Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ancient History

To follow up on the new counterintuitive wonk defense of Harry Reid, if we were to break out the nostalgia file and see what the activists thought of our Congressional leaders in 2005, when Reid managed 45 Senators and Pelosi led about 202 House members, we would find people loving Reid's pugilistic attitude in the Senate while being frustrated with Pelosi's inability to maintain united opposition. Indeed, I believe that at the time people were singing the praises of one Ben Nelson, who, despite being conservative, managed to be more liberal than his state's electoral record would allow. At no point after 2006, at which point frustration with Reid really began (at the time, he had a 51 seat majority but only if you count Joe Lieberman), did anyone make much of an observation about the different institutional structures of the Senate and the House.

Reid has what is basically an impossible job. Last night on Maddow, Barney Frank observed that there appears to be a new constitutional amendment that any operation in the Senate requires 60 votes to pick its collective nose. In addition, partisanship and ideology have realigned in a way not seen since before the Progressive era. Taking these two in combination, and Senators' previous experience in the body bears very ittle relation to the way it operates today. The fact that the Senate can accomplish anything outside of reconciliation is a near miracle.
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