Is Harry Reid ‘The Dictator’ of the US Senate?

One senior Republican senator, signaling predictions of an end to Washington's dysfunction might have been premature, on Tuesday called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., "the dictator." (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

One senior Republican senator, signaling predictions of an end to Washington’s dysfunction might have been premature, on Tuesday called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., “the dictator.” (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Sen. John McCain is, as we put it in our “100 Most Influential” list, “one of Washington’s last artful dealmakers.” After all, he regularly meets with President Obama and can get a few minutes with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

McCain is seen by many experts as somewhat indispensable. That’s because he’s an old-school dealmaker. And that means Reid will need McCain when it comes time to pass legislation the Arizona Republican covets, like defense and national security measures.

So when McCain calls Reid a “dictator,” it casts major doubts on talk that Washington is ready to get back to business-as-usual — or at least something a bit more functional.

Before the holidays, with the upper chamber poised to approved Washington’s first bipartisan budget plan in four years, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., declared that measure “gives us certainty for 2015 so we can return to a ‘regular order’ of actually knowing where we stand with our cap, holding our hearings and bringing bills to the [Appropriations] Committee.”

Other lawmakers — Democratic and Republican — uttered similar predictions of, you know, legislating to break out on the west side of the Capitol.

Not. So. Fast.

Getting there means moving past the partisan ill will that has stymied so much legislation since Obama took office in 2009 and the Republicans took over the House after the 2010 elections.

Let’s just say this desired spirit of cooperation has yet to take root.

Republicans, as they were last year, are livid anew about Reid’s handling of Republican amendments on most bills. The latest source of their collective ire is a measure to turn back on emergency unemployment benefits, on which no amendments are expected.

Senate Republicans aren’t pleased with the Democratic-crafted bill they will vote on later this week. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said GOP members have some ideas to help it meet their whims — “but he won’t let us have a single amendment.”

McCain repeated that phrase several times. Then he lowered, as he does, the rhetorical boom.

“It’s total dictatorial behavior,” McCain said, telling reporters if they want to know if Reid will relent on his handling of amendments should the unemployment bill fail “you’ll have to go ask the dictator.”

Don’t think the flap is just about the unemployment benefits bill. Remember, the Senate has struggled in recent years to move Pentagon appropriations bills and, just weeks ago, went into the eleventh hour in passing a defense authorization bill.

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett
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