Reid’s Short Memory on the Filibuster

by Eliana Johnson

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday blasted Republican senators for their refusal to support bringing former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel’s nomination to the floor for an up or down vote. Amidst references to the unprecedented nature of the Republicans’ obstructionist efforts, Reid failed to mention his own campaign to stall a Bush-era nominee on strikingly similar grounds. 

“Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, it gets worse,” Reid lamented on the Senate floor. “I’m going to call Chuck Hagel when I finish here and say, ‘I’m sorry, sorry this has happened. I’m sorry for the president, I’m sorry for the country, and I’m sorry for you.’”

The momentum for a filibuster picked up steam when senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham indicated they would note vote to end debate and allow a vote on the nomination until the White House provided more information on the Benghazi attack. “Chuck Hagel had nothing to do with the attack in Benghazi,” Reid argued.

Former Idaho governor Dirk Kempthorne didn’t have anything to do with the Bush administration’s position on public land sales in Southern Nevada, either. Nonetheless, Reid in 2006 supported a filibuster of Kempthorne’s nomination as secretary of the interior until the administration agreed to redirect funds from an enormously profitable Nevada land management fund, set to go to the Treasury Department, to Reid’s home state of Nevada. 

“I said before that I couldn’t support Governor Kempthorne’s nomination unless we could come to an agreement about key public land issues,” Reid, who was the Senate minority leader at the time, said in a statement. When the Bush administration acceded to Reid’s demands, he backed off and helped clear the way for the nomination, which was approved unanimously. 

Reid has repeatedly pointed to the historical nature of the GOP’s alleged obstruction of the Hagel nomination. As it turns out, Kempthorne was the last cabinet nominee to face a filibuster . . . thanks in part to Reid himself.