Harry Reid and the Crumbling Democratic Caucus
February 2, 2013 - 4:02 am
Iowa is about to have an open Senate seat for the first time in twenty-nine years. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) decided to bolt from the U.S. Senate, as did Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). However, why are safe Democrats retiring from the U.S. Senate? Rockefeller and Harkin, for example, could’ve been there for life. Is it because Sen. Harry Reid is making things so miserable that stalwarts of the left, like Harkin, are crying “uncle”? The Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin thinks so, and said to watch for three more retirements as 2014 draws nearer.
Keep an eye on Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and even Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
Then, of course, John Kerry has decamped for Foggy Bottom and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) may find it hard to finish his term. These last two departures mean the Democrats’ margin gets much tighter and the opportunity to ram through progressive legislation diminishes even further.
Pols who come to Washington to “make a difference” — which for liberals means passing legislation — must find Reid’s Senate deadly dull. Rarely do votes get taken. There hasn’t been a budget in over three years. Reid is likely either to whittle down antigun legislation to the bare bones or block it entirely. The president looks anxious to scuttle immigration reform before it starts. In short, Democratic senators do very little. (How they get reelected doing so little is beyond me.)At least Republicans see their mission as playing defense 24/7. Stay alert. Don’t let more damage be done. Think how to minimize the debt. It’s not grand, but it is challenging and invigorating in a way. Democrats, on the other hand, have to be content to do nothing.
So it is a wonder more Democrats don’t leave. This year Virginia has a gubernatorial race that Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) could win in a heartbeat. In 2014 gubernatorial races abound. Democrats will be term-limited out in Massachusetts, Arkansas and Maryland. There will be competitive races against potentially vulnerable GOP incumbents in states such as Florida, Maine and Pennsylvania.
However, while Sen. Mark Warner would handily win the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial race, he has said he’s not interested in another terms as governor. As for Dick Durbin, he said back in 2012 that he may retire in “two years,” which leaves room for Republican Congressman Aaron Schock to possibly mount a run for the seat. Upon the announcement that Sen. Jim DeMint was leaving, WaPo’s Chris Cillizza noted that Carl Levin will be 80 in 2014, and “ended September with less than $300,000 in the bank. Of course, Levin was the subject of retirement rumors in 2008, ignored them and cruised to victory.” However, Cillizza added that the state’s party dynamics guarantee that Michigan will remain in Democratic hands.
However, this was a slow-moving snowball. When Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) retired citing the partisan gridlock, most shrugged it off. Then, Olympia Snowe (R-ME) decided to jump ship citing similar reasons. On a side note, it’s funny how moderates complain about partisanship, but then think leaving will solve the issue. However, this was during the time when unserious budget proposals were brought before the Senate floor, with Harry Reid blocking every Republican pro-economic bill that came his way.
Liberals need to do something to make themselves feel like they’re making a difference. However, with Reid clogging the spotlight all the time, it’s no wonder why the older guard is deciding to collect their congressional pension, and make a B line for the door.