This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," May 17, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," Harry Reid's Senate blockade. He's launched an unprecedented crackdown on Republican amendments as gridlock in Washington grows. So can the GOP fight back?
Plus, former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner out with a new book defending his role in the bank bailouts. But is his history accurate?
And New Jersey Governor Chris Christie saying a 2016 run is still very much on the table. But Bridgegate may be the least of his problems as the Garden State's finances take a turn for the worse.
Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
"Washington doesn't work" -- that was President Obama's message at a high-dollar fundraiser in Manhattan this week where he told attendees that, quote, "We have a party on the other side that has been captured by ideology that says 'no' to everything." But if the president wants to get to the true root of gridlock in Washington, he may also want to look at the Democratic-controlled Senate where Majority Leader Harry Reid has essentially shut down debate, refusing to allow a vote on all but nine -- that's right -- nine Republican amendments since last July and stopping several bipartisan bills cold.
For more, I'm joined by Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman; and Washington columnist, Kim Strassel.
So, Kim, why don't describe for us just what Harry Reid is doing.
KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: Look, here has been the long- standing deal in the Senate, Paul. The minority party would agree to move on to a bill, to gives the vote for cloture, to actually start debating a bill. The majority party, in return, would allow them to debate the bill and propose amendments. And everyone got something out of it. Harry Reid has turned that on his head. He does not want his members to have to vote for some of the amendments that Republicans are putting forward because they have bipartisan support and he and the White House don't like some of these provisions. So he's just stopped all amendments and stopped all debate. And the only way Republicans can fight back is to refuse, therefore, to move on the bill.
GIGOT: So you are saying that there are actual legislation moving through the Senate that has bipartisan majority support and would pass but Reid is saying, I don't know want to you vote on this amendment or that amendment and therefore, he's closing -- he's not letting the Senate work its will on these other pieces of legislation?
STRASSEL: That's right. You saw it this week. There was a bipartisan energy efficiency bill moving ahead. But Republicans were going to propose a number of amendments that have huge sweeping support on the Republican side and the Democratic side -- acceptance of the Keystone Pipeline, for instance, speeding natural gas exports. But the White House doesn't like those provisions. It was fearful those amendments would, in fact, pass, so Harry Reid simply didn't allow any of it to come up.
GIGOT: James, I covered the Senate for a long time. I think what -- and you were in Washington for many years, too. This is -- this is extraordinary. OK. This has not happened before. And I covered the Senate, whether it was Republicans in charge or Democrats in charge. The minority party was able to offer amendments. And part of their strategy to regain the majority was to offer amendments that put the majority in a tough spot, right? They take popular measures and they'd say we want to have a vote on this. And, hey, that's life. That's in a democracy. You've got to make tough votes.
JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: Yeah. He really changed the American legislature. You talked about how we used to work in Washington, observe it. In any standard textbook, it talks about how the House majority rules. But in the Senate, it is about deliberation and compromise and consensus.
GIGOT: Minority writes have been far more protected, I mean.
FREEMAN: That's right. And the idea is the Senate will be more deliberative and craft bills with input from all sides. He's really changed that. One, with getting rid of the filibuster last year, of course. And now we are talking about --
GIGOT: Nominees for -- presidential nominees.
FREEMAN: Presidential nominees. Now we are talking about limiting amendments. And it is a -- it is a different American legislature. It is a -- majority rules controlled by the dominant party. And I think that what is interesting now is it is basically about playing defense. Last year, it was about offense to get nominees to the executive branch approved or to the judicial branch. Now it is basically stopping popular items from getting a vote.
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: Can I defend Harry Reid?
And please, our viewers, please, send mail to Henninger.
Now, as a result of my colleagues, the viewers of the "Journal Editorial Report" understand why gridlock exists in Washington.
GIGOT: But you love gridlock.
HENNINGER: Well, to some excellent, we love gridlock. We described three pieces of legislation, good for the country even. They are not going to happen.
Why aren't they going to happen? It's because the Democratic midterm strategy is, once again, to paint the Republicans as the party as "do nothing" and opposition. We just quoted the president of the United States giving that speech.
HENNINGER: Harry does this. The president goes out and tells the country. There is no bigger frustration out in the country than the fact that Washington isn't doing anything. And I think that the point of all of this is to discourage Republicans, to suppress the Republican vote, because they don't understand this Senate proceduralism and they are angry at the Senate leadership for not doing anything. So I think, given the hand they have been dealt, the Democrats are running a fairly good strategy.
GIGOT: Kim, do you, A, agree with that? And, B, what would you -- why haven't Republicans, if that's right if Dan is right, why haven't Republicans in the Senate fought back more to try to get Harry Reid to change that strategy?
STRASSEL: I think you are seeing them now starting to do it this week. They blocked two, again, very popular pieces of legislation. This is likely to get a lot of attention. The other one they blocked was a tax extender bill that has a lot you of support among the business community.
GIGOT: These are tax credits for businesses.
STRASSEL: Exactly. That the business community loves. They're routinely approved every year. So the fact they blocked it is going to get a lot of attention.
Dan is right. The procedural argument is harder for Republicans to make. But what you do see is more and more Republicans trying to paint Harry Reid as himself the face of the obstruction and making the very straightforward point if you want any of this bipartisan legislation to pass, you are going the have to elect a Republican Senate in the fall. And that's increasingly their campaign strategy and it has a better chance.
GIGOT: If you put -- if nothing happens, if even important legislation doesn't pass, that will raise the pressure on Reid to do something, won't it?