In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review August 7, 2006 / 13 Menachem-Av, 5766

The Obstructionist: Sen. Harry Reid is doing his best to produce a ‘do-nothing Congress’

By John H. Fund

Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is convinced his path to becoming majority leader lies in portraying Republicans as running a "do nothing" Congress. So last week he made sure his GOP colleagues couldn't do anything.

He and all but four other Democrats blocked Senate passage of a legislative package that would have raised the minimum wage, cut the death tax and extended popular tax breaks. A majority of the Senate was on record in favor of all three elements of the legislation, but Mr. Reid pressured enough Democrats to block GOP leaders from getting the 60 votes they needed to proceed to a vote.

Mr. Reid isn't the only Democratic leader who has decided to "just say no" to reasonable compromises. Last week, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson made a stirring appeal for reform of entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. He noted that at current rates of growth the programs will be unsustainable and will hurt both the recipients and the overall economy. He pledged his approach would be bipartisan because "when there is a big problem that needs fixing, you should run toward it, rather than away from it."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi responded by trying to panic her colleagues into retreating. She sent an email accusing Mr. Paulson of promoting a scheme for "privatizing" Social Security. That led the Washington Post, no friend of conservatives, to describe Ms. Pelosi's message this way: "Forget bipartisanship, forget problem-solving." The Post added, "We hope other Democrats will be less cynical."

In Washington's current toxically partisan atmosphere that isn't likely. Republicans engaged in their own form of cynicism this summer by showcasing debates on Constitutional amendments against flag-burning and gay marriage. In addition, even some GOP senators question the wisdom of Majority Leader Bill Frist bundling three separate items into a "trifecta" bill to try to win Senate passage. Still, it is the Democrats — and especially Senator Reid — who have decided that it's obstructionism that will pay off for them this November.

There's no guarantee that it will. It certainly didn't in 2002 and 2004, when Republicans were able to portray Democratic foot-dragging on creation of a homeland security department and judicial nominations into Senate gains. Just ask Mr. Reid's predecessor, former senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota.

Nor can Democrats credit obstructionism for the last two times they captured control of the Senate: in 1954, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was in his first term as president, and in 1986, during Ronald Reagan's second term. Both times the Democratic Senate leader of the day chose to highlight his party's differences with Republicans but went out of his way to demonstrate an interest in problem solving — in sharp contrast to Mr. Reid.

In 1954, Sen. Lyndon Johnson of Texas, age 46, was the youngest minority leader ever. Eager to demonstrate he was ready to wield power, he decided to cooperate with the Eisenhower administration by working behind-the-scenes to block passage of the Bricker amendment, a measure backed by isolationist Republicans that would have restricted the president's treaty-making authority. Johnson also reached out to moderate Republicans to craft legislative compromises. His biographer Robert Caro concluded, "Johnson's strategy of bipartisanship was vindicated in the November 1954 elections" as Democrats recaptured control of both the Senate and House.

Fast forward to 1986. Minority Leader Robert Byrd was a tough partisan, but he wanted his incumbents to have some accomplishments to run on in the fall elections, and thus he smoothed the path for sweeping tax reform that cut the top marginal tax rate to 28% while closing loopholes. In what reads like a dispatch from another planet now, London's Financial Times summarized the state of Congress on June 6, 1986:

"Congressional leaders yesterday predicted that the US Senate would quickly pass sweeping changes in American tax laws with a rare degree of bipartisan unanimity. Mr. Robert Dole, the Republican majority leader, and Robert Byrd, the Democratic minority leader, both suggested that all 100 Senators might vote in favor of the legislation, on which floor debate opened this week." (In fact, the vote was 74-23, with 41 Republicans and 33 Democrats voting "yes.")

All that good feeling didn't hurt Democrats. In the fall elections, they recaptured control of the Senate and held it until 1994, when voter disgust with the liberal first two years of the Clinton administration resulted in a GOP landslide.

Mr. Clinton learned from that election and afterward enjoyed a great deal of legislative success by working with Republicans. Dick Morris, Mr. Clinton's strategist at the time, says that voters "want sharp contrasts but they also want competence. Every party that wants power has to demonstrate they can get things done."

So far, all that Mr. Reid has shown is his ability to block legislation. His leadership team had to pull out all the stops to block the minimum wage-death tax package, even requesting that Senate Democrats report on which lobbyists were coming into their offices asking for support on the bill. Congressional Quarterly summarized Mr. Reid's approach as "using aggressive tactics to keep Democrats in line" and reported that lobbyists said "Reid had personally called business lobbyists urging them to stop working in support of the hybrid bill." Mr. Reid's office says he spoke with lobbyists only to set the record straight after he heard that Majority Leader Frist was calling them as well.

Mr. Reid was able to block the bill, but only after he forced several senators up for re-election this fall into voting against "sweeteners" that directly benefited their state. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey will have to explain why he voted to kill a bill that would have made college tuition tax-deductible in a state where high taxes are the No. 1 issue. Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington voted "no" even though the bill included valuable timber tax breaks that were important to her constituents. Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, who faces a tough primary challenge from Rep. Ed Case next month, voted against allowing the bill to proceed even though contained a long-sought tax deduction for spouses who join their partners on business trips — an obvious benefit to Hawaiian tourism.

Not all of those provisions represent good public policy, and some Republicans are unhappy with their party's legislative sausage-making, which Senate Finance Committee chairman Charles Grassley calls "lousy and offensive." It was also unseemly to see so many GOP Senators eagerly abandon principle and embrace the job-destroying minimum wage increase.

But in the end, it was Democrats who chose to dynamite the bill even though a clear majority of senators wanted all of its major components. In June, 57 senators, including four Democrats, voted to bring a measure repealing the death tax to the Senate floor. In search of more Democratic votes, Republicans scaled back their proposal so that large estates would still be taxed. They even reduced the loss to the federal Treasury to the same level contained in a death-tax reform bill written by Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. This effort to secure her vote failed.

Mr. Frist says he may bring his "trifecta" bill back for another vote after the August recess. For his part, Mr. Reid wants the tax break extensions that are set to expire attached to another bill and passed separately, even though no legislative vehicle appears available. He demands the Senate vote separately on a minimum wage hike. "We are true believers in the minimum wage," he told reporters.

That may be, but what Mr. Reid seems to truly believe in is the politics of pure obstruction. He is gambling that President Bush is weak enough in the polls that Democrats won't suffer for obstructionist tactics the way they did in 2002 and 2004. What he forgets is that as unpopular as a party in power may be, the party out of power has to command some respect and offer a positive alternative.

Right now, polls show that voters view both parties in the most negative light they ever have. That could mean this fall's election will be a contest to see how many voters stay home. That could work to the advantage of Mr. Reid and his Democrats, but they shouldn't be surprised if their strategy backfires.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor John H. Fund is author, most recently, of "Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy". (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)

Comment on this column by clicking here.


© 2006, John H. Fund