The Peril of Being Majority Leader

It’s not easy to be a Democratic leader in Congress. The things you have to do to push the Democrats’ left-wing agenda are not likely to be popular at home, unless your home is a safe urban district. Tom Daschle and Tom Foley are examples of Democratic politicians whose leadership positions forced them into a posture that proved too liberal for their actual constituencies.
Harry Reid may be next on that list. He is in deep trouble in Nevada, the main question being whether the Republicans have a credible candidate. Today the National Republican Senatorial Committee pointed out that Reid put out two very different statements on Max Baucus’ health care proposal. Here is the one that Reid gave to the national media:

I appreciate Chairman Baucus’ hard work over the past several months. His proposal is another important piece to the puzzle and brings us a step closer to having a comprehensive health insurance reform bill on the Senate floor. There will be a healthy and vigorous debate in the Finance Committee as Senators work to strengthen this proposal. I look forward to working with Chairman Baucus and Senator Dodd as well as the White House in the coming weeks to forge a final Senate bill that lowers costs, improves quality, preserves choice and creates competition.

Sounds pretty positive. But that’s not what Reid told his constituents in this statement to the home-town press:

While this draft bill is a good starting point, it needs improvement before it will work for Nevada. During this time of economic crisis, our state cannot afford to shoulder the second highest increase in Medicaid funding. I spoke to the Chair of the Finance Committee and he assured me that this bill will be improved for Nevada before he takes it to the committee for final mark-up next week. Let me be very clear, I will not bring a health insurance reform bill to the Senate floor that is not good for Nevada.

There was a time when a politician could get away with this kind of double-dealing. I grew up in South Dakota when George McGovern was one of our Senators, and a large majority of South Dakota voters had no idea that he was a liberal. But that sort of trick is hard to pull off nowadays.

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