In the Senate, Signs of a Breakthrough Are as Elusive as Ever

Ninety-eight senators appear on the floor to listen to Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks at the Capitol.
National Journal
Michael Catalini
See more stories about...
Michael Catalini
Oct. 8, 2013, 12:26 p.m.

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id’s de­liv­ery doesn’t seem de­signed to per­suade — at least not in the usu­al sense. With his hushed tones and tend­ency to look down as he speaks, he’ll wear you down be­fore you rise to your feet in rap­tur­ous agree­ment with his ar­gu­ment.

“I don’t come here to ar­gue and badger people,” Re­id said, stand­ing be­side a poster read­ing, “Open the Gov­ern­ment/Pay our bills/And let’s ne­go­ti­ate,” dur­ing a rare floor speech Tues­day pre­ceded by a so-called live quor­um call.

As the pres­id­ent held a news con­fer­ence at the White House over the ap­proach­ing debt lim­it, and with gov­ern­ment still closed, Re­id called for all sen­at­ors to file to their desks and hear an im­port­ant mes­sage.

But the spec­tacle on the floor hin­ted at no break­through; rather Re­id told his col­leagues that his po­s­i­tion was no bluff and not merely a start­ing point for ne­go­ti­ations. The Sen­ate CR and a clean debt-ceil­ing ex­ten­sion aren’t just of­fers. They’re the of­fers, in Demo­crats’ view.

Sur­roun­ded by 98 of his col­leagues, Re­id launched a fa­mil­i­ar-sound­ing speech that called on Re­pub­lic­ans to ac­cept the Demo­crat­ic Sen­ate’s meas­ures. Some Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats strained to hear Re­id. Oth­ers pulled out cell phones to read. Demo­crat­ic Sens. Bar­bara Box­er of Cali­for­nia and Carl Lev­in of Michigan listened with their hands on their chins.

At the heart of Re­id’s lo­gic is that Re­pub­lic­ans will not want to risk the per­cep­tion of caus­ing a de­fault.

“I’m cyn­ic­al by nature. That way I’m not dis­ap­poin­ted as much as my friends who are op­tim­ist­ic,” Re­id said. “I am op­tim­ist­ic, [though], the Re­pub­lic­ans are not go­ing to hold the full faith of the United States host­age.”

Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell of Ken­tucky rose, after Re­id all but urged him to get real. Re­pub­lic­ans want to ne­go­ti­ate, was his mes­sage.

“We now have di­vided gov­ern­ment. It means we have to talk to each oth­er and get to an out­come,” Mc­Con­nell said. “And I think it’s far past time to get that done, and I hope, giv­en where we are today, that there’s ad­equate in­cent­ive to get those talks star­ted, prin­cip­ally between the ma­jor­ity lead­er and the speak­er.”

Sen. John Mc­Cain de­livered a pas­sion­ate speech ur­ging his col­leagues on both sides to work to­geth­er, sug­gest­ing a re­peal of the med­ic­al-device tax as a pos­sible path bey­ond dis­agree­ment.

“We know how it’s gonna end,” Mc­Cain said, adding that the gov­ern­ment would open and the debt ceil­ing would be raised. “Why don’t we do this soon­er rather than later?”

Later, Budget Chair­wo­man Patty Mur­ray of Wash­ing­ton sought to go to a budget con­fer­ence with the House, but was ul­ti­mately blocked once again.

Re­cently, Sen. Johnny Isak­son, R-Ga., walk­ing in the Sen­ate sub­way tun­nel, offered his view on how the prob­lem would — or wouldn’t any time soon — get solved.

“You’ve got the im­mov­able ob­ject and the ir­res­ist­ible force,” he said. “Both sides are dug in. Both sides are in­transigent.”

What We're Following See More »
LEGACY PLAY
Sanders and Clinton Spar Over … President Obama
10 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama became a surprise topic of contention toward the end of the Democratic debate, as Hillary Clinton reminded viewers that Sanders had challenged the progressive bona fides of President Obama in 2011 and suggested that someone might challenge him from the left. “The kind of criticism that we’ve heard from Senator Sanders about our president I expect from Republicans, I do not expect from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama,” she said. “Madame Secretary, that is a low blow,” replied Sanders, before getting in another dig during his closing statement: “One of us ran against Barack Obama. I was not that candidate.”

THE 1%
Sanders’s Appeals to Minorities Still Filtered Through Wall Street Talk
11 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

It’s all about the 1% and Wall Street versus everyone else for Bernie Sanders—even when he’s talking about race relations. Like Hillary Clinton, he needs to appeal to African-American and Hispanic voters in coming states, but he insists on doing so through his lens of class warfare. When he got a question from the moderators about the plight of black America, he noted that during the great recession, African Americans “lost half their wealth,” and “instead of tax breaks for billionaires,” a Sanders presidency would deliver jobs for kids. On the very next question, he downplayed the role of race in inequality, saying, “It’s a racial issue, but it’s also a general economic issue.”

DIRECT APPEAL TO MINORITIES, WOMEN
Clinton Already Pivoting Her Messaging
11 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

It’s been said in just about every news story since New Hampshire: the primaries are headed to states where Hillary Clinton will do well among minority voters. Leaving nothing to chance, she underscored that point in her opening statement in the Milwaukee debate tonight, saying more needs to be done to help “African Americans who face discrimination in the job market” and immigrant families. She also made an explicit reference to “equal pay for women’s work.” Those boxes she’s checking are no coincidence: if she wins women, blacks and Hispanics, she wins the nomination.

THE QUESTION
How Many Jobs Would Be Lost Under Bernie Sanders’s Single-Payer System?
19 hours ago
THE ANSWER

More than 11 million, according to Manhattan Institute fellow Yevgeniy Feyman, writing in RealClearPolicy.

Source:
WEEKEND DATA DUMP
State to Release 550 More Clinton Emails on Saturday
19 hours ago
THE LATEST

Under pressure from a judge, the State Department will release about 550 of Hillary Clinton’s emails—“roughly 14 percent of the 3,700 remaining Clinton emails—on Saturday, in the middle of the Presidents Day holiday weekend.” All of the emails were supposed to have been released last month. Related: State subpoenaed the Clinton Foundation last year, which brings the total number of current Clinton investigations to four, says the Daily Caller.

Source:
×