On Tuesday night, it was announced that former Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid passed away at age eighty-two. Although even the passing of one of their beloved party leaders didn’t stop CNN and MSNBC from ghoulishly exploiting his death to push for repealing the Senate filibuster.
On CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, fill-in host Jim Acosta was discussing the ongoing January 6 congressional hearings with his two guests CNN political analyst David Gergen and former Democratic Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman when the news of Reid’s death broke. Acosta delivered the news to the audience by addressing Gergen and then asking about his legacy as a Senate leader.
Both Gergen and Holtzman had kind words for the former Senator, but the conversation quickly drifted to Reid’s late-in-life support of doing away with the Senate filibuster. And Acosta eagerly asked Holtzman about her thoughts on a conversation he had with Reid:
Something Harry Reid told me just before his passing in interviews this year. He said that it's time to get rid of the filibuster. He did issue, you know, a cautionary warning about expanding the Supreme Court. So, he was an institutionalist, in many ways. But, you know, as somebody who, you know, practiced the art of the filibuster and so on as a -- as a Senate leader, um, at the end of his life he was warning the country that this is standing in the way of important progress.
In response, Holtzman praised Reid by calling him “a great strategist” and “brilliant tactician” while going on to dismiss Reid’s concerns over his party’s desire to pack the Supreme Court. She then said “the filibuster right now is standing in the way” of her party’s agenda to pass voting reforms that will make it easier for Democrats to get elected.
Over on MSNBC’s All In, host Chris Hayes had Substack publisher and author Anand Giridharadas, former Reagan Administration official Linda Chavez, and Nation magazine justice correspondent Ellie Mystal on to discuss Reid’s passing.
Mystal praised Reid for changing the filibuster rules to allow Obama to confirm circuit and appellate justices and brushed off criticism of Reid that this lead then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to successfully confirm Trump’s three Supreme Court nominees by lowering the sixty vote threshold for Supreme Court candidates.
Then it was Chavez's (the lone Republican) turn to bring some reason to the discussion. She warned Hayes and her fellow panelists that they would regret it if Democrats successfully did away with the filibuster for all legislation. She reasoned that the next time Republicans controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress, Democrats would be powerless to stop them from implementing their agenda.
Chavez also emphasized that “democracy is about a majority rule, but it is also about protecting minorities in politics, not just minorities racial and ethnic but political minorities.”
This did not sit well with Mystal who went into a tirade about how the filibuster was there to protect “white majoritarian rule over the emerging majority of this country.”
I would say it’s shocking to see people exploit the death of a longtime political leader like this, but this is CNN and MSNBC we’re talking about. Nothing should surprise us anymore.
This disgusting display of ghoulishly exploiting the death of a United States Senator for political gain was brought to you by Discover (CNN) and Prevagen (MSNBC). Their contact information is linked so you can let them know about the biased news they fund.
Read the relevant transcripts of both segments below click “expand”:
CNN's Anderson Cooper 360
JIM ACOSTA: And, David, we’re learning in just the last several minutes that the former-Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, has passed away. Um, he's been battling illness for some time. I had a chance to interview him a couple of times this past year. He was 82 years old. But really, just a legendary figure in the history of the United States Senate. You had multiple opportunities to work with him over the years during his long career. How do you think he is going to be remembered, um, as -- as a Democratic leader in this town?
DAVID GERGEN: Well, I -- I think he will be remembered as a small-coming from small-town America and working his way up. And becoming Senate Majority Leader. That, in itself, is -- is a real feat. I think in terms of what he actually will be remembered for by historians, he will not be in sort of upper-tier Presidents. He will not be remembered -- or -- or top leaders of the country. But he will be -- be he will also be remembered for I think his partisanship and I -- I think the man -- I think Harry Reid, underneath, was a better man than he sometimes portrayed in the media. There was a lot about him, at least in my conversations with him, and I came -- I came away respecting him. But he really -- he's gotten a bit of a rough ride on the–by the media.
ACOSTA: And Congresswoman, let me ask you about, you know, something Harry Reid told me just before his passing in interviews this year. He said that it's time to get rid of the filibuster. He did issue, you know, a cautionary warning about expanding the Supreme Court. So, he was an institutionalist, in many ways. But, you know, as somebody who, you know, practiced the art of the filibuster and so on as a -- as a Senate leader, um, at the end of his life he was warning the country that this is standing in the way of important progress.
ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: Well, he was right about that. And Harry Reid was a great strategist. Actually, brilliant tactician. He was very smart in that respect, shrewd, and handled the Democratic majority when he had it in the Senate well. Um, his warning about the Supreme Court? Well, we'll see what happens with that. But the filibuster right now is standing in the way, as he said, of something that's really vital, namely the right of every American to vote and have his or her vote counted, and nothing can be more basic than that. And if some rule of the Senate stands in the way of getting that -- making sure that every American has the right to vote and have the vote counted, then we got to change that rule.
ACOSTA: Yeah, I remember over the summer, Senator Reid telling me that one of the things he enjoyed doing was giving former-House Speaker John Boehner a hard time. But at the same time, he said they got a lot done. And there was sort of an understanding, back in those days. And, you know, it was combative back then, as well, David Gergen. But, you know, you could get things done and be congenial behind the scenes, even if you were duking it out, fighting it out in the headlines. And it’s just that is so sorely missed these days.
GERGEN: Well, that's true. You know Reagan had those rules that a lot of others have followed since then. Before five o’clock in the afternoon, you can knock the brains out of the other side. After five o’clock, time to have a drink, sit down, tell old stories. And that worked pretty well for Lyndon Johnson. Didn't work quite so well for Harry Reid but it’s a better way of doing things than what we have now that's for damn sure.
ACOSTA: Absolutely. Alright well David Gergen, Elizabeth Holtzman, thanks so much. We appreciate it. The breaking news, the former Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, has passed away and we'll continue that coverage as the night goes on.
MSNBC's All In
CHRIS HAYES: We got a panel here Anand Giridharadas is the publisher of The Ink on Substack as well as the author of “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World." Linda Chavez served as the highest-ranking woman in the Reagan Administration, Ellie Mystal is the Justice Correspondent for The Nation Magazine and they all join me now. Ellie, let me start on with you on Reid and his legacy because you heard Faz say that one of the most consequential decisions was to get rid of the filibuster for appointees and that included judicial appointees, and that did unblock a ton of nominees for President Obama, of course, that was then wielded by Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump to stuff the judiciary and we should also note has led to a record amount of Judicial appointments in Biden's first year. So it has sort of done it for both sides. I wonder what you think the legacy of that decision is?
ELLIE MYSTAL: Well, I think it shows that what Faz was just talking about is true that sometimes you have to be concerned about the end state. I think Reid gets unfairly maligned for changing the filibuster rules for lower court appointees and then having Mitch McConnell kinda turn it around on him and change it for Supreme Court appointees and remember Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett are there in a filibuster free world. If there was a filibuster there.
MYSTAL: None of these people got 60 votes. So people kind of blamed Reid retroactively for his change that allowed Mitch McConnell to change it, which I think is dumb because the
MYSTAL: Universe in which Mitch McConnell does not bend.
MYSTAL: Hell and earth.
MYSTAL: To get Neil Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, and Barrett on the court simply doesn't exist.
MYSTAL: So McConnell was going to change it anyway, Reid pre-struck by changing the filibuster for court appointments. And, as you say, that is why Biden and as a first-year President, has appointed more lower court justices in his first year than any other President in American History besides you know George Washington. So, there you go.
HAYES: Linda, he Reid obviously had a very, very long career in Washington, was really like a creature of the U.S. Senate in the way that fewer and fewer politicians are. I don't know if it's a good thing or bad thing, frankly. Although one thing I have learned about covering the Senate is knowing how the Senate works confers a lot of power. And actually, not a lot of Senators do. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, for instance, are two people that really understand how the Senate works at a deep and granular level. And that really does give you an edge.
LINDA CHAVEZ: Absolutely, in fact, my favorite Harry Reid quote was something to the effect of, someone asked him how it is he had such great success. And he said, well, I didn't have success because of my good looks or because I was a genius, I had success because I worked harder than anybody else. And I think that's absolutely true. And you're absolutely right about his command of the rules. It's something that Mitch McConnell also who, you know, was his adversary, also had very good command of the rules. But I guess I would disagree on the question of whether changing the vote on filibusters for court appointments was a good thing. I think you have to be careful what you wish for because you just might get it. And I do think that it opened the door for Mitch McConnell to be able to do it for Donald Trump and his three Supreme Court Justice appointments, which all of whom I supported, but I have an idea that not everyone on the panel did.
HAYES: Well, well to that, to that point, to sort of zoom out for a second, Anand, I mean, one of the things I think about the evolution -- and Reid was key of this, of sort of moving towards majority vote in the Senate, this idea that, like, well, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Is that is true. But it’s also like that's the way democracies work. I mean, we've got -- you know, there's 50 states in the union that function without -- I mean, I think there's like three or four that have supermajority requirements for some stuff, and most of them function with bicameral systems, majority threshold, and somehow they manage. Like this idea that this is sacrosanct that it absolutely has to exist in the U.S. Senate is largely kind of a creation of the last 60 or 70 years. And I think that if you have a commitment of small D democracy, Anand, as I know you do, there's really compelling reasons to look to get rid of that.
ANAND GIRIDHARADAS: And I think, you know Faz talked about..
HAYES: Let me go
CHAVEZ: Sorry, I thought.
HAYES: Let me go to Anand first, Linda then I’ll get you.
GIRIDHARADAS: You know I think Faz spoke movingly of–of Senator Reid's evolution and part of and love of the institution. And I think part of loving an institution is having an honest relationship with it.
GIRIDHARADAS: The same way loving a person means having an honest relationship with that person. And if at some point as any conscientious person would realize over the last 20, 30, 40 years in America, the Senate I think started to go from being somewhat quaint to being a principal obstruction in the throat of American democracy. I think today, if you had to rank the top, you know, four or five institutional features of this society that might, through a series of consequences, spell the end of the republic, the Senate would be very high on this list.
GIRIDHARADAS: And, so, it's refreshing that someone who loved that institution, who was a part of it, an institutionalist, as you said, was also able to recognize that potential asphyxiation by the institution he loved. And it's kind of sad thinking about his colleagues, present Senators who are very much still living, who are in that body and who don't realize that they are potentially part of, if they don't support things like changing the filibuster, changing the Senate rules on various things, part of suffocating this society at large.
HAYES: Yeah, it's funny that Reid's evolution on that was one of the most remarkable features of him. Linda, you wanted to say something.
CHAVEZ: I just wanted to say that you know, democracy is about a majority rule, but it is also about protecting minorities in politics, not just minorities racial and ethnic but political minorities. And so I, you know I worry that those who want to change the filibuster rules and get rid of the filibuster altogether, particularly those who happen to be Democrats are going to be very disappointed the next time a Republicans is in a President and Republicans control Congress, that will leave the Democrats very much without any.
CHAVEZ: Tools to stop the things they don't want from happening.
HAYES: Look I just want to respond to that quickly and then..
GIRIDHARADAS: Sorry, I just want to say – I believe in
HAYES: Go ahead.
GIRIDHARADAS: The idea of… Sorry, I just want to say I believe in the idea of ah..
HAYES: Anand and then Ellie!
GIRIDHARADAS: Of the Senate protecting minorities but I would love to actually see it happen.
HAYES: Ellie you go.
MYSTAL: The fil- the filibuster is here to protect segregation. Like, that's why it's here. It's here literally to protect white majoritarian rule over the emerging majority of this country. So if we want to move past white minoritarian rule, what we need to do is get rid of the filibuster and let the people decide on their laws and on their government.