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Harry Reid’s Role in Senate Dysfunction

Posted on May 16, 2014
Harry Reid official portrait 2009

Originally Published in the WSJ

By taking the fun out of dysfunction, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid puts his majority in danger.

Mr. Reid has clamped down on democratic debate in an effort to protect his members and the Obama administration from adverse votes.

For example, he recently closed down debate on a bipartisan energy-efficiency bill because he didn’t want his members to vote on the Keystone XL pipeline.

Instead of working with Senate Republicans such as Susan Collins to get a deal on minimum wage, he preferred to cut off debate and proceed to a vote that ultimately failed.

His strong-arm efforts have made it increasingly unlikely that the Senate will proceed on tax extenders, another bipartisan bill. It would not be surprising if he keeps most spending bills off the Senate floor this summer, to avoid tough votes on pesky Republican amendments.

But all of this comes at a cost to the reputation of the Senate and the party that runs it. The Senate works best when it is allowed to fully function, when members are allowed to offer amendments, when issues are debated and when compromise is eventually achieved.

When the Senate isn’t allowed to do its job, the voters notice.