When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid picked up his ball and went home after his staged all-night session last week, he saved from possible embarrassment one of the least regular members of his Democratic caucus: Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Reform Republican Tom Coburn had ready an amendment to the defense authorization bill removing Nelson's earmark funding a Nebraska-based company whose officials include Nelson's son. Such an effort became impossible when Reid pulled the bill.
That Reid's action had this effect was mere coincidence. He knew that Sen. Carl Levin's amendment to the defense bill mandating a troop withdrawal from Iraq would fall short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate, and Reid planned from the start to pull the bill after the all-night session, designed to satisfy antiwar zealots, was completed. But Reid is also working behind the scenes with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to undermine earmark transparency and prevent open debate on spending proposals such as Nelson's.