For Democrats left dumbfounded over Republican Scott Brown’s shocking Senate win in Massachusetts yesterday, the short response statement from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) probably won’t offer much solace.
“Regardless of the size of their minority caucus, Senate Republicans have always had an obligation to join us in governing our nation through these difficult times,” Reid said. “Today’s election doesn’t change that; in fact it is now more important than before for Republicans to work with us rather than against us if we are to find common ground that improves Americans’ lives.”
Translation: “Republicans, please cooperate and help us pass our legislative agenda before the mid-terms.” To which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is already saying, “Think again!”
There has, of course, been no indication that Senate Republicans are interested in anything at all outside of stalling the legislative process this Congress — to the point that it took weeks of procedural maneuvering last year for Democrats to pass even the most popular and uncontroversial measures (think: unemployment insurance). And that was in a non-election year.
Much of that delay was the fault of Democrats for buying claims that Republicans were ever interested in compromise. Remember that it was Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) who agreed to take the Finance Committee’s health care negotiations into the August recess, as if the Republicans’ idea of give-and-take was ever something other than to demand that Democrats accept a GOP bill. (It wasn’t.) “A president with an activist agenda met a Senate all but incapable of action,” Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson wrote today.
The string of delays meant that Democrats couldn’t focus on the economy to the degree that the Great Recession demanded. Meanwhile, unemployment skyrocketed and foreclosures soared. Health reform might be vital, but the results of the months-long debate haven’t been tangible — a message screamed by the voters in Massachusetts Tuesday.
For Democrats, the troubling thing about Reid’s statement is that it pretends that Republicans will now change their strategy for some reason — as if McConnell wasn’t rooting for Brown yesterday. For Republicans, this is a win-win situation. Not only have they been successful in blocking the Democrats’ legislative wish-list, but they’ve reaped the political rewards of the inaction they’ve caused.
If Reid and the Democrats now think that GOP leadership will suddenly become cooperative in the run-up to the mid-terms, they should prepare for the worst.
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