Some will no doubt applaud him for his actions, and wish McConnell and Boehner had taken similar ones with the final deal. But I think it’s important to note this story, since we hear no end of stories about how terribly unreasonable and obstructionist Republicans are. Rep. John Boehner even once said the F-word! Of course, that came after Reasonable Reid called him a “dictator” in public, but no matter.
When negotiations between Sen. Harry Reid and McConnell hit a wall, McConnell had Sen. Joe Biden step in to, God knows, do whatever it is Joe Biden does. Point being, Reid didn’t get it done.
Reid, the majority leader, had been negotiating and trading ideas with McConnell, his minority counterpart, since Friday evening. But the soft-spoken Nevada Democrat drew a bold line in the sand midday Sunday: He had no more counteroffers to give.
Suddenly and irreversibly, the talks veered into a new direction. Within minutes, the Kentucky Republican was dialing up Vice President Joe Biden, elevating his old colleague to the Democrats’ new negotiator-in-chief. It was the fateful decision that put the Senate and White House on the pathway to the deal eventually approved by the Senate and the House, ending weeks of drama over the fiscal cliff. It also left Reid standing on the sideline stewing.
“We know that when McConnell has hit a wall with Reid, he calls Joe Biden to get some more candy,” said a senior Senate Democratic aide, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the vice president.
It was a good-cop, bad-cop routine that Reid wanted no part of. “We thought it was unnecessary,” the aide said of Biden’s involvement. “We had a lot of leverage.”
There were now less than 36 hours until the deadline. “The clock was ticking and we were not moving.”
They weren’t moving because Democrats had decided that they had gone as far as they could. Reid and Obama had disagreed privately about what their next offer should be. At one point, Reid was unhappy with an idea that Senate aides said came from Obama — to put the change in Social Security benefits back on the table in exchange for a delay in spending cuts and a rise in the debt limit.
Aides said Reid actually tore up the proposal and threw it into the blazing fire in his ornate green marble fireplace. The paper burned. Reid said he didn’t want evidence that the idea had ever been considered.
Administration officials, for their part, deny that Obama ever considered including the Social Security change in the deal.
Like a less charismatic Monty Burns, he ripped asunder the pages of his own president’s proposal, long withered talons working with the unexpected swiftness of an aged but still fierce turkey vulture, tearing into another carrion counter offer in the warm glow of his ornate, green marble fireplace. He’s a Disney villain, for God’s sake, yet somehow Mitt Romney was the greatest monster of our time.
In other news, the party that hasn’t passed a budget in three years, throwing us hurtling toward cliff after cliff as they blow through every debt-celing deal we pass, is going to run agains the “chaos” they’ve caused in 2014.