Harry Reid’s finest hour

After recent Senate actions to pass a sweeping immigration bill, avoid triggering the nuclear option over the filibuster issue, confirm Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and resolve disputes to fill vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board, we might recall Scarlett O’Hara’s line in “Gone With The Wind”: “Tomorrow is another day.”

It is now possible, though far from certain, that a new day has begun to dawn in official Washington. As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) suggests, it is time for a new normal in the Senate that returns the great deliberative body to its historic functionality in which filibusters are employed only in exceptional circumstances and not abused to sink the Senate into a discredited chamber of dysfunction.

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The necessary brinkmanship of recent days was Reid’s finest hour as majority leader, and the agreements that resulted might ultimately be viewed as a major inflection point in the way official Washington conducts itself. It is now important — vitally important — for the Senate to confirm President Obama’s highly qualified nominees to the federal bench and other Cabinet and agency nominations. For reasons discussed below, I believe there is a greater chance than most analysts realize that major immigration reform can be signed into law this year. Reid has good bipartisan company in the “finest hour” category:

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has evolved into a highly skilled and invaluable parliamentary and political leader. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is evolving into a kind of shadow Senate leader, prodding both Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The maverick is back, and his statesmanship could be the cavalry of common sense arriving.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is becoming a legislative leader of stature and a political leader of sound judgment who will ultimately, if he stays the course of statesmanship on immigration, be rewarded by serious people of a grateful nation who in large numbers despise the dysfunction that discredits Congress.

In the Senate, the bold courage to take a stand against obstruction by Reid is combined with political common sense and legislative public spirit shown by a growing number of leading Republicans, both from inside the Senate and outside Washington, who believe extremism and obstructionism are a poisonous brew that hurts America and threatens the core interests of the GOP.

At a time when many Republicans act as though being in a photo with Obama is akin to leprosy, former Republican President George H.W. Bush journeyed to the White House to share mutually respectful words with the president.

At a time when many pundits are wrongly declaring immigration reform will die in the House, former Republican President George W. Bush — the latest “comeback kid” in public approval — is calling for humane immigration reform to be enacted.

During the Memorial Day weekend, former Republican Senate Leader Bob Dole (Kan.), perhaps official Washington’s most revered “wise man,” advised Republicans to end the obstruction.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) understands this. He is a serious man who believes the Congress should not degenerate into the perpetual partisanship and gridlock that most voters despise. The question for Boehner is whether the growing moderation of leading Senate and national Republicans will give him the space — and courage — to save a party that is alienating so many voters it is in danger of becoming the party of old conservative white men.

The Senate now turns to the matter of confirming the high caliber men and women the president has nominated to fill judicial vacancies. They should all be confirmed. The filibuster should be employed only in extraordinary circumstances that do not apply to these superbly qualified nominees.

Reid took a stand that may be viewed by Senate historians as his finest hour. Leading Senate Republicans reciprocated with stands that performed a service to the Senate, their party and our country. The drama continues, and the American people are watching.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.