'Never trust Republicans': Journalist explains what Schumer can learn from Harry Reid's time as Senate majority leader

'Never trust Republicans': Journalist explains what Schumer can learn from Harry Reid's time as Senate majority leader

Democrats obtained a narrow majority in the U.S. Senate when Republicans lost two Senate runoffs in Georgia in early January, and on January 20, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York went from being Senate minority leader to being Senate majority leader — making him the first Democrat to hold that position since Sen. Harry Reid, now retired from Congress. Schumer now finds himself being frustrated by the challenges of the filibuster, not unlike Reid during Barack Obama's presidency. And journalist Li Zhou, in an article published by Vox following Memorial Day Weekend, notes some of the things Schumer can learn from Reid's experiences.

In 2021, many Democrats are calling for an end to the filibuster, which requires 60 or more votes for most legislation. And Zhou recalls how frustrated Reid, now 81, became with the filibuster during the Obama years.

"By the time he decided to 'go nuclear' on filibusters for most presidential appointees, Harry Reid had had it with Republicans," Zhou recalls. "The obstruction that finally pushed the Democratic leader to change the Senate's rules in 2013 was the GOP's refusal to consider three of President Barack Obama's D.C. Circuit Court picks. But his frustration with Republican blockades had been building for months."

Zhou notes that back in 2013, Reid "systematically built a case for the rules change."

"For months, (Reid) put up votes on nominee after nominee, an effort that underscored the extent of Republican obstruction as the GOP attempted to slow many of them," Zhou notes. "Schumer, it seems, is now taking a similar approach."

Reid, Zhou points out, "eventually gathered the votes to blow up the filibuster for appointees" when he became "fed up with GOP intransigence." The Nevada Democrat, according to Zhou, "stands by that decision today, even though these reforms were later used by Republican leader Mitch McConnell to justify altering the rules again and push through three Supreme Court justices with little or no Democratic support."

Reid told Vox, "I have no regret about having done so because Obama's presidency was made as a result of what we did." And a former Reid staffer, looking back on the Obama years, told Vox, "I think the biggest lesson is never trust Republicans."

If Senate Democrats go through the process known as reconciliation, they don't need 60 votes and can avoid the filibuster. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, for example, was passed by the Senate's Democratic majority and signed into law by President Joe Biden despite McConnell's adamant opposition to it. But most bills Senate Democrats take up are vulnerable to the filibuster."

Speaking to Vox, Reid wouldn't say exactly when or how Schumer should blow up the filibuster — that's up to Schumer, Reid said. But Schumer expressed his frustration with McConnell when Vox reached out to him for comment.

Schumer told Vox, "What we've seen is that Republicans — McConnell, at least — become far more intransigent, far less willing to put things on the floor, far less willing to debate them. We have to be aware that the Republican Party of today is not the Republican Party of 20 years or 15 years ago."


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