Harry Reid's legacy hangs in the balance as Congress moves into the last stages of the health care reform debate.
Those close to the Nevada Democrat insist that he is uniquely suited for the task. A veteran of nearly four terms in the Senate, he is at his best, aides say, while "herding cattle" or keeping "the trains moving on time." His ability to hammer a legislative package through the Senate and into law often infuriates the progressive base that weeps for tougher, more principled, leadership. But it also endears him to those inside the Democratic caucus who appreciate the practitioner approach.
"They love him," said one high-ranking staffer, who has worked directly with Reid on reform. "He has a grip on them that is unbelievable. But this is a big moment for him. He has to hold the left and center. And then he was to worry about [Sen.] Olympia Snowe (R-ME). There is a lot at play."--emphasis mine.
So the whole Democratic Caucus loves Reid and he "has a grip on them?" Nice to know. Now how does that relate to actually doing his job?
Well, apparently, because he's "incredibly deferential" to his committee chairs he has so botched the job of herding those cats that Jay Rockefeller and Schumer are going to blow a gasket if he keeps pandering to the outlying conservadems and to Snowe. It is Reid's hands off approach to the Baucus bill and Baucus's incredible mishandling of it that has produced a bad bill that he now has to merge. It is also Reid's insistence that he can handle Lieberman that has put him in the position of needing Lieberman's vote and not being sure he will get it.
But, according to Rothenberg, he "doesn't have the luxury" of actually standing up for a good policy that he supposedly prefers because he really needs those "60 votes." The sixty vote story has been demonstrated over and over again to be absolute nonsense. Reid only needs to fight for 60 votes if he *isn't* beloved and *doesn't* have a hold on his caucus that is unbeatable and historic. In other words, Reid only needs to be such a weakling and be unable to act on his conscience ("his heart is with the left") precisely because none of that talk about how strong and in control and thoughtful and loved he is is, in fact, true. If a guy can't get his own 60 Democratic Senators to vote for cloture he simply *isn't a good majority leader.* There, I've said it. Why is that so hard for the Rothenbergs to admit?