Former Democratic Leader Harry Reid is talking up the prospects of Democrats winning back the Senate in 2020, thanks in part to an unexpected early resignation by a popular Republican.
Reid, speaking with reporters Tuesday about energy and environment proposals ahead of a marathon series of CNN town halls focused on climate change, was thinking not just about the presidential race but also about the Senate map for next year.
The Democrat from Nevada, who has remained a force in the politics of the first-in-the-West caucus state since his retirement from the Senate, praised the decision by former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to exit the presidential field and instead seek to challenge incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.
“Hickenlooper deciding to run for the Senate in Colorado was a tremendous step forward,” Reid said. “And I believe even though I think the world of Johnny Isakson — I’m sorry his illness is necessitating his stepping down as a senator — I think the double opportunity we have in Georgia gives us a real strong chance now to become a majority in the Senate.”
Of course, past efforts by Senate Democrats to recruit popular former governors have not always worked out in their favor, and they’re still seeking top-line candidates for both the Senate seat being vacated early by Isakson and the other seat, held by Republican Sen. David Perdue.
Reid started talking about Senate races in response to questions about the climate proposals being pitched by 2020 White House hopefuls, as well as the likelihood that Congress could ever advance such plans. Reid said getting the Senate would also be crucial.
“If we can do that, then the road to doing things on climate are made much easier,” he said. “But let’s also understand, the reason we need a Democratic president is for a number of reasons, not the least of which is we’ve learned over the last few years with Trump trying to govern the country by executive order, there’s a lot that can be done legally with executive orders.”
Reid was generally upbeat about the climate policies he had seen from Democratic presidential contenders, adding that he speaks regularly with candidates and members of their teams, especially about Nevada. He said he spoke with South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday.
“I think the proposals I’ve seen are all really good,” Reid said.
During the call with reporters, Reid noted the Department of Energy’s announced plan to block implementation of new standards requiring energy efficient light bulbs as one example of an executive action by President Donald Trump.
“We need a Democratic president so that [executive orders] can be done at least, but with a Democratic president, a Democratic Senate and with Nancy Pelosi the great leader she is, I think that I look forward to having wonderful things done to address the most important crisis facing the world today,” Reid said.
But Reid, who led the Senate as majority leader while Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California led the House through the legislative process that produced the 2010 health care law, said advocates might still not get everything they hope for.
“I think that getting climate change legislation done is doable. Now, are we going to get everything done? Of course not. If we have a Democratic Congress and a Democratic president, that’ll make it a lot easier,” Reid said. “And that’s an understatement.”
Reid also renewed his prediction that the current Senate rules requiring 60 votes to limit debates on legislative business have no chance of survival, predicting that such changes would come within the next three years.
“The filibuster is meaningless anymore. All the Senate has done in recent years with Republican leadership is approve judges. In the Senate, there’s no longer amendments being offered. McConnell doesn’t allow amendments to be offered,” Reid said of current Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “What kind of a country do we have if we’re a democracy and we have some arbitrary 60 vote threshold?”
“It’s going to happen in the, no later than the next Congress,” the Nevada Democrat continued. “Without any doubt.”
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