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How Harry Reid Ruined Christmas Break

Harry Reid gets it:

We are in session, if necessary, up to January 5th. That is the clock our Republican colleagues need to run out. It's a long clock.

He can only pass things (barring a successful bluff to go nuclear, which is highly unlikely at this point) if he has 60 votes (and more for START), and he can only pass as many things as he can pack in to the space available. But if his statement today is for real, then he's not going to leave anything on the table.

I should note that this is a strong contrast with the way Reid and the Democrats dealt with the Scott Brown election at the beginning of the year. That time, the Dems showed no urgency at all. Yes, it probably would have been tough to get back and finish health care reform before Brown was sworn in. But they certainly could have used what time they had remaining with 60 votes to push through one or two of the more controversial nominations (or, perhaps, a whole bunch of less controversial nominations). Or, they could have taken care of one or two relatively minor pieces of legislation. 

Instead, Democrats seemingly were intimidated by GOP efforts to call such things unfair. 

Or, perhaps, they just didn't get why action was urgent if they wanted to pass as much of their agenda as possible.

This time, it's completely different. Recall that Republicans did raise a ruckus back in October about the lame duck session being somehow illegitimate. It isn't -- but Republicans have a much better case now than they did in January, when they had all of exactly one Congressional election to point to (and, at that point, the Democrats had been winning special elections fairly frequently). And then there were this week's complaints about Christmas and something or another. And how did Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama react to these complaints this time around? They've simply ignored them, and got on with their business. 

By the way, I do wonder whether GOP over-the-top obstruction this week (that is, the threats to force full readings of bills) along with the completely ridiculous Christmas whining might have combined to help Reid convince the Democrats to stick around.

Now, we still don't know what exactly can get through the Senate at the end of the day. But Democrats should breath a sign of relief that Harry Reid isn't going to give up in the early afternoon; he's saying, as he should be, that he and the Democrats are going to sprint to the wire. The truth is that Senate Majority Leaders are a lot less influential than most people seem to think; Senate rules and practices emphasize the rights of individual Senators, and so the leaders often can do little more than co-ordinate, as opposed to the way that the Speaker of the House really leads. Even here, it's hard to say how much this is Reid's accomplishment, and how much it's just what his caucus wants. Either way, however, he's making the correct play, this time.