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The virtues of Senate leaders who don't care much about the Senate

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Writing the last post got me thinking a bit about Bill Frist's admirable willingness to trash the traditions of the Senate and pursue the interests of his party. Arlen Specter straying? Strip him of his committee chairmanship. Democrats filibustering too many judicial nominees? Threaten to end the judicial filibuster.

That's hardball. It's not surprising given the importance of these issues, but it is surprising given the rarity with which the game is played like that. But maybe the answer lies in Frist's relatively short tenure: He was barely into his second term when he became Senate majority leader. By contrast, Reid became minority leader in 2005, but has served in Congress since 1982. Similarly, Tom Daschle went to Washington in 1979, and Trent Lott arrived in 1973. These guys had a lot more time to become interested and invested in the workings of the body. Frist had fairly little time to build up an identity as a member of this hallowed institution called Congress, and seemed more interested in gearing up for a presidential run, anyway.

Photo credit: Image used under a CC license from the Wikimedia Commons.

By Ezra Klein  |  November 24, 2009; 12:28 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Comments

That's what is wrong with Reid. He lacks the mettle to play hard and we're all worse off for it.

Posted by: dkinmd | November 24, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Harry Reid has to go after this debacle of a healthcare fight. Durbin too, possibly (as much as I hate to say it). We need a clean sweep, because this party is getting increasingly dysfunctional.

I really think caucus reform needs to be the next thing on our progressive plates. Without it you're not going to get any real movement on jobs (green or otherwise), climate, financial reform, or any other legislative priority. The moderates, like the Republicans, will oppose anything the Administration proposes purely on principle. The Obama wing of this party -- the vast majority of its registered voters -- needs to reassert its leadership.

Posted by: NS12345 | November 24, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

What is frustrating to me is that R's are still trashing precedents in an effort to kill everything -- even bill they vote for.

Meanwhile, we're always supposed to be kind to them.

And, I don't think Frist was that worried about the presidency. He got what he wanted: A huge handout to his family's business (settlement of one of the nation's largest fraud cases in history for pennies on the dollar).

Frist seemed totally willing to burn all bridges to appease Bush, who then handed his family our tax dollars as a thanks.

Asshats, the whole lot.

Posted by: rat-raceparent | November 24, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

"Bill Frist's admirable willingness to trash the traditions of the Senate and pursue the interests of his party."

Though Bob Dole deserves to be recognized for his role, and he was a Senate vet.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | November 24, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

It's all Obama, baby. If Obama was willing to back him, Reid would be happy to get tough. Obama never fights for anything unless he's sure it's a political win.

Posted by: bmull | November 24, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

If that's the case, then that suggests anyone who wants a more aggressive Dem majority should try to angle for Reid to be replaced as majority leader by Al Franken...

Posted by: toiletminded | November 25, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

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