While Schumer leads the party with ruthless reporting discipline and a focus on lockstep party unity, Reid favored total political combat. At times, Reid fought members of his own party, but he enjoyed partisan bombing.
Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and Reid once took to the Senate floor together in 2015 to dispute the tone of a Mediafrolic story about their relationship that hit rock bottom. But recalling Reid on Tuesday, McConnell put it this way: “When Harry retired from the Senate, we both celebrated the fact that our many differences never really got personal.”
“The nature of Harry’s and my jobs has brought us into frequent and sometimes intense conflicts over politics and policy. But I’ve never doubted that Harry always did what he sincerely and deeply felt was right for Nevada and our country,” McConnell said.
Yet their battles set the stage for today’s tenuous balance of power in a Schumer-led 50-50 Senate, with many Democrats now openly warning that the supermajority’s days are numbered given the difficulty of mustering 60 votes for their priorities. party, such as electoral reform. Those dominoes began to fall after Reid invoked the so-called nuclear option in 2013, eliminating the filibuster on most nominations. It was one of the most sweeping decisions made in the Senate this century — and Schumer was behind Reid.
Reid felt he had to do it to overcome McConnell’s impediment to then-President Barack Obama’s nominees. He also believed that the Senate supremacy demand was at the end of its life. McConnell repeatedly warned that it would harm the institution, and in the following years, the Kentuckian twice changed its filibuster rules to further facilitate confirmations for a GOP president.
But Reid had the votes to make the most sweeping change, by margins Schumer can only dream of in today’s highly contested Senate. In 2013, Manchin’s opposition, along with two other senators, did not matter in a chamber where Reid had 55 votes and needed only a simple majority to change the rules.
And while Schumer worked on the political side during Reid’s tenure as Democratic leader, Democrats in the Senate built up a whopping 60 seats in 2009, allowing Democrats to get through much of the generational health care reform without even the clunkiness. and restrictive budget having to use reconciliation process. Working closely with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrats’ mass majorities subsequently eased the otherwise difficult conditions at the start of Obama’s presidency.
At this point, Schumer is left with 50 seats — a serious impediment to what can be done about both Biden’s agenda and the Senate structure in its entirety.
In his battles with Republicans, such as the 2013 shutdown of Obamacare, Reid Schumer demonstrated that Democrats couldn’t give in to big partisan clashes. It was a lesson Schumer learned this year in battles with Republicans over the debt cap and McConnell’s initial refusal to host the 50-50 Senate without concessions. While Schumer faces the longest-lasting 50-50 Senate ever and the debilitating pandemic, Reid faced averting fiscal disaster during the Great Recession and a tough GOP strategy to completely thwart Obama’s agenda.
Schumer remembered Reid, calling him “my leader, my mentor, one of my dearest friends.” The two have continued to talk regularly since Reid left office.
Reid and Schumer’s politics shifted side by side and within an increasingly left-leaning Democratic Party. Once viewed with deep suspicion by liberals, Schumer has largely shed his reputation as a Wall Street-friendly Democrat. During his last term, Reid kicked his old conservative bonafides to the curb. Reid’s majority was cluttered with moderates from red states; Schumer’s Arizona and Georgia senators reflect the party’s new direction.
And Reid became a champion of filibuster reform, predicting that the legislative filibuster was on the decline in recent months. Schumer is also now openly talking about rule reform, but to get there he must convince Manchin to jump with him – something Reid never achieved.
The two Democratic leaders dealt with Manchin in completely different ways. When Reid left the Senate in 2016, Manchin openly expressed his frustration at the combative Nevada Democrat, who criticized him for criticizing the election of former President Donald Trump. Today, Manchin is much more comfortable with Schumer’s easygoing atmosphere than with Reid’s dogged leadership tactics. Nevertheless, every few days, Democrats wonder if more pressure is needed on Manchin.
When he decided to retire in 2015 after a painful sports injury, Reid quickly sprang into action to cement his legacy. He backed Schumer as his successor and promptly backed Catherine Cortez Masto to succeed him in Nevada. His political machine saw her win both the primaries and the general election; the battlefield state has become one of the Democrats’ brightest spots over the past decade.
It’s all part of Reid’s remarkably effective track record as party leader, which nevertheless annoyed some of his colleagues. Six Senate Democrats voted against him in his last leadership election after the Democrats lost the Senate in 2014, a sign of how polarizing he was within the Democratic Party.
But even during that period of discontent, Democrats credited Reid for having the best interests of the party in mind, as he received relentless heat from Republicans for not allowing more amendments.
“If mistakes were made, they were mistakes that came from Harry Reid who meant well. And in doing so, he was trying to protect members from difficult political votes,” former Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said in an interview after the election. elections of 2014.
Schumer, on the other hand, often preaches party unity as a force and pays close attention to his members, sometimes summoning them when he reads an eyebrow-raising quote in the paper. Reid knew early on that the two close friends took a different approach to leadership.
“He will be a good leader. He won’t be like me, we’re different,” Reid predicted in a 2016 interview. “Two different personalities. He’s a press guy, I’m not.”
Where Schumer is methodical, Reid was candid, firing off fiery quotes in hallway interviews, press conferences and on the Senate floor. He rarely dodged questions. In what was expected to be a boring press conference in 2014, he casually explained that he would not be putting Obama’s quick trade bill to a vote. He showered Mitt Romney with dubious attacks on the Senate floor in 2012.
And Reid had no remorse for his tactics a few years later. He explained the entire Romney episode in blunt black and white: “Romney didn’t win, did he?”
His frustrations that the Democrats had failed to stop Trump in a similar way disturbed Reid greatly. When he left office, he denounced Trump as a “sexual predator who has lost the popular vote.” But while he was still the leader of the minority, in his final weeks in office Reid also began to largely put off Schumer.
As Reid prepared to retire in December 2016, Schumer immediately faced a tough fight. Many Democrats wanted to protect miners’ benefits and even talked about voting against government funding to make their point. In the end, Schumer helped the Senate Democrats bring their issue to the press, but did not force a shutdown fight. Throughout the drama, Reid mostly left it to his successor.
And for the first time, Democrats wondered: What would Harry Reid have done?