Robert Novak has the write-up I've been waiting for on last week's drama in the Senate, when Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to kill the House Democrats' version of earmark reform—as introduced by Republican Jim DeMint.
Reid moved to table (that is, kill) DeMint's amendment, which would substitute in the Senate ethics package the language covering all earmarks as contained in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's House bill. Reid was surprised to fail, 46 to 51, with nine Democrats abandoning their majority leader. The Senate routine is that when a tabling motion fails, the bill is passed by a voice vote. But an obviously distressed Reid took the floor to hold open the vote indefinitely on DeMint's bill, contending that the Democratic-controlled House had acted in haste.
The ploy was shut down by some Democrats whom, I'm pleased to note, I've taken flak for occasionally promoting on H&R.
The two leading Senate Democratic reformers, Russell Feingold of Wisconsin and Barack Obama of Illinois, who two days earlier lavished praise on Reid's ethical leadership, voted against him on the tabling motion. However, of the nine freshman Democrats who also had honored Reid, only two—Jim Webb of Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana—voted for transparency. The other seven toed Reid's party line. (Seven Republicans voted with Reid, but they included Minority Whip Trent Lott.)
One of the terrific ironies of election 2006: In demoting Republicans to the minority, they have apparently empowered the party's best senators. Coburn had some successes in the 109th Congress, but he wasn't rising in the ranks. Nor did he really want to. He's told me he considered himself a "minority in the majority" and that his role wouldn't be much different in a Democratic majority. But now that Republicans are no longer running the agenda and worrying about covering for the Bush administration, Coburn's got a louder voice in the caucus. And, apparently, allies in the Democratic party. Same for DeMint. (It's a shame this isn't how things work in the House.)