I'm seeing a lot of praise for Barack Obama today, and a lot of praise for Nancy Pelosi. Both well deserved. I'm not hearing nearly enough praise for Harry Reid.
Pelosi did a very good job of using the office that Tip O'Neill more or less created.* Pelosi, however, managed to hold together about 87% of her caucus, not counting the one she lost to the Republican conference a while ago, or the two who resigned (one from scandal, one because he didn't want to wait a bit before getting his campaign for governor fully underway). Harry Reid had to, and did, hold together 100% of the Democratic Senators, including the one that he helped entice into switching to the Democrats earlier in 2009. Pelosi needed to get a vote on a rule, on final passage (twice), and on the one amendment that the Republicans were allowed to offer, on abortion -- the same was basically true on original passage, with the Stupak amendment as the tough one to deal with. Reid had to deal with various procedural motions, all of which required every single Senator to attend whatever the hour despite illness, injury, old age, and Shabbat restrictions. But he also had to deal with amendments on abortion, on Medicare, on taxes, and on drug reimportation, most if not all designed to make it hard for Democrats to hang together. To be fair, Reid didn't need unanimity on most of those votes, but he did need unanimity for moving to the bill despite everyone knowing that numerous tough votes were coming.
And he had to do all that without many of the sticks that Pelosi can command -- Senators don't really care that much about committee assignments or even committee chair positions, and the leadership can't freeze them out of other goodies nearly as easily as can the House leadership. Not to mention that he had to do it while facing an uphill fight for reelection, something that Nancy Pelosi never has had to spend five minutes on.
I don't know how much of it was Harry Reid, and how much was the president, or Rahm Emanuel, or what, but from what's on the record so far I'd have to say that Reid really deserves a much larger share of the huzzahs than he's received to date.
As long as I'm at it, by the way: also very much deserving of credit are, I'd guess, Henry Waxman...wait, I want him in a sentence by himself. OK, continuing on...George Miller, Chris Dodd, Max Baucus, Charley Rangel. Phil Schilero, and Peter Orszag. Members of Ted Kennedy's staff, I suspect, whose names I don't know. That's the people I'm pretty confident deserve a lot of praise. There are others I suspect also did very well, but I know less by reputation or good reporting, so I won't list them...what I can say is that I watched the House Democratic leadership's press conference late last night, and I was impressed that I didn't really know of any weak link among the group (which included the key committee and, I think, subcommittee chairs). A lot of these are old-fashioned workhorses, people who aren't necessarily on MSNBC three times a week (granted, I don't watch enough to know, but I don't recall seeing, say, Rosa DeLauro on there all the time).
I'd love to see a few feature stories on some of these people. Yes, Obama did a great job, and so did Pelosi, but they were not the only ones.
*It's shorthand -- modern Speakership was created by reforms that took place over roughly 1959-1975, and Tip O'Neill was the first one to really figure out and use the reforms to create a powerful office -- and until Pelosi, I think, the only one to really master it.