Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Still Can't Count Him Out

By now, everyone should know the #1 rule of Nevada politics. And at this point, it's pretty much become the #1 rule on Capitol Hill. He's back, and he's not going down any time soon.

After beating the odds as handily as he did, Sen. Harry Reid really had no reason to suspect he wouldn’t easily be reelected as majority leader.

In fact, nothing changed about the Democratic Senate leadership. On Wednesday morning, the new crop of Democratic senators who will serve in the 113th Congress voted Reid, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer and Patty Murray to another term at the top.

Reid is now set to serve as majority leader longer than powerhouse leaders Lyndon Johnson and Robert Byrd — but not quite as long as Mike Mansfield, the senator from Montana who ran the Senate for the 16 years after Johnson left for the White House.

Reid downplayed his own history-making moment, however, in favor of singing the praises of Patty Murray, the senator who steered the Democrats’ 2012 campaign efforts for the Senate.

“We ran a message, led by Senator Murray, from Montana to Massachusetts,” Reid said, adding that at the caucus elections, he had presented her with “40 red roses, representing her 20 years in the senate plus the 20 women that are now in the United States Senate.”

Murray pulled off something that a year ago not even Reid was predicting. Democrats were expected to lose seats in the 2012 election, potentially enough that they would lose the majority in the Senate. Instead, they gained seats. Democrats now have a 55-seat majority in the Senate.

And just this morning, Reid found out that he will indeed have 55 votes in the Senate. After days of speculation as to what he'd do upon arriving in Washington, Maine's incoming Independent Senator-elect will be caucusing with the Democrats.

[Angus] King said he spoke at length with the Senate's two current independents -- Sens. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and and Bernie Sanders of Vermont -- as well with former Maine Sen. George Mitchell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

"I came away from these conversations reassured that my independence would be respected and that no party-line commitment would be required or expected," King told reporters at a Capitol news conference. "And so I have decided to affiliate myself with the Democratic caucus because doing so will allow me to take independent positions on issues as they arise and, at the same time, will allow me to be an effective representative of the people of Maine."

King said it became clear to him, after researching the Senate process and procedures, that he would have been largely excluded in the committee process if he chose to "go it alone."

Reid, who met with or spoke to King several times before Wednesday's announcement, welcomed the Democratic caucus's latest addition.

"Senator-elect King represents the best qualities of a United States senator," Reid said. "No. 1 he is independent. No. 2 he is a man of principle, always has been. I welcome him to the caucus where we have a strong tradition of independence."

We've said it many times before. And we'll probably have to keep reminding everyone else of this cardinal rule of politics. Never, ever, ever count Harry Reid out.

Against all odds, he was reelected here in Nevada in 2010. And against all odds, he increased his Senate Democratic majority in 2012. And while there will be many hurdles facing Reid in 2013 and 2014, it would be awfully foolish to write his political obituary now. Remember how foolish that was in 2010.

As "The Fiscal Cliff" quickly approaches, Congressional Republicans keep digging in their heels in protecting "billionaire bailouts". However, this may not last too long. Once and for all, some Republicans are breaking away from "Tea Party, Inc." in turning away Grocer Norquist and his "tax pledge". It's now a question as to how many of them will ultimately agree to sanity.

But at this point, don't count Harry Reid out...

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