A dismal Senator's dismal week

Bird Dog's picture

Why are there not more Democrats who are wondering why this guy is at the pinnacle of Senate leadership? First, the absurd:

"Madam President," Reid said to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), the presiding officer of the Senate, "I'll come home tonight here to my home in Washington and there'll be some mail there. A lot of it is what some people refer to as junk mail, but for the people who are sending that mail, it's very important.

"And when talking about seniors, seniors love getting junk mail. It's sometimes their only way of communicating or feeling like they're part of the real world," Reid continued. "Elderly Americans, more than anyone in America, rely on the United States Postal Service, but unless we act quickly, thousands of post offices ... will close. I've said this earlier today; I repeat it."

So... the Senate should pass a bill because, if it doesn't, seniors will be denied getting the junk mail they so love getting? Clearly, there are other Senators who can make a case for a bill without resorting to gibberish.

Second, the irresponsible:

Sen. Kent Conrad reclaimed the Budget Committee gavel in 2007, setting out to tame the federal debt and turn staggering deficits into a surplus in five years.

But as the North Dakota Democrat rolls out the final budget of his career on Wednesday, it’s clear none of those goals has been realized. And the frustration and futility that’s marked his tenure as chairman may serve as a metaphor for what has broken and politically polarized Congress.

The Democratic-led Senate hasn’t passed a budget blueprint since April 2009, and it won’t do so again this spring as election-year pressures consume Capitol Hill. In fact, Conrad’s budget “markup” Wednesday won’t even be a real markup because senators won’t actually offer amendments or vote.

The 10-year budget plan Conrad unveiled Tuesday is based on the so-called Bowles-Simpson deficit-reduction plan, though the chairman conceded it’s “just reality” that any real deficit work by his committee will likely be put off until after November.


Last year, despite weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations with his own conference, Conrad abandoned a budget markup after it became clear it lacked support from Democrats, who complained it was too conservative. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sealed its fate, saying it was “foolish” to pass a budget as Vice President Joe Biden was negotiating a deal to raise the debt ceiling.

With eight months left in his final term, Conrad is returning to Bowles-Simpson, a Quixote-like effort considering the House last month rejected that plan 38-382, and Reid shows no desire to touch the commission’s deficit blueprint.

In reality, Reid has shown no desire to touch any budget or deficit blueprint. For three years running. Not only is the failure to pass a budget against the law, it shows a pathetic combination of irresponsibility and political cowardice.

But as a study in gridlock, this week’s events should lead to a particular conclusion about the sources of that gridlock: House Republicans have proposed and passed a budget, the chairman of the Senate budget committee sought to propose one of his own, but the Senate’s Democratic leadership preferred inaction instead. That is in fact how essentially all of the “gridlock” of the 112th congress has happened, and it is not properly described as gridlock but as Democratic dereliction. Republicans have put their views and proposals on the table, and Democrats have been afraid to do the same and so have offered nothing but vitriol.

In effect, Reid's failure to produce a budget is a political calculation. After all, it is easier to attack the other side than produce and defend your own numbers.

Third, the lazy:

For those who need proof that the Senate was a do-nothing chamber in 2011 beyond the constant partisan bickering and failure to pass a federal budget, there is now hard evidence that it was among the laziest in 20 years.

In her latest report, Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson revealed a slew of data that put the first session of the 112th Senate at the bottom of Senates since 1992 in legislative productivity, an especially damning finding considering that it wasn’t an election year when congressional action is usually lower.

For example, while the Democratically-controlled Senate was in session for 170 days, it spent an average of just 6.5 hours in session on those days, the second lowest since 1992. Only 2008 logged a lower average of 5.4 hours a day, and that’s when action was put off because several senators were running for president, among them Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain.

On the passage of public laws, arguably its most important job, the Senate notched just 90, the second lowest in 20 years, and it passed a total of 402 measures, also the second lowest. And as the president has been complaining about, the chamber confirmed a 20-year low of 19,815 judicial and other nominations.

The rationalization is that the GOP would block whatever the Reid-led Senate would put forward, so why even try. Surely, the more activist wing of the Democrat Party cannot be happy with "why even try". It's a loser excuse. Personally, I'm of two minds since a less active and less productive Senate suits the libertarian in me.

Fourth, the vindictive:

There is the war on women that isn't real, but that Democrats keep talking about. Then there is the Democratic war on one woman, which says a lot about how that party operates.

Ask Kristine Svinicki, a commissioner on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Ms. Svinicki is a respected nuclear engineer who was unanimously confirmed to the NRC in 2008, and whose term is up in June. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is now actively waging war to keep Ms. Svinicki from being renominated, as punishment for her role in exposing the behavior of Mr. Reid's pet appointee to the NRC, Gregory Jaczko. For Ms. Svinicki's efforts to protect female staffers, she has been attacked and slandered by Democrats.

After all, what is one woman, when measured against the left's greater policy goals? The White House and its party remain opposed to nuclear energy. The key to strangling nuclear progress is the NRC, which sets industry rules. This is why, in 2004, Mr. Reid took hostage dozens of Bush nominees, vowing they would never be confirmed until his own, pre-programmed adviser, Mr. Jaczko, was installed at the commission.

The Bush White House rolled, and Mr. Jaczko was sent to the NRC with two missions: strangle industry progress and kill the Yucca Mountain waste repository planned for Mr. Reid's home state of Nevada. Knowing an asset when he saw it, President Barack Obama elevated Mr. Jaczko to NRC chairman in 2009.

What Democrats did not foresee was the lengths Mr. Jaczko would go to carry out his orders. By the fall of last year, all four of the NRC's Republican and Democratic commissioners had revolted. With unprecedented unity, they sent a letter to the White House relating their "grave concerns" that the "erratic" Mr. Jaczko was running the place like a despot. He'd ordered staff to withhold information from them, intimidated personnel into altering recommendations, and overridden the will of the majority.

If that weren't enough, at a December House hearing the four commissioners went on to describe a man with a vicious management style. Ms. Svinicki told of Mr. Jaczko's "continued outbursts of abusive rage, directed at subordinates." Democratic Commissioner George Apostolakis described Mr. Jaczko's "bullying and intimidating behavior toward NRC's career staff."

But it was William Magwood, Mr. Jaczko's other fellow Democrat, who related the chairman's penchant for going after women. He spoke of women staffers who had been "reduced to tears" by "the chairman's extreme behavior" and of his "raging verbal assaults." One woman, said Mr. Magwood, "couldn't stop shaking after her experience" and had to talk to a supervisor until "she could calm down enough to drive home." These were "tough, smart women who have succeeded in a male-dominated environment," said Mr. Magwood, and to be humiliated in such a fashion was "painful."

But not to Democrats—those valiant defenders of women. Worried her party might lose its NRC weapon, Sen. Barbara Boxer held her own December hearing to smear all four commissioners as incompetent and to leap to Mr. Jaczko's defense. The Californian—who recently praised Georgetown student Sandra Fluke for "standing up to be heard" on contraception—lambasted the commissioners for speaking out. This "issue of the treatment of women" at the NRC, she said, reminded her of "Joe McCarthy" days, and was a "witch hunt." How dare Ms. Sivincki engage in "outrageous character assassination" against a man whom the nation "was fortunate to have sitting" in the chairman's seat?

Vermont's Bernie Sanders, last heard railing about GOP men who "roll back" women's rights, informed the commissioners that it was normal to occasionally "hurt people's feelings" and that Mr. Jaczko was just "aggressively trying to do his job." New Jersey's Frank Lautenberg—who coined the term "maleogarchy" to describe Republicans—praised Mr. Jaczko: "One of the most intemperate people we had was General Patton. And guess what? He got it done."

The White House's response to these accusations of abuse and intimidation—delivered under oath by both Republican and Democratic commissioners, and backed up by staffers, former employees, and an inspector general report—was to do nothing. Mr. Jaczko, after all, has claimed he's never "intentionally" bullied anyone. And so he remains in his job, while Ms. Svinicki is now teed up for retribution. Women's groups like to call this "blaming the victim," though that is apparently encouraged when the victim is a Republican.

Mr. Reid has been trashing the only female NRC commissioner, falsely accusing Ms. Svinicki of being soft on safety and having "lied" to Congress in past testimony. The White House, having looked initially to back Mr. Reid, has since sniffed political danger and late this week said it would send up her nomination papers.

That's for the good, though this is hardly a happy story. Whatever the truth of the allegations against Mr. Jaczko, the fact that Democrats were unwilling to even investigate them speaks volumes. The next time Mr. Obama or Mr. Reid or Ms. Boxer dare to suggest a GOP "war on women," remember Kristine Svinicki.

It's hard to fathom how Reid's political shenanigans actually help Democrats, so, go Harry!

As in 2004, when Democrats tried to tie The Hammer to Bush during the campaign, it wouldn't be hard to imagine GOPers doing the same tying of Obama-Reid. Couldn't happen to a more odious guy. Reid, not Obama, that is.

UPDATE: The GSA may have bollixed their trip no matter the destination, but you can blame you-know-who for encouraging the Obama administration to send federal employees on junkets to that fair city.


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I just don't understand


Why politics is supposed to be so fascinating, and policy is supposed to be so boring. From your first graf I started to wonder, what's this bill about? Who's for it, who's against it, are there first amendment issues? I won't learn that here, nor at your link. I guess I'll have to go to some other blog for that discussion. Basically, the concern is that a politician said something mildly embarassing on the floor.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

The second link...

Bird Dog's picture

...summarizes the bill's highlights, and the signatories indicate sufficient bipartisan support for passage, but the topic wasn't about the merits of one bill or another. If you're so unsatisfied that nobody is discussing the pluses and minuses of policy relating to the USPS, the "new diary" button awaits.


"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Does Jaczko specifically target women for his outburst?

brutusettu's picture

Or something to that effect?

We get it, you don't like Reid

HankP's picture

you guys had your chance, you could have run just about anybody relatively sane and picked up the seat - but you ran Sharon Angle. C'est la wingnut. I know that your party is desperately trying to show that Republican policies aren't anti-woman, but it's too late for that. It's devolved to "See, the Dems are just as bad!". But it's not working, and it won't work.


I'm also pretty sure that your idea of tying Reid to Obama will work just about as well as tying DeLay to Bush did in 2004. Which is to say not at all.

I blame it all on the Internet

The point is,

Bird Dog's picture

is why you Dems do like Reid, not just as Senator, but as Majority Leader. But like I said: Go Harry! He'll deliver more votes to Mitt than to Barry.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Not sure where you're getting that

HankP's picture

nobody here voted for him as majority leader, that was up to the Senate. I don't particularly care for him but most of the stuff I see Republicans complaining about seems to be SOP for senators, especially long serving ones.

I blame it all on the Internet


Bird Dog's picture

It's as if the Senate is immune to people and party. I'm sure Trent Lott wished that were so. Gingrich, too.



"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

I thought the problem with Congress was that


Republicans block every single initiative with any chance Democrats might vote for it. But I guess it's fun to rearrange deck chairs and nitpick the utterly pointless cloakroom politics which a paralyzed Congress has been confining itself to. 



"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Over, 90% of seniors like getting junk mail

brutusettu's picture

---And don't you know, the key to compromise is Dems introducing bills a good deal of GOP Congressman would introduce a decade + ago, and then to move further from Democratic planks from there.

Reid's Had A Majority The Entire Time Obama's Been President. .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .and it only takes 51 votes to pass a budget. He's got no excuse for refusing to do his job.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Isn't Congress a bicameral legislature?


Yeah. Save this stuff for the rubes, please.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

It Always Has Been

M Scott Eiland's picture

Somehow, that never stopped the Senate from passing budgets before--particularly when the House was controlled by the same party along with the White House.

I wouldn't try your argument on the rubes--they can count to 51, apparently unlike Reid.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Sorta but not really true....



The White House, for its part, has said that Lew was referring to the general gridlock in Congress and not to the specific budget resolution.

Some federal budget experts think the White House has a point, despite being wrong on the vote threshold for the budget resolution. A budget resolution is just a blueprint; being able to implement many of its provisions would likely require 60 votes eventually,said Roy T. Meyers, a political scientist at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County who specializes in budget issues. "Lew is absolutely on the mark on the bigger picture," Meyers said.

Still, Lew was precise in his wording, and on that claim, he was wrong.

Our ruling

On the specific question he was asked -- about the congressional budget resolution -- Lew said you need 60 votes to pass it. That’s flatly wrong. On the larger question of putting together what we think most people would call the "federal budget," a majority party may be able to get its budget resolution passed, but that’s not the same thing as actually enacting spending bills to implement it. In all likelihood, these bills would require 60 votes in the Senate. Still, Lew's specific claim was False.

I Wonder If They Had A Do-Over. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .the Democrats would have quietly stifled attacks against Sharon Angle and let HR go down to defeat. If they had, Sharon Angle would be a minority side Senator with an apparent tendency of saying dumb things that would embarrass Republicans, and the Democrats would have a (presumably) more effective Majority Leader (albeit with a slightly smaller majority).

Speaking of Senators having bad weeks--Mr. Hatch is facing a primary, and senile old fart Frank Lautenberg gets smacked around in Senate hearing by a Governor Christie operative.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

I was surprised about Hatch.


I had the privilege of meeting the guy almost thirty years ago when I lived in Utah. I find his politics Neanderthal, but he struck me as a genuinely decent human being. That the Utah GOP considers him insufficiently conservative reflects a lot more poorly on them than it does on Hatch.

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

He Didn't Miss Avoiding The Primary By Much

M Scott Eiland's picture

If he can avoid blowing up at his base, he'll probably win his nomination and his seventh term without problems. If he has a major gaffe he's in trouble.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Oops. Hank. Clean-up, aisle 4, bring a bucket

Bird Dog's picture

I didn't see any text, then I hit the "save" button twice, so now there are two diaries with no text.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

I can't find the problem


The HTML looked clean. No links were causing problems. It seems to be a length thing, so I left out the last couple of lines. If I add them back, same problem. JFTR, they were:


It's hard to fathom how Reid's political shenanigans actually help Democrats, so, go Harry! As in 2004, when Democrats tried to tie The Hammer to Bush during the campaign, it wouldn't be hard to imagine GOPers doing the same tying of Obama-Reid. Couldn't happen to a more odious guy. Reid, not Obama, that is.


Hank, if you have a better solution, she's all yours...

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Got it

HankP's picture

for some reason when creating a new diary drupal puts a <p> at the very beginning of the diary and expects an additional </p> at the end. For some reason the trailing </p> got stripped


I blame it all on the Internet

Happened to me when I tried to link a pdf.


If you can still edit, maybe start by pulling any pdf links.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes