Reid recounted.

But though Reid largely spared McConnell from criticism despite their often-frosty relationship, not all Republicans escaped his wrath during the interview. After he changed the Senate rules in 2013, Republicans came to the floor daily to denounce his leadership. One of them, Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, hit a nerve with his criticisms of Reid and the ACA.

“He’s a loser,” Reid said of Barrasso.

“Here’s the deal with him. He came to the floor every day to berate Obamacare. He became the laughingstock of the Democratic Caucus. What good did he do? Nothing! I sent Durbin out once in a while to make him look like a fool,” Reid said. “The point is, he lost. He was frustrated.”

Barrasso was reluctant to respond. Pressed, he shot back at Reid: “He’s entitled to his opinion. And America has its own opinion.”

Democrats, though, are confident that history will remember Reid more kindly.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who voted against Reid as minority leader in 2014 after the Democrats’ shellacking in the election that year, predicted that “Republicans and Democrats will reflect fondly on his tenacity. It’s one thing when you’re in the battle. It’s another thing when the battle’s a long time ago.”

“It was a masterful effort, and his critics who dismiss him as ineffective are ignoring the obvious,” added Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, of Reid’s legislative record. “He’s left a great legacy.”

In some quarters of the GOP, Reid’s retirement is already drawing praise. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a key ally of McConnell’s, said he met privately with Reid every time he was readying a major bill for the floor.

“Without fail, he’s made it easier to pass the bill,” Alexander said. “He’s helped me create an environment to succeed.”

That sentiment is more popular among veteran senators than newer members.

“I don’t have any sense of nostalgia about Harry Reid,” said Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.).

Reid is generally not one for nostalgia, either. But he recalls a time more than 40 years ago, when he became lieutenant governor alongside Mike O’Callaghan, the former governor who, like Reid, had little state government experience until he and Reid were elected in 1970.

One of the first tasks for the newly elected lieutenant governor was attending a state budget meeting. It was staffed by seasoned bureaucrats whom Reid knew were much more experienced and knowledgeable than either him or O’Callaghan.

But Reid also knew: He was the boss.

“And that’s how I kind of felt during my career,” Reid said. “I’m sure there are people more capable than I, better looking than me, better educated than me, smarter than me. But I’ve got the job. And I try to do the best I can with the job. … I look around and I say, ‘Well, I’m the one that has to do it.’ So I have done the best I can.”


5 thoughts on “Harry Reid prepares to leave the Senate this month after 34 years

    1. Amen

      and someone should yell

      Dont let the door hitcha where the good lord splitcha

      commie Beootch!

      someone needs to punch him in the other eye

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