One has to wonder if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is really serious about bringing federal spending under control.
Under his leadership it's been more than two years since Senate Democrats produced an actual budget. He's carried water for every bad idea President Barack Obama has had, including Obamacare and the effort to raise taxes in the middle of an economic downtown. And he single-handedly stopped the forward progress of "Cut, Cap and Balance," the one real, game-changing proposal to deal with the debt limit.
His commitment to addressing the spending is questionable, as evidenced by his appoint of Washington Sen. Patty Murray as the Democratic cochair of the new congressional "super committee" that was given in the debt ceiling deal the responsibility for finding an additional $1.5 trillion to cut from the federal budget. [See a collection of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]
She may be an able legislator but she is in no way considered an expert on the federal budget. In bypassing the likes of Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad in favor of Murray, Reid is sending a signal that other considerations--political considerations--may be more important to him than it is to have the "super committee" do its job effectively.
You see, in addition to being the cochair of the "super committee," Murray is the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, an organization that is responsible for raising money and electing Democrats to the U.S. Senate. Her primary responsibility, therefore, is to raise money and to make sure that the ranks of her partisan colleagues increase at the next election and to deny the Republicans control of the U.S. Senate in the next election.
The two functions are not compatible. One requires a degree of bipartisanship, a willingness to compromise in the best interests of the country and to take on tough issues in a way that is good for everyone. The other is purely political and requires ruthless partisanship, a resistance to any compromise that might be seen as helping the other party and the need to avoid forcing her Democratic colleagues to cast tough votes on tough issues. [See the GOP's top Senate targets for 2012.]
In appointing Murray to lead the committee, Reid made a partisan decision, once again putting internal Senate Democratic politics ahead of the country's best interests. It is just this kind of business as usual that the voters are rejecting all across the country.
If Reid were really serious about wanting the "super committee" to succeed—rather than simply protecting his partisan flanks—there were other members he could chosen, members who are arguably above politics like Conrad or retiring Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, who is leaving the Senate in January 2013 and doesn't have to worry about re-election. Instead, Reid put partisanship first—and he should be ashamed of himself.