Reed attended a news conference on jobless benefits Wednesday. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)
If January’s award for biggest out-of-the-shadows move by a Senate Republican goes to Michael B. Enzi, then the companion prize for a Democrat must surely be given to Jack Reed.
Rhode Island’s senior senator takes such a somber and studious approach to his work that his name comes up as often as not at the Capitol in homonymous confusion with the majority leader. But not this week, when Reed is near the center of three of the new year’s biggest stories.
He’s the most visible face of the Democrats’ unexpected success in getting the Senate debate started on the renewal of expired jobless benefits for as many as 1.3 million of the long-term unemployed. Just out of view, he’s among the handful of senior appropriators (he chairs the Interior-Environment subpanel) working to shrink the roster of policy disputes so $1 trillion in spending decisions might get done close to on time.
And the new memoir by Robert Gates, with its surprisingly harsh criticism of President Barack Obama’s leadership and his commitment to the war in Afghanistan, is a reminder that Obama more than once seriously considered making Reed his secretary of Defense.
To top it off, the 64-year-old senator got a dollop of cute coverage Tuesday — a Washington Post “Reliable Source” item about being spotted with his 7-year-old daughter, Emily, at last weekend’s Kennedy Center matinee of the holiday musical “Elf.”
The multifaceted nature of Reed’s arrival in the spotlight is partly an accident of timing, combined with the unusual breadth of his topflight committee assignments and his increasing seniority.
It’s also a testament to how he’s something of a progressive liberal version of the conservative Enzi, a fellow member of the Senate Class of 1996 whose power profile is likely to grow in the coming year: Both are long on commitment to their ideological beliefs, but short of interest in spewing partisan animus; serious about pursuing their policy homework, but with a way-below-average level of senatorial self-importance; more interested in getting what they want out of hearings and legislative negotiations than in getting interviewed by the cable TV networks. Full story