Jim Gibbons got noticed by the New York Times

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic floor leader, last week was called “clueless” in his management of the Senate by Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a Republican (the text of the exchange can be found on the N&R’s Newsview blog). And that is not the only hit Reid has taken lately for his handling of Senate business.

Conservative columnist Robert Novak this week wrote that the U.S. Senate under Democrat Harry Reid’s direction has become “feckless.” (Dictionary.com defines feckless as “1. ineffective; incompetent; futile … 2. having no sense of responsibility; indifferent; lazy.") Novak described Reid as outmaneuvered by Republicans and unable to count on Democrats.

“Reid’s conduct is defended with the argument that he is hampered by a one-vote majority and will be less restricted once this year’s elections add to the number of Democrats on hand,” Novak wrote. “But LBJ operated with a one-vote margin during the four years that made his reputation as … ‘master of the Senate.’ Johnson relied on maneuver and negotiation.”

Reid, by contrast, relies on parliamentary tricks, Novak said, and a larger post-election majority will not likely reverse the senate’s decline under Reid.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the political spectrum, Rolling Stone contributing editor Tim Dickinson says much the same thing about Reid.

In an article illustrated by a painting of Reid leaping into Hillary Clinton’s arms to escape a tiny elephant down at floorboard level, Dickinson says Reid manipulates senate rules to help Republicans (honoring the hold placed on a breast cancer measure by Republican Tom Coburn while ignoring a hold placed on a warrantless wiretap bill by Democrat Chris Dodd) and the wealthy (surrendering to the GOP on drug prices, home mortgage renegotiations, tax breaks for automakers and airlines and home builders and hedge funds).

In one of the most revealing portions of the articles, Dickinson quotes Reid as being disdainful of the economic populism that once defined the Democratic Party. When Dickinson asked Reid why he had not used the party’s majority to pass a House-approved repeal of a hedge fund loophole, Reid “tells me something I never thought I would hear from a Democrat: that it would be wrong to single out the nation’s wealthiest investors simply because they are bilking the treasury out of billions.”

“The only difference between hedge-fund operators and other folks similarly situated,” Reid told Dickinson, “is that they make more money.”

Dickinson noted that there is at least one other difference—the big boys “similarly situated” help pay for the operations of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. According to disclosure records, seven of the 10 richest hedge-fund managers contributed an average of $24,400 to the DSCC last year.

House leaders expressed exasperation over the Senate’s performance. Ways and Means chair Charles Rangel says he doesn’t understand why Senate Democrats don’t face down Republicans and force them to filibuster against popular measures like lower drug prices for Medicare patients.

Reid told Dickinson that there is little he can do to stop the Republicans without a veto-proof Democratic membership. “I can’t do anything unless I get 60 votes,” Reid said.

However, except in unusual landslide years like 1932 and 1964, party majorities have usually been less than veto proof margins.

Quote of the week
“Gov. Jim Gibbons of Nevada most certainly had textual relations with that woman.” – New York Times, June 12.