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Harry Reid, “Democrats running for president need a plan for the Supreme Court”

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Former U.S. Senate Majority & Minority Leader, Harry Reid (D. NV), has been coming out of retirement and his presence in the upcoming 2020 Democratic Primary can certainly be felt. While out of office since 2017 and being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the former Nevada Senator has made it his mission to kick Donald Trump out of the White House and to ensure that the next Democratic President is a huge success when it comes to tackling the major issues of our time like climate change. As many of you know, I am a huge supporter of his call to abolish the filibuster to push through legislation to tackle climate change. This is why I have been adamantly supportive of U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D. MA) Presidential campaign and she recently called out other Democratic candidates cowardice for refusing to support rolling back the filibuster to tackle climate change. I am going to continue this battle cry all the way into the primary because what to do about the filibuster must be the first priority for the Democratic President to prevent Moscow Mitch from blocking the next Democratic President just like he did with President Obama.

With that in mind, Reid is also calling on Democratic Presidential candidates to lay out a plan on how to handle the Supreme Court. Reid released this op-ed in the Salt Lake City Tribune this week:

When I hear Democrats running for president talk about their ideas to address our country’s urgent problems, I always find myself returning to the same question: What will you do to protect the Supreme Court of the United States?

Senate Republicans have hijacked our Supreme Court. They stole a seat that should have been filled by President Obama in 2016 and they rushed to confirm Brett Kavanaugh last year despite ample evidence that he lied to Congress. The result is the Supreme Court is now a ticking time bomb, set to blow up any meaningful progressive reforms for decades to come. Yet, the court has been the subject of surprisingly little discussion so far in the presidential primary.

I have previously stated the next Democratic president should be willing to eliminate the Senate filibuster to pass big solutions such as a comprehensive climate change proposal. But the reality is, that step alone will not matter much if this Supreme Court proceeds to strike down any such legislation.

That is why any Democratic candidate serious about addressing the urgent crises facing our country needs a plan for dealing with the Supreme Court.

This starts with a public commitment to nominate bold, progressive lawyers to the court. Mitch McConnell’s elimination of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees means that, if Democrats win back the Senate next year, the next Democratic president will not have to cater to unreasonable Republicans to find a justice who can win 60 votes. Instead, there will be an opportunity to nominate justices who have spent their careers fighting for progressive values and can rebalance a Court that is now biased towards the rich and the powerful.

The advocacy group Demand Justice recently released a list of 32 lawyers and legal thinkers whose diversity and breadth of experience stand in stark contrast to the list of white and mostly male candidates proposed by Donald Trump in his 2016 campaign. When I recommended judges for Nevada’s federal courts, I knew diversity would strengthen our judiciary.

Another thing I like about Warren is she backs the idea of adding more justices to the Supreme Court:

Three Democratic presidential candidates are saying they’re willing to consider adding justices to the Supreme Court as a response to the Senate GOP’s refusal to consider former President Obama’s last pick for the court.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) all told Politico that they were willing to at least consider packing the courts, something liberal groups are increasingly suggesting.

“We are on the verge of a crisis of confidence in the Supreme Court,” Harris told Politico. “We have to take this challenge head on, and everything is on the table to do that.”

Warren said adding justices to the Supreme Court deserves consideration, as does bringing appellate judges into Supreme Court cases. “It’s not just about expansion, it’s about depoliticizing the Supreme Court,” she told Politico.

This was something President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed but could not get congressional support for. It remains an arduous task but we desperately need to reform our Supreme Court and lower courts now more than ever.

As I’ve mentioned before, Reid has become a prominent figure in this primary and he’s someone all the Democratic candidates are turning to for advice. The Atlantic released this piece highlighting how Warren and Sanders know that he can be a big influence in an early primary state like Nevada:

Before the interview, I’d been warned that while Reid is in better shape than he seems, he speaks in a whisper these days and I might have a hard time hearing him. That didn’t prove to be the case, but he struggled at one point to lean forward enough to reach a water glass on the table. Still, he continues to keep close tabs on the candidates and take meeting after meeting. Late that evening, he brought in Warren and Biden for separate meetings with Nevada climate activists.

When Sanders had a heart attack in Las Vegas at the beginning of October, his campaign was in a panic, not even telling reporters which hospital he was in. Reid called Sanders’s campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, to say he knew exactly where the candidate was, knew his doctors, had already talked with one of them, and wanted to come visit.

“Let’s be honest; Bernie Sanders isn’t eager to be sitting around with a lot of his fellow senators,” Shakir told me last week. “Harry Reid is in a special category. He was excited to hear—‘Harry Reid wants to come? Let’s make that happen.’” Sanders insisted on being dressed and out of bed, and he sought to make sure that the former leader would be comfortable. “They see into each other’s souls and understand each other,” Shakir said.

Ultimately, photos from the Reid visit were what the Sanders campaign used as proof of life after the heart attack: Bernie is alive, literally and politically. The Sanders team never formally asked Reid for permission to publish the photos for that purpose—permission was implied in Reid’s coming by and asking on the way out whether Sanders was planning to continue campaigning, Shakir told me.

Reid has a coyness that calls to mind the Thelonious Monk line, “What you don’t play can be more important than what you do play.” When I asked Reid whether he can envision Sanders in the Oval Office, given the senator from Vermont’s brusque personality and socialist ideology, he said, “Well, people couldn’t imagine him being elected to the House of Representatives,” and he pointed out his own role in weaving Sanders into the Senate’s Democratic caucus and putting him in charge of the Budget Committee. “Bernie has always been someone that’s shot over his—what’s the right word?—he’s always done better than people thought he would.” Reid noted Sanders’s “huge following,” and said he can’t be discounted. What he didn’t do was answer the question directly.

In contrast, when I asked whether he thought Elizabeth Warren would be a good president, he said, “Yep,” and added that she was “bright, hardworking.” He mentioned with pride that he helped discover her. Though he conceded that others thought she’d be hard to work with because of her strong views, as a senator, “she was always someone who would try to bring people in the caucus together.”

How about Biden? “I have the greatest admiration, respect for Joe. He’s treated me well from the day I stepped into the Senate—I have great admiration for his life story; I think he’s overcome a lot. And there’s not a negative thing I can say about Joe.” When Reid was leading the Senate Democrats and Biden was vice president, Reid’s approach to dealing with Republicans was more adversarial than Biden’s Let’s reach across the aisle to make a deal style, so I asked him if Biden is right when he says he’s the candidate who knows how to best work with Republicans. “That’s a different approach than I had, but maybe they needed him. So I’m glad he feels that way. I’ve worked with Senator McConnell, and I wish him luck.”

Reid and Obama have often talked about their love for each other—at the candidate event that night, Reid was presented with a framed newspaper of the two men hugging—so I asked him whether Buttigieg reminds him of Obama. “He really does have a gift of communication like Obama had,” Reid said. “Obama was a little more effusive. Buttigieg is a little more soft-sell.” He noted that Buttigieg’s strength is the aspect of the race that’s surprised him so far. Booker, Reid says, “has it all: Rhodes Scholar, tight end for Stanford.” He noted that Amy Klobuchar had just called him a few hours ago. About Michael Bloomberg, he made sure to point out: “He should spend some of his money developing state parties—he’s got the money to do it.”

A few days later, I asked Warren why she kept calling Reid. “Because Harry is very insightful. I never call Harry that I don’t learn something,” she told me.

Whether you loved or hated Reid, he is going to have an influence in this primary and he may be our party’s kingmaker in helping us find the best candidate to defeat Trump. Reid gets a lot of credit for building a Democratic machine in Nevada pushing the state into Blue territory:

Reid, 78, retired last year after 30 years in the Senate. But he is still the most influential person in Nevada politics, hand-selecting Rep. Jacky Rosen to run against Heller, Steve Sisolak to run for governor, and Susie Lee to replace Rosen.

All three won their races handily.

“He is probably the best political strategist that I’ve ever met,” Rep. Ruben Kihuentold the Las Vegas Review-Journal of Reid.

Kihuen, a freshman who credits Reid for his jump into national politics, did not run for re-election this year and was chastised by the House Ethics Committee recently for sexually harassing female employees and colleagues.

“[Reid] was the architect of what is today the Nevada Democratic Party,” Kihuen said.

Reid leaned into rebuilding his home state’s party ahead of his re-election campaign in 2004 by forging a coalition of environmental and pro-immigration groups and working with bosses in heavily unionized Las Vegas to turn out votes.

Reid leveraged his national donor connections to flood the state party and its coalition of outside organizations with cash to aid in turning out Democrats.

Nevada has some of the highest rates of unionized labor in the country because its economy is so heavily centered on the entertainment and service industries.

The Culinary Union, for instance, has 57,000 casino workers among its ranks and works closely with the Democratic Party to register its members to vote on a rolling basis instead of just the months leading up to an election.

“This is what Democrats need to be doing everywhere. This is the long game,” Rebecca Katz, a former aide for Reid, told the AP.

Reid was also instrumental in drafting current U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D. NV) to be his successor in 2016. Cortez Masto currently runs the DSCC aimed at winning a Democratic Senate Majority. I for one have always loved and respected Harry Reid and if he can help the party get rid of Trump before Reid leaves this world, that will be his legacy. 

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