Several weeks ago, I predicted on this blog that Republican obstinacy, as evidenced by their blocking of President Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, would lead to a major change:
The move makes it likely that Senate Democrats will soon come to a consensus on ending the filibuster for presidential nominations, allowing Reid to take action. The Senate leader will likely take the approach of bringing forward other noncontroversial nominees for votes over the next few weeks. In response, Republicans will continue their intransigence.
A clear message will be sent: The GOP conference is not going to change its behavior, and the only way to fix the broken Senate is to change the rules. Republicans have left Reid no choice but to deploy the nuclear option.
Yesterday, Harry Reid sent that message, changing the rules of the Senate and ensuring that nominees to the executive branch and the federal courts would not be subject to a 60-vote threshold.
Most impressive was the way in which Senate Democrats carried out this change. There were not loud pronouncements or threats of looming deadlines. Instead, Reid quietly and patiently demonstrated over the course of the last few weeks that Republican behavior would not change. In vote after vote, Republicans blocked nominees whose qualifications were never in doubt.
Slowly, he built consensus in his caucus. Patiently, he counted votes. And when the moment was right, Reid did not threaten, Reid did not talk. Harry Reid acted.
Reid’s strategy had the added benefit of avoiding weeks of pontificating by pundits and days of grousing from anonymous staffers giving backbiting quotes to reporters.
By acting without talking, Reid denied the Beltway talkers the ability to undercut his strategy. All that is left to talk about is the action itself and the reasons it took place.
It is a reminder of another great moment of leadership during Reid’s tenure as leader of the Democratic caucus. As NBC reported in November 2005:
On a quiet Indian summer afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid dramatically wrenched the political agenda from the Republican majority Monday by forcing the Senate into secret session.
Reid’s gambit was designed to prod Republicans to agree to speed up “Phase II” of the investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, into how spy data was used or misused in the prelude to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
With no threats, announcements, or showboating for the media, Reid acted. All Republicans could do was complain. Bill Frist told reporters, “Since I’ve been majority leader, I have to say, not with the previous Democratic leader or the current Democratic leader, have I ever been slapped in the face with such an affront to the leadership of this grand institution.” He continued, “For the next year and a half I can’t trust Sen. Reid.”
Once again, Harry Reid has demonstrated his strength is not talking – it’s acting.
Ari Rabin-Havt is host of The Agenda on SiriusXM Progress 127 and a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Follow him on Twitter @AriRabinHavt.