The weeks-long slog toward the the very brink of economic disaster — a slog that may still result in some very serious economic consequences — was an example of Congress functioning exactly as it should, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says. So quit your whinin’.
Speaking on the Senate floor the morning after a deal was finally reached to raise the debt ceiling and pay bills Congress had already wracked up, Reid pushed back against “all kinds of pundits and commentators who
talk about how the system is broken.”
“Congress works the way that it should,” Reid said, acknowledging that it’s not “always a
very pleasant, happy place.”
Reid’s evidence? No one got beaten with a cane during the debt crisis and the union is still whole.
Reid called up some of the Senate’s most contentious moments in his speech, including the 1856 beating that Sen. Charles Sumner (R-MA) took on the floor, and the fight for Civil Rights.
“Historic battles have taken place in our country where they talked, where they were much more difficult than what we have just gone through,” Reid noted. “What we have gone through was extremely difficult but there was never any consideration the republic would fall.”
So that’s a plus.
It’s worth noting at this point that some of the Senate’s harshest critics recently have been Senators themselves. In George Packer’s epic New Yorker article about the Senate published last year, veteran (and now former) Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) explained the decline of the world’s greatest deliberative body with this simple anecdote:
When I asked Chris Dodd how well he knew, for example, [Sen.] Jim DeMint [R-SC], Dodd said, “Not at all. Whereas Jesse Helms and I knew each other pretty well.” He repeated something that Jon Kyl, the Republican whip, from Arizona, had recently said to him: “There’s no trust.” Dodd, whose father was a senator, went on, “That’s really all there is—this place really operates on that. I don’t think anyone would argue with that conclusion. And if that’s missing … “
Nevertheless, with default (barely) staved off thanks to a deal that literally no one likes, Reid’s not ready to give up on the Senate just yet. Reid noted how poorly the deal has gone down with both progressives and conservatives and said that’s just what compromise looks like.
“Do I wish it weren’t as difficult as it has been the last few months?” he asked in his speech. “I wish it were much better than that.”
“But that’s where we are,” he said.
He then set about defending the process and calling on the members from both sides to support the deal. Thanks to the Senate, he said, “reasonable Republicans and Democrats alike understood in this case without compromise our country faced a very, very difficult situation.”
“After weeks of facing off against each other, this partisan divide we have here in the Senate, we were finally able to break through with an agreement,” he said. “An agreement that is typical for agreements that are difficult.”
“We still have a lot of problems,” Reid said, “but this is a great step forward.”
Watch the whole eight-minute speech: