Dems at Work

DEMS AT WORK….Sam Rosenfeld picks up on Amy Sullivan’s arguments that congressional Democrats are more effective than most people think and carries it a step further:

Much of her focus is on the mainstream media narratives that continue to portray Democrats as invariably weak, divided, and feckless. But MSM cluelessness is an old story ? what’s frankly more troubling and frustrating is the unyielding scorn and hostility that Democratic activists and netroots folks heap on the Democratic congressional leadership.

Take the question of caucus discipline. The lack of comparative context underlying liberal critics’ incessant carping on this front is glaring ? compared to both recent and much more longstanding historical precedent, the current Democratic opposition has not only been disciplined and unified, but effective.

He’s right. I’ve been pretty impressed over the past year with Harry Reid, who’s been remarkably sure-footed in both his public statements and his parliamentary efforts to keep Bill Frist off balance. I’ve been less sure about Nancy Pelosi, but Sam makes a pretty good case for her too.

Take immigration, for example. House Democrats obviously oppose making illegal immigrants into felons, but check out John Podhoretz’s political primer in the New York Post last week:

Back in December, the House of Representatives began debating the first draft of a tough immigration bill that included language effectively turning every illegal immigrant into a putative felon. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and the co-sponsor of the legislation, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, offered an amendment that would change the felony to a misdemeanor.

….The Sensenbrenner amendment failed to pass the House, even though 156 Republicans voted to soften the penalty. Why? Because 191 of the 201 House Democrats voted against it.

They voted, in other words, to keep the language that would make being an illegal alien a felony. They did so because they understood that, as the bill moved closer to becoming law, they could use the felony provision as a weapon against Republicans.

Cynical? Sure. But Podhoretz also recognizes it as “canny political planning,” and he’s right. The felony provision is a Republican proposal, and if Republicans can’t get their own caucus to soften it then they’re the ones who will pay the price. But that only happens if Democrats stick together and don’t let Republicans off the hook for the actions of their own members.

And they did.