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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is back.
The Nevada Democrat, fresh off a successful bid for a fifth term, seems to be everywhere these days, holding near-daily press conferences and aggressively promoting his party’s priorities for the lame-duck session. It’s a marked change for Reid, who spent much of the past year shying away from the national scene, focusing on home-state issues and talking to home-state press.
Reid never completely disengaged from the national spotlight: He continued to whip votes and hold his weekly news conferences after the Tuesday caucus lunches.
But even his colleagues acknowledged that their Majority Leader kept a lower profile on Capitol Hill in the months leading up to the Nov. 2 elections, in which he faced a stiff challenge from Republican Sharron Angle.
“All of us were in a campaign cycle, very focused on what we need to do in our home states and what we need to do for those campaigns,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said. “So I think it’s understandable that now that that’s over, and he had a terrific victory, that he’s very focused on what we need to do for this lame-duck session and what we need to do going forward in the next Congress.”
Senate Democrats have spent nearly every day of post-election session in multihour, closed-door strategy meetings. All the while, Reid has gone before the cameras to make his party’s case; he has held a handful of solo press conferences in recent weeks.
On the issue of extending the Bush-era tax cuts before they expire Dec. 31 — one of the top issues facing Congress — Reid this past weekend held firm on his threat to hold Saturday votes. The Nevada Democrat has been known to threaten to hold the Senate in session on Saturdays and Sundays to combat Republican intransigence, but he usually relents.
Sen. Jack Reed, a close Reid ally, said the Majority Leader continued to make the tough decisions throughout the two-year campaign cycle when he could have easily demurred in the face of home-state political pressure. But the Rhode Island Democrat acknowledged that Reid’s re-election battle influenced how he ran the Conference — and that he can operate more freely now that it’s over.
“The time constraints of the campaign are so demanding for anybody that, without the campaign, obviously, you have more time, and I think that’s the major factor in his visibility,” Reed said. “One of the most remarkable things about him is that in the most difficult circumstances — and this election was difficult from the very beginning — he maintained not only his composure, but also he made tough decisions.”