ChrisWeigant.com

Reid's Smallball Paying Off?

[ Posted Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010 – 17:02 PST ]

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid just pulled off somewhat of a coup, in getting five Republicans to vote for a Democratic bill. And he may get two related bills passed in the next few days. This is news for two reasons. One, the Senate hasn't been doing much of anything for the past six months; and two, it's the first "bipartisanship" in recent memory.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking: "Chris, it is way too early for baseball metaphors!" You are correct. It is. But "smallball" is the only metaphor which sprang to mind, even in advance of spring training. There's probably a hockey term I should have used, but I don't watch hockey much, so there you are.

When Harry Reid announced last week that he was torpedoing a bipartisan jobs bill, a lot of people were left scratching their heads. Why would Reid not want a bill that could have gotten (reportedly, I make no claim this figure is accurate) 70 or even 80 votes in the Senate? The stated reason was the bipartisan bill was really "tripartisan" -- so heavily laden with pork from lobbyists that they would have had to be acknowledged as a third party in the negotiations. Both Republicans and Democrats were screaming at Harry when he tossed out their $85 billion bill in favor of a stripped-down $15 billion targeted bill. The media even got on board, by labeling Harry's new bill "favored by Senate liberals," when that really wasn't the case.

I personally reserved judgment, and waited to see what actually happened. Yesterday, Harry's bill got 62 votes, including five Republican votes. The brave leader of this pack of Republican aisle-jumpers was none other than Senator Scott Brown from Massachusetts, who campaigned on being number "41" as in the definitive vote to filibuster Democrats. Instead, he was the effective 60th vote for the Democrats, during his first important vote.

Reid is going to follow this up with a bill to extend unemployment insurance payments, which is a critical bill because it has a deadline of the end of the month (if not passed, the payments stop). He is reportedly going to split this into two bills, one which extends the deadline 30 days, and a bigger bill with some unfinished business from last year, mostly extending tax breaks which Republicans favor. He's negotiating what will be in these with Republican leaders, which is interesting because it could signify both bills will pass fairly easily.

In other words, Reid's risky strategy of playing smallball seems to be working. Smallball, for those of you unaware of baseball strategy, is a single word (as far as I'm concerned... hmmph) defined as: "trying for singles, rather than swinging for the fences to get homeruns." You patiently manufacture runs by singles, bunts, stealing bases, and other minor tactics. Whatever it takes, in other words, to get a runner around the bases and across the plate... even if it isn't all that crowd-pleasing.

This may be exactly what Reid -- and his party -- need right now. Because the focus has been almost exclusively on the massive health reform bill in the Senate for the past nine or ten months, not much else has gotten done. And since progress on the health bill was of an all-or-nothing nature, it was glacially slow.

Meaning there are some things worth doing which could be handled in smaller, more targeted legislation now. And perhaps Reid is trying this new strategy out on the jobs bills this week. So far, it's been pretty successful, but it's still too soon to really tell.

President Obama himself may have been the impetus for Reid's decision to go small for a while. Obama repeatedly, in his first State Of The Union address to Congress, praised the House of Representatives for its action on bills, while castigating the Senate for not getting as much done. A recent list from Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership shows 290 bills the House has already passed which are waiting for Senate action. The message was clear, from two sides of the legislative triangle: it's not the White House's fault things aren't getting done, and it's not the House's fault either -- it's the Senate where good Democratic ideas go to die.

Reid needs some victories, in other words. While it's true that he has the most difficult job of the three (due to the 60-vote supermajority Republicans demand on virtually everything these days), it's also true that Reid is not just at risk of losing Democratic senators this November, he is also in danger of losing his own job. The only way to improve his image, and that of Democrats in general, is to get some things done, and get some much-needed good press.

By playing smallball, Reid is apparently gambling that he can get more legislation actually passed, that he can succeed in peeling off Republican votes while doing so, and as an added benefit can get good press for doing so.

Now, this is merely one week and one bundle of legislation. Reid could change course at any time. But so far, I have to say, Reid appears to be moving runners around the bases. You can quibble with his tactics, or grumble that each individual bill didn't contain everything you wanted it to. But nothing breeds success like success, so let's see if Reid can keep this rally going.

One thing is for sure, it is the most positive thing I've seen happening in the Senate in a long time. And while, during that long period, I have admittedly taken plenty of potshots at Reid for his leadership skills, I have to give the man credit where credit is due. And getting five Republican senators to vote for anything these days -- especially in an election year -- deserves a little credit. Let's just hope Reid can build on this success in the weeks ahead.

 

-- Chris Weigant

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

14 Comments on “Reid's Smallball Paying Off?”

  1. [1] 
    Osborne Ink wrote:

    Extending the metaphor: singles make the other team work harder with more opportunities for error.

  2. [2] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Osborne -

    I must admit, I am tempted here to make a remark about the Oakland A's...

    ...but I will refrain from doing so. It is awfully early, after all...

    :-)

    -CW

  3. [3] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Doesn't anyone have an appropriate hockey metaphor?

    Liz?

    -CW

  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:

    Democrats should take the "smallball" lesson and apply it to CrapCare.

    You get better results if you quit trying to swing for the fence..

    Michale.....

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Chris,

    If there's a hockey metaphor for this, I'm sure I don't know what it is.

    Besides, it's NEVER too early for a baseball metaphor ... if you know what I mean, and I'm sure that you do!

  6. [6] 
    Kevin wrote:

    Chris,

    There is a hockey term, the "neutral zone trap", for teams that play for one goal victories and avoid shootouts with more freewheeling, high scoring squads. I'm miffed you seem to have forgotten you have more than one Canadian fan.

  7. [7] 
    Michale wrote:

    There is a hockey term, the "neutral zone trap",

    Sounds like the "nuclear option".. :D

    Iddn't it simple amazing how much Democrats **HATED** reconciliation when it was used by Republicans??

    http://www.breitbart.tv/obama-dems-in-2005-51-vote-nuclear-option-is-arrogant-power-grab-against-the-founders-intent/

    Democrats couldn't say enough about how "evil" and "insidious" and "arrogant" that reconciliation was.

    Now, it's their flavor of the month... :D

    Michale.....

  8. [8] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Kevin -

    You are entitled to one "You hoser!" (in Bob and Doug MacKenzie voice) at my expense. Mea culpa, eh?

    :-)

    Michale -

    Strange how the Republicans were praising reconciliation to the skies at the same time, hmmm? The wheel turns, the parties change, but the game remains the same.

    :-)

    -CW

  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    CW,

    That's my point..

    Democrats are no different than Republicans.

    That's always been my point.. :D

    Michale......

  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    Here's the gist of reconciliation..

    http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/02/24/michael-d-tanner-reconciliation-obama-health-care-democrats-senate-house/

    As is clear to the totally politically agnostic, Democrats are really stepping on their wee-wees this time around..

    Michale.....

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Kevin,

    Speaking of hockey ... are you seeing what I'm seeing!!!

  12. [12] 
    Moderate wrote:

    Note sure it was much of a coup. Brown's a moderate Republican, and jobs was always likely to be more of a bipartisan issue than healthcare. As for being "41", wasn't that primarily in relation to healthcare reform and excessive spending?

    Besides, for me this is a perfect example of sound Republican plans for November.

    Pretty hard to make the "Party of No" tag stick when you get Republicans voting on your bills. Had there been too many Republican votes it would have seemed like a climb-down and almost a tacit admission that their earlier votes were obstructionism and they'd been caught at it. This way they shake off the tag.

    Democrats should take the "smallball" lesson and apply it to CrapCare.

    Actually if there were a lesson from this it's not just that, but also that jobs was probably the right place to start. Had the focus been on unemployment last year there's a good chance Mass would've stayed blue. And there might have been sufficient political capital to push through healthcare reform more easily.

    I'm glad they didn't, of course, but I'm just saying it wasn't smart tactics.

    Strange how the Republicans were praising reconciliation to the skies at the same time, hmmm? The wheel turns, the parties change, but the game remains the same.

    It's not strange at all. It's all part of "the game" as you well know ;-)

    Reconciliation exists for a reason. It doesn't matter who uses it, it's a legitimate way to pass legislation under the US Constitution.

    What is noteworthy, however, is all the talk of "bipartisanship" when the reconciliation process would be tantamount to an admission that there was never really any genuine intent to pass a truly bipartisan bill, but to push through their bill however they could. Nothing wrong with that, of course, just be straight.

    If the Democrats had simply said "Screw bipartisanship, we're passing what we think is best, and we've been given a mandate by the American people to do just that" then I think people would have a lot more respect for them.

    This approach, of pushing "bipartisanship" on one front and reconciliation on the other is what seems to be causing the issue for some people. Maybe they think it smells fishy?

  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    What is noteworthy, however, is all the talk of "bipartisanship" when the reconciliation process would be tantamount to an admission that there was never really any genuine intent to pass a truly bipartisan bill, but to push through their bill however they could. Nothing wrong with that, of course, just be straight.

    That's been my take on this Kabuki Theater tonight.

    Obama can't say, "We want a bi-partisan approach" and then turn around and ram his own CrapCare plan thru using parliamentary maneuvering. Regardless of how "legal" or ethical said maneuvering is.

    When one gets down to it, President Obama lied when he said he was going to do this latest iteration of CrapCare in a bi-partisanship fashion..

    Hmmmmmm

    Wasn't there a huge outcry from the Left over Bush's alleged lying?? I could have sworn their was...

    I guess it's not the lies that bother the Left. It's who tells them... :D

    Michale.....

  14. [14] 
    Michale wrote:

    Actually if there were a lesson from this it's not just that, but also that jobs was probably the right place to start. Had the focus been on unemployment last year there's a good chance Mass would've stayed blue. And there might have been sufficient political capital to push through healthcare reform more easily.

    The problem for Democrats was that they believed their own press releases.

    They thought they had the mandate to do whatever they wanted and the sheeple would follow with adoration in their eyes..

    "Oh how the mighty have fallen"
    -Guinan, STAR TREK The Next Generation

    Michale.....

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